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No moms in the dugout.
I’ve never seen that on a sign but there is sort of an unwritten rule that the dugout at a baseball field is a place for coaches and players. And most of the time, that means that it’s a boys only space. I broke that rule recently when I quickly snuck in after a double header to grab our cooler because I wanted to go home. I announced in advance that I was coming in because I’m a woman and a mom and I don’t belong in a baseball dugout. I was momentarily violating their space. Even though I’ve known most of the boys since they were seven and I was only in there for about ten seconds, it is their space and I don’t belong there.
This quick dugout experience got me thinking about how the current debate about single sex spaces largely focuses on girls and women. I have personally been very outspoken on that front because when it comes to safety and fairness, the issue is far more serious in how it impacts females. Girls and women absolutely need and deserve single sex bathrooms, changing rooms, locker rooms, shelters, prisons and sports competitions. I’ll die on that hill.
But boys and men need and deserve single spaces too. Just as a girl is apt not to feel comfortable undressing in front of a boy who says he’s now a girl, most boys don’t want to be forced to undress in front of a girl just because she claims to be a boy. And contrary to popular belief, no matter how much boys and men may like looking at female breasts, they prefer it not to be in the context of changing for a middle school PE class. It’s uncomfortable and there is an obvious pressure to avert one’s eyes, lest they be accused of sexual harassment or “causing harm.”
Spaces For Males Have Been Consistently Overlooked
The push to eradicate male only spaces began decades ago. One tipping point was in 1978 when female sports reporters gained access to men’s locker rooms. That always seemed weird to me— are male reporters allowed into women’s locker rooms right after games while the players are changing out of uniforms, showering and walking around in a towel? Seems like a pretty obvious double standard.
By 2017, the National Organization of Women (NOW) was demanding that girls be allowed to join the Boy Scouts and lobbying the federal government “to prohibit any federal support for the Boy Scouts until the organization ends its discriminatory ban against girls.” No parallel efforts were made to let boys into the Girl Scouts and to this day, the Girl Scouts remains “girls only.” As it should be. Only the boys had to give up their single sex program.
Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, when asked, made it clear that she only supported single spaces for girls:
“There are very few opportunities for girls to be in a single-gender space where they can rely on one another, build relationships with one another, be themselves, not have to compete for space, not have to show off in any kind of different way.”
Did it never occur to this woman that the exact same thing could be said about boys? In fact, in a world where almost all of their teachers are women, t-shirts that say “the future is female” abound and boys trail their sisters and female peers on virtually every academic and well-being metric, access to “boys only” spaces are urgently needed.
Which brings me back to the dugout. It is a place where these boys who are now young men, laugh, cry, joke, change their clothes and swear a lot. It is also where they learn to grapple with failure—a private place, usually hidden from the sight of others, that belongs to them.
They deserve to have that.
Erika Sanzi is the Director of Outreach for Parents Defending Education. Follow her on X, @esanzi.