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On hazing, sexism, and malfunctioning coffee makers

How the CBA’s banning sexist rookie hazing helps, but is not enough.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
The Yankees were able to find a way to embarrass the rookies without being sexist.
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Being a woman isn't supposed to be offensive. It isn't supposed to be a joke or a prank or a laughing matter. Some baseball players, current and former, think it is.

"Welcome to the majors, rook. Here's a skirt and my coffee order."

It's a harmless enough request on the surface. No one's getting hurt. It's ritual: everyone has to do it.

Until a few weeks ago, that is. A few weeks ago, the owners and the Players' Association decided that hilarious rookie hazing when the new kids put on padded bras and heels as a form of embarrassment isn't okay.

The rule change, according to the Associated Press, prohibits "requiring, coercing or encouraging" players from "dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristic."

This might be the first thing the new CBA got right.

Let's get this out of the way before we start: I have no problem with rookie dress-up day. The veterans forcing the September call-ups to earn a little respect the hard way is fine.

The dresses aren't fine. Because being a woman isn't supposed to be embarrassing.

You'd think this wouldn't be a controversial opinion. In the real world, it's not. But in baseball, a woman is out of place. She's an anomaly. She doesn't belong. And that's why, hours after the new CBA details leaked, players began spouting their ignorance.

“How rediculous [sic]! The world has gotten 2 damn sensitive!” wrote Aubrey Huff. “This has been a time honored tradition. The world is full of sensitive snowflakes.”

“Seriously?! Had to wear a Hooters outfit going through customs in Toronto and wore it proudly bc I was in the Show,” said Kevin Youkilis in a now-deleted tweet.

“Getting softer and softer,” wrote Vernon Wells. “Most of you people do the same thing for Halloween but it's ok for you to do it because it's funny. Save it. It's not about being demeaning.”

“Honored to be one of the last players ever to be dressed as a woman,” said Ross Stripling, along with a photo of the Dodgers rookies in cheerleading uniforms.

“Hahaha this is ridiculous but I'm retired I don't have to abide by they're [sic] rules anymore,” wrote LaTroy Hawkins.

You can't compare a baseball locker room to your office of cubicles and a malfunctioning coffee maker. I know that. I'm not asking you to. I'm not asking players to do that either. I'm just asking them to think. It isn't hard.

Respect isn't hard.

Of course, that brings us to the second problem, which is the much more important problem. It's the one that's impossible to solve, too.

Baseball is launch angles and spin rates and mound-to-home times that mean you can steal second base. It's not thinking about how you make treat other people.

I'm not going to make the "how would your mother/daughter/sister/wife feel?" argument. That's a garbage argument. You shouldn't have to be related to the woman you're mocking to realize it's wrong.

It's hard to change people. We still have to try. Teach them that women are your equal. That you're not better than me because your fastball averages 98 MPH and I quit softball in 10th grade. That I deserve just as much respect as you do.

The CBA rule change is a great first step if it is, in fact, just that: a first step.

MLB can get rid out the skirts, but you have to get rid of the innate sexism too.

The next step, which should have been the first step, which shouldn't even be a talking point in 2016 (except everything about this year tells me I'm going to be fighting this fight for a long time), is education.

There isn’t a single answer, one perfect solution to solve sexism in the clubhouse. But that’s not an excuse for inaction.

Not every player is a Kevin Youkilis or a Vernon Wells. There are plenty of guys around Major League Baseball who realize equality isn't that dirty word spoken only by northeastern liberals. They need to speak up.

The onus isn't all on the players, either. Baseball doesn't have to be a man's world. Get women—strong, intelligent, independent women—in the building. Put them in your front office. Not because they're women, but because they deserve it. If the players have to learn about equality, so do the owners.

Hire female beat reporters. Send them into the clubhouse and show players that the questions are the same whether the journalist is wearing slacks or a sundress. Put them in print and on TV and on the radio.

Dressing the rookies in skirts and heels is about respect. It's about thinking that being a woman is embarrassing. It doesn't start in the clubhouse and it doesn't end there. But for now, that's where we can change.

Make the newbies wear diapers. Put them in Barney costumes or footsie pajamas or force them to carry your bags for a week.

The hazing is fine.

The sexism isn't.