Black girls’ sexual burden: Why Mo’ne Davis was really called a “slut”
“Just as I was harassed at 8 years old, baseball wunderkind Mo’ne Davis is a target of sexual shaming. Here’s why.
Mo’ne Davis is a Black girl wunderkind. At age 13, she has pitched a shutout at the Little League World Series, becoming the first girl ever to do so, and she has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Disney is now planning to do a movie about her called, “Throw Like Mo.”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I still watch the Disney Channel, and I will certainly be tuning in. But everyone isn’t as excited as I am to see a Black girl on the come up. Last week, Joey Casselberry, a sophomore baseball player from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, called Mo’ne a “slut” in response to the news about the movie. He was subsequently expelled from the team.
In response, Davis has forgiven him and she and her coach have asked that he be reinstated. About Casselberry, Davis released a statement, which said:
Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. I know he didn’t mean it in that type of way, and I know a lot of people get tired of like seeing me on TV but just think about what you’re doing before you actually do it. I know right now he’s really hurt and I know how hard he worked just to get where he is right now.
Her level of empathy is remarkable but not particularly surprising. Black girls learn almost from the womb to empathize with others, even when those others have committed deep injustices toward us. Perhaps it is the unparalleled level of our suffering that makes us always look with empathy upon others.
But I am troubled. It is absolutely wonderful that Davis has this kind of care and concern and a heart so huge that she can forgive a nearly adult person for insulting her. It goes without saying that she’s a better person than Casselberry.
But she should not have to be. For starters, he meant what he said. One doesn’t slip up and mistakenly call a young teen girl a slut. Second, it bothers me that she sounds almost apologetic about how much others have to see her on television. Girls in our culture are taught that they should never take up too much space, that they should be seen (and look real pretty), but not heard. And Black girls in our culture are damn near invisible, whether in regards to their triumphs or their struggles.
Lest we think this inappropriate sexual shaming of Black girls is an isolated incident, let us not forget that in 2013, The Onion “jokingly” referred to then 9-year old actress Quvenzhané Wallis, as a “c*nt” in reference to her Oscar nomination that year for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Such language is nothing short of vile and reprehensible. And it raises the question of why young white people have such a prurient fascination with young Black girls? Mo’ne Davis is 13. Quevenzhané Wallis is 11. One is a baseball player. The other is an actress. Why are they being characterized in sexual terms at any level?
The fact that Black girl artists and athletes are understood only in terms of a sexuality that they may not even have begun to articulate for themselves should concern us. That their sexuality is already being publicly circumscribed by white men (and the anonymous Onion tweeter) in dirty and shameful terms is appalling.
That invisibility of Black girl pain costs us our self-confidence, our emotional wellness, our livelihoods and sometimes our lives. And that is not a win. Mo’ne Davis deserves our love, our support, and our advocacy. Sexist and racist behavior is for losers. And we need to call it out, denounce it, dismantle it, and make space for Black girls to win.”
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Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP