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The Cubs Women’s History Month Artist Collection is a swing and a miss

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I wanted to love this but I can’t

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Some of you might remember that a few years ago I was on a crusade about jerseys. For those of you who have forgotten, it was shortly after Javier Báez began using the diacritical mark on the back of his jersey and I started to see men wearing them around the ballpark. I loved this so much that I moved a Javy jersey above my intended next purchase (a Willson Contreras jersey, see how important this was to me?!) just because I loved that they finally got his name right. I went to the Cubs store after a game, walked up to the second story where the women’s cut jerseys live and was promptly disappointed — there were no accent marks on the women’s cut Javy jerseys.

It was infuriating, and there was no reason for it. Even if it was previously purchased stock it is just not hard to add an accent mark over the “a.” I decided I wouldn’t buy another piece of Cubs gear until I could get a women’s cut Báez jersey WITH the accent mark. To the Cubs’ credit I was able to do that later that summer.

In the grand scheme of things this is such a small battle. I know I’m in a tremendously privileged position to live so close to the ballpark, to attend so many games, to write about this team, and to be able to afford a jersey in the first place. There are a million more important battles to be fought and won, but this was such a small, easily correctable thing — make jerseys for women that reflect the player’s actual jersey. Period. The end.

That same feeling of frustration and dismay hit me as I looked at the Cubs Women Making HIstory special collection that goes on sale tomorrow to commemorate Women’s History Month.

When I read the press release I loved this idea. I loved that my favorite team was doing it. I loved that they commissioned a brilliant local woman artist, Katie Lynn Lewis (seriously, go check out her work), to design it. I was ready to just hand over an absurd amount of my money for this gear, sight unseen.

I will not be handing over any money for unisex t-shirts, puns that lean heavily into sexist ideas, and dated representations of women on the field.

Let’s start with cut and sizing. It is astounding to me that the Cubs commissioned a Women Making History line and there are no women’s cut T-shirt options. How is that even possible? This may come as a shock in 2021 but people have different builds and like things to fit in different ways. This is not just a woman vs. man thing, by the way. There are people of all genders who prefer more tapered or fitted clothing. Unisex doesn’t indicate that it was built for everyone, it’s a traditional male cut labeled as universal because that’s easier than adapting an order for multiple preferences, as this clothing blog correctly points out:

Unisex Sizing vs. Men’s Sizing

If you observe the unisex t-shirt size chart, you will see that the sizing is most similar to men’s shirt sizes. Unisex sizing most closely resembles the t-shirt shapes that are made for men. If a man orders a men’s shirt or a unisex shirt, he will most likely not notice a difference in fit or shape.

Unisex Sizing vs. Women’s Sizing

When comparing women’s t-shirts to unisex t-shirts, there are many differences in shape that can be noted. One that is specifically designed for women will offer the proper shape to hug her curves. Women’s tees do not conform to the straight cut that is offered with unisex shirts, so they are more likely to conform to a woman’s hips and show off her shape. Many younger women are more attracted to a women’s fit as opposed to unisex because they feel a straight cut is too big and bulky. The Bella + Canvas – Women’s Cap Sleeve Sheer Mini Rib V-neck Tee is a popular t-shirt with trend-seeking women because it offers the tailored fit that is usually conducive to the latest styles.

Look, I get it. I have half a dozen size XL, unisex T-shirts/jerseys from Cubs giveaways over the years because it’s easier to buIk order one size and one fit for a few thousand people. However, while ordering unisex may have made sense as the Cubs were calculating their bottom line, if they want to do a special collection based on celebrating women they should probably start at including options that recognize not all people are built like men.

Then there are the phrases: “batting lashes,” “home sweet home,” and “forever yours” — all puns that lean heavily into a very specific representation of women that could have been pulled straight from Mad Men. Don’t get me wrong, Mad Men is a great television show, it also leaned heavily into sexist and misogynistic representations of women because it was set in a time when those attitudes were prevalent — over half a century ago.

There is simply no need to bring those tropes into this collection. In fact it’s a mind boggling decision, particularly when everything on the homepage for this collection aside from the products truly does celebrate women in the Cubs organization and young girls’ connections to the game of baseball. This video panel featuring Alicia Gonzalez, Executive Director of Cubs Charities, Mariya Chukas, Girls in the Game alumna, Laura Ricketts, Cubs Board Member and Cubs Charities Board Chair, Kate Lynn Lewis, Chicago-based muralist and creator of the art in this collection and moderated by Colin Faulkner, Cubs Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Chief Commercial Officer is incredible and I’m honestly stunned that such a thoughtful conversation and intention resulted in so many thoughtless decisions in this collection:

There is so much for women to celebrate in and around the game of baseball and for the Cubs specifically. Beth Mowins will be the first woman to call play-by-play for the Cubs later this week, Rachel Folden is a hitting instructor in the organization breaking new ground every single day she just wakes up and goes to work, Kim Ng is the General Manager of the Marlins even though it took way too many years to make it happen, and last, but certainly not least, little girls all over America watched Alyssa Nakken coach first base for the San Francisco Giants last year with a long French braid down her back. The next generation of women will never know baseball without women leading teams, calling games and providing their expertise as coaches.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Angels
Alyssa Nakken coaches first base for the Giants on March 11
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

I’m almost embarrassed to admit the amount of money I would have been prepared to drop on women’s cut gear celebrating Mowins, Folden, Nakken, and Ng juxtaposed with the classic imagery from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League and their history at Wrigley Field. Admittedly, the timing with the $1,400 stimulus might have bumped that number up a bit. However, with this collection we will never find out that amount because I’m just going to have to pass on bunting in the shape of a bow and sexist puns on unisex shirts.