Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon

Synopsis

The sculpted speed of Marion Jones. The grit and agility of Mia Hamm. The slam-dunk style of Lisa Leslie. The skill and finesse of these sports figures are widely admired, no longer causing the puzzlement and discomfort directed toward earlier generations of athletic women. Built to Win explores this relatively recent phenomenon--the confident, empowered female athletes found everywhere in American popular culture. Leslie Heywood and Shari L., Dworkin examine the role of female athletes through interviews with elementary- and high school-age girls and boys; careful readings of ad campaigns by Nike, Reebok, and others; discussions of movies like Fight Club and Girlfight; and explorations of their own sports experiences. They ask: what, if any, dissonance is there between popular images and the actual experiences of these athletes? Do these images really "redefine femininity" and contribute to a greater inclusion of all women in sport? Are sexualized images of these women damaging their quest to betaken seriously? Do they inspire young boys to respect and admire female athletes, and will this ultimately make a difference in the ways gender and power are constructed and perceived? Proposing a paradigm shift from second- to third-wave feminism, Heywood and Dworkin argue that, in the years since the passage of Title IX, gender stereotypes have been destabilized in profound ways, and they assert that female athletes and their imagery are doing important cultural work to that end. Important, refreshing, and engrossing, Built to Win examines sport in all its complexity.

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