Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports

Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports

Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports

Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women's Sports

Synopsis

1996 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Annual Book Award

An outstanding contribution to feminist analysis of sport from the nineteenth century to the present day. Jennifer Hargreaves views sport as a battle for control of the physical body and an important area for feminist intervention. Placing women at the centre of discussion, no other book is as comprehensive.

Excerpt

If you go to your local library and look at the sports books, they will almost certainly be predominantly about men. If you go to a university library, the bulk of the writing in sports history and sociology assumes male standards. Switch on your television to look at sports programmes and it’s the same story—you can be 90 per cent sure to see male rather than female performers; or go to a pub and listen to conversations about sports and they will inevitably be conducted by men talking about male competitions. In spite of the fact that more women are participating in more sports than ever before, and in spite of a significant number of feminist interventions into sports theory, much more attention is still given to the role of sports in the lives of men than to the importance of sports to women. Sporting Females: critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sports is therefore a political intervention into the world of sports scholarship. It is an effort to bring women’s sports more centrally on to the agenda, to show the importance of using gender as a fundamental category for analysis, and to explore some of its complexities.

The twentieth century has seen tremendous changes in patterns of consumption and leisure, in relations between the sexes, and in the prominence given to the body in western culture. These are some of the broad social changes that make women’s sports a fascinating topic for analysis. And nineteenth-century women as well as twentieth-century women are the subjects of this book, because they both have relevance to our understanding of sports today and to the relationship between sports, the body and personal identity.

Sports are increasingly implicated in the social construction of womanhood, but the meanings attached to them vary tremendously according to a person’s individual biography. Most people only know about exceptional sportswomen, however—those who have broken world records, been labelled as ‘unfeminine’, or behaved bizarrely. Very little is known about the various types of women who are involved in sports, and the values that they bring to them. This book looks at sports in the lives of women with working-class and middle-class backgrounds; single parents and those living with

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