Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity

Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity

Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity

Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity

Synopsis

Heroines of Sport looks closely at different groups of women whose stories have been excluded from previous accounts of women's sports and female heroism. It focuses on five specific groups of women from different places in the world South African women; Muslim women from the Middle East; Aboriginal women from Australia and Canada; and lesbian and disabled women from different countries worldwide. It also asks searching questions about colonialism and neo-colonialism in the women's international sport movement. The particular groups of women featured in the book reflect the need to look at specific categories of difference relating to class, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion and sexual orientation. In her account, Jennifer Hargreaves reveals how the participation of women in sport across the world is tied to their sense of difference and identity. Based on original research each chapter includes material which relates to significant political and cultural developments. Heroines of Sport will be invaluable reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students of sport sociology, and will also be relevant for students working in women's studies and other specialized fields, such as developments development studies or the politics of Aboriginality, disability, Islam, race and sexuality.

Excerpt

Making sense of difference and identity

Who are the 'heroines of sport'? This book does not provide a simple answer. It is not a straightforward celebration of the feats of individual women, as the question might suggest. The concept of the heroic is examined through analysis of the struggles and achievements of specific groups of women whose stories have been excluded from previous accounts of women's sports and female heroism. It focuses on five specific groups of women from different places in the world - South African women; Muslim women from the Middle East; Aboriginal women from Australia and Canada; and lesbian and disabled women from different countries worldwide. The women selected for investigation are from historically marginalized groups who have had to struggle against particularly harsh forms of discrimination to take part in sport and have constructed their own sporting identities in changing and difficult conditions. Their struggles in sport are social as well as personal, linked to specific cultural, economic, political and religious contexts and to global processes. Heroines of Sport interrogates topical and polemical situations and has a strong international dimension. It is, fundamentally, about human agency.

The question of the heroine

A culture is remembered for its heroes and heroines, and sport constructs them and influences our perceptions of them continuously. In popular consciousness, heroes and heroines are men and women who are 'larger than life', 'inspirational icons', special people with extraordinary qualities that are constructed and represented in particular ways to encourage us to admire and idealize them. In other words, heroes and heroines are socially constructed through discourses and meanings and values that change over time. But heroes are more easily defined than heroines and there is greater social importance attributed to the production and celebration of male heroism. Bob Connell (1987: 249) argues that hegemonic masculinity is naturalized in the form of the hero who is conventionally strong, aggressive and brave. Muscular tension is associated with human endeavour and struggle - climbing mountains and fighting dragons - and

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