Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports

Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports

Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports

Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports

Synopsis

In the past, when sport simply excluded girls, the equation of males with active athletic power and of females with weakness and passivity seemed to come easily, almost naturally. Now, however, with girls' and women's dramatic movement into sport, the process of exclusion has become a bit subtler, a bit more complicated-and yet, as Michael Messner shows us in this provocative book, no less effective. In "Taking the Field," Messner argues that despite profound changes, the world of sport largely retains and continues its longtime conservative role in gender relations.To explore the current paradoxes of gender in sport, Messner identifies and investigates three levels at which the center of sport is constructed: the day-to-day practices of sport participants, the structured rules and hierarchies of sport institutions, and the dominant symbols and belief systems transmitted by the major sports media. Using these insights, he analyzes a moment of gender construction in the lives of four- and five-year-old children at a soccer opening ceremony, the way men's violence is expressed through sport, the interplay of financial interests and dominant men's investment in maintaining the status quo in the face of recent challenges, and the cultural imagery at the core of sport, particularly televised sports. Through these examinations Messner lays bare the practices and ideas that buttress-as well as those that seek to disrupt-the masculine center of sport.a"Taking the Field" exposes the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which men and women collectively construct gender through their interactions-interactions contextualized in the institutions and symbols of sport."

Excerpt

Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal shakes hands with his opponent, Philadelphia 76er Dikembe Mutombo, before the opening center jump. The referee who will toss the ball up is dwarfed by the two centers, both over seven feet tall. The capacity Staples Center crowd roars and stomps with the exciting NBA championship series game moments away from starting. The camera zooms to a close-up of O'Neal's already sweating face, then pulls back to reveal the other nine players, who have taken up their positions for the center jump. When the referee tosses up the ball, O'Neal and Mutombo lift their combined 580 pounds off the floor. The Lakers control the tip and take the offense. For most of the game, this will entail posting up O'Neal low on the block and, as the television announcers describe it, “sending the offense to and through their big center as much as possible.”

Randy Johnson, perched at the center of the diamond, pulls his six-foot-ten-inch frame into the stretch position. He glances at the runner on first base, holding him close, and turns toward home plate, as forty thousand fans begin to chant for another strikeout. The television camera zooms in on Johnson's face; he glares at the catcher, shakes off a sign, then nods. Johnson takes another quick glance at the runner and begins his delivery. The crowd noise swells, the catcher adjusts his position and opens his glove to provide a target, the umpire leans in for a good view, the batter tenses, the fielders shift their weight to the balls of . . .

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