How American Sports Reveal, Reflect, and Reaffirm Wider American History
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, sports began to widely popularize America; the analysis of sports in the topics of gender, race, and Americanism reflect broader American society. Through the study of American sports during the historical era of the late 1800s to the early 1900s, one can gain insight on the difference in standards for men and women, the fight between white supremacy and equal rights for blacks, and the process of defining the American identity.
The study of American sports reaffirms the importance of male masculinity and the strict standards for women during the time period of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. To Americans during that time, a successful man was defined as a robust man, and men who participated in non-athletic events were harshly criticized. Americans believed that manly exercise was necessary in order to obtain true physical happiness, and society encouraged all men in America to be strong and masculine. The assumption that men were naturally active and women were naturally passive was upturned during the Gilded Age; women were breaking out of the stereotypes and were entering into the public sphere at a rapid pace. Women in America began to implant themselves into things that were once exclusive to men, such as voting, attending school, and participating in sporting activities. Due to the advancement of cities during the end of the nineteenth century, men were no longer participating in physical work or working for themselves; instead, they were working under other individuals as businessmen, lawyers, and clerks. Men in America felt that these social changes were a major threat to their masculinity, known by historians as “The Crisis of Manliness.” Due to this crisis, men turned to sports in order to retrieve their lost virility. The proposition of Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Strenuous Life” promoted the idea...
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