Gendered Bodies: Sports
In a sex/gender binary system, expectations of difference are played out in terms of gendered bodies. In a male dominated society, women’s bodies become ‘contested terrain’. It is important to utilize a macro level, social construction approach and conduct a GBA to consider the social, gendered construction of sports (as well as health & sexualities).
1. Is sport gendered? Is sport associated more with men/masculinity?
a. Importance of historical, cultural, class specificity when examining sports; awareness of women’s past participation in sports at certain times & places
Class affected women’s participation as well as geographic location. Example farm women were more athletic.
General rational for limiting women’s participation in sports is related to cult of true womanhood. Real women not supposed to be involved in aggressive play instead should look after family and be gental.
40s and 50s known as dark ages for women in sports maybe due to world war and post-world war when women pressured to have babies so not enough time for sports
Involvement in sport is another area, like waged work, where there are often assumptions that women only recently have started to participate and contribute. Find past examples of women who were athletes or involved in sports.
Check out Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, and any other organizations that you can find that provide historical information about women’s athletic accomplishments.
What do you think is likely to be important in determining whether women were active in sport in the past?
b. Constructing sports as male/masculine: gender stereotypes and dominant ideology at the socio-cultural level9 Sports are institutions ware boys are encouraged to display their masculinity and a place where gender is policed by coaches and parents
Sports has been seen by many societies as a leisure activity for men and also a good practice for the possibility of war
Sports also connected to nationality but also emphasizes competition and power over
Seen as acceptable for man to sacrifice body for sports, seen as manly. Young man’s body seen as expendable especially men of lower class or colored race
Gendered ideal of athlete based on masculinity; men’s bodies seen as productive sporting bodies
First, test yourself. How many male athletes can you name? How many women? What about recognition? Look at sports media depictions of athletes and see who you can recognize.
Then try this with others. Ask friends and family to do the same listing of famous male and female athletes. Show them pictures and see who they are able to identify and whether there are any gendered patterns.
Check out media coverage. Can you find any differences in the coverage? In the depictions? Are different things emphasized for men athletes compared to women athletes? If so, how/why are these differences significant?
Consider the impact that the social construction of sports as masculine is likely to have on gendering ideas and practices regarding leisure activities, risk taking, and even daily care of bodies.
Try listing gender appropriate leisure activities. Think about gender policing in terms of encouraging gender conformity. Are there consequences if individuals don’t conform?
Then think about risk taking – are there differences in terms of acceptable risks that are based on gender? Are there gendered differences in terms of perceptions of risk?
What about the impact of gendered ideas on our daily care of our bodies. Think about this in terms of what is seen as acceptable vs. not acceptable as well as the amount of time invested, the costs, and so on. Check out the different products for daily body care – who has more? Are there price differences? And consider price...
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