Sexual Violence and the Reproduction of Male Power in the Locker Room: The “Lisa Olson Incident”

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Minnesota
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Numerous media commentators have deemed the sexual harassment locker room incident between Lisa Olson and the New England Patriots to be an embarrassing case of mismanagement. Our analysis challenges this popular assumption; we argue that the event represents an overt manifestation of male power by means of sexual violence against women. The response to Olson suggests that in an era where women’s entry into sport has challenged men’s exclusive hold on that domain, the locker room, like the playing field, must be understood as contested terrain. For men to maintain control over the terrain of the locker room, the female sportswriter must be displaced from her role as authoritative critic of male performance and reassigned to her “appropriate” role of sexual object. In light of the importance of sport, and the status of the locker room as an inner sanctum of male privilege, the incident between Olson and the Patriots was not mismanaged at all but, in fact, handled effectively.

Mary Jo Kane is with the School of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies, and Lisa J. Disch is with the Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus, 1900 University Ave. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455.

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