The Discourse of Gender and Sport: From Femininity to Feminism

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M. Ann Hall University of Alberta

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The argument presented here is that the sociological discourse of gender and sport, in other words the way the topic is approached, the assumptions surrounding its investigation, and the ways in which new knowledge is generated has been determined without sufficient recognition of its own ideological foundations. Gender, it is argued, is a major social and theoretical category that, along with social class, race, age, ethnicity, and others, must be incorporated into all theoretically based social analyses of sport. The paper reviews the development of the gender and sport discourse from its origins in social psychological research that focused on the supposed conflict between femininity and athleticism, to the more sophisticated yet functionalist notion of “sex roles” and its application to sport, and finally to the emerging feminist paradigm that is informed by a growing body of feminist social theory. The final section argues for a transformation of the gender and sport discourse toward a truly emancipatory one and provides some concrete suggestions as to how to bring this about.

Direct all correspondence to M. Ann Hall, Department of Physical Education and Sport Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6E 2H9.
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