Although women athletes in professional sport are uniquely positioned to expose the limits of gender essentialist ideology and challenge its relationship with inequality, little empirical research has considered how professional women athletes understand and negotiate gender ideologies. Drawing on 19 in-depth interviews and one e-mail exchange with U.S. women’s professional soccer players, this article finds that sportswomen strategically endorse constructions of gender difference while simultaneously universalizing White, middle-class women’s experiences. “Privileging difference” is a narrative whereby players recognize belief in women’s physical inferiority to men and argue for women’s moral superiority to men as a source of value and reward for women’s sport. Sportswomen’s moral authority is defined from a position of racialized class privilege, as players construct an idealized woman player who sacrifices material reward for emotional satisfaction and who emphasizes future change over present conditions.
Allison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is with Department of Sociology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA.
Adams, C., & Leavitt, S. (2018). “It’s just girls’ hockey”: Troubling progress narratives in girls’ and women’s sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport,53(2), 152–172. doi:10.1177/1012690216649207)| false
Adjepong, A. (2017). “We’re, like, a cute rugby team”: How whiteness and heterosexuality shape women’s sense of belonging in rugby. International Review for the Sociology of Sport,52(2), 209–222. doi:10.1177/1012690215584092)| false
Christopherson, N., Janning, M., & McConnell, E.D. (2002). Two kicks forward, one kick back: A content analysis of media discourses on the 1999 women’s world cup soccer championship. Sociology of Sport Journal,19(2), 170–188. doi:
Christopherson, N., Janning, M., & McConnell, E.D. (2002). Two kicks forward, one kick back: A content analysis of media discourses on the 1999 women’s world cup soccer championship. Sociology of Sport Journal,19(2), 170–188. doi:10.1123/ssj.19.2.170)| false
Fink, J.F. (2015). Female athletes, women’s sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby?”Sport Management Review,18(3), 331–342.10.1016/j.smr.2014.05.001)| false
Hardin, M., & Whiteside, E.E. (2009). The power of “small stories”: Narratives and notions of gender equality in conversations about sport. Sociology of Sport Journal,26(2), 255–276. doi:10.1123/ssj.26.2.255)| false
Johnson, C.M.E. (2015). “Just because I dance like a ho I’m not a ho”: Cheerleading at the intersection of race, class, and gender. Sociology of Sport Journal,32(4), 377–394. doi:10.1123/ssj.2014-0091)| false
McCauley, K. (2016). NWSL has survived longer than any other women’s soccer league: When do players get paid?SB Nation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2016/4/15/11409908/nwsl-2016-season-wages-cap-salary-minimum)| false
McDonald, M.G. (2000). The marketing of the women’s national basketball association and the making of postfeminism. International Review for the Sociology of Sport,35(1), 35–47. doi:10.1177/101269000035001003)| false
Musto, M., Cooky, C., & Messner, M.A. (2017). “From fizzle to sizzle!” Televised sports news and the production of gender-bland sexism. Gender & Society,31(5), 573–596. doi:10.1177/0891243217726056)| false
Shakib, S., & Dunbar, M.D. (2002). The social construction of female and male high school basketball participation: Reproducing the gender order through a two-tiered sporting institution. Sociological Perspectives,45(4), 353–378. doi:
Shakib, S., & Dunbar, M.D. (2002). The social construction of female and male high school basketball participation: Reproducing the gender order through a two-tiered sporting institution. Sociological Perspectives,45(4), 353–378. doi:10.1525/sop.2002.45.4.353)| false
Shugart, H. (2003). She shoots, she scores: Mediated constructions of contemporary female athletes in coverage of the 1999 U.S. women’s soccer team. Western Journal of Communication,67(1), 1–31. doi:10.1080/10570310309374756)| false
Travers, A. (2011). Women’s ski jumping, the 2010 Olympic games, and the deafening silence of sex segregation, whiteness, and wealth. Journal of Sport & Social Issues,35(2), 126–145. doi:10.1177/0193723511405477)| false