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American Jordan: P.L.A.Y., Consensus, and Punishment

Cheryl L. Cole

In this paper l consider how the contemporary national imagination is fabricated through racially coded deviance by interrogating what Nike calls its P.L.A.Y (Participate in the Lives of American Youth) campaign. P.L.A.Y., represented as a practical challenge to recent developments that deny “kids” access to sport and fitness activities, is part of a promotional network through which Nike seeks to secure a patriotic, charitable, and socially responsible public profile. In part, this profile and the complex terrain Nike occupies are territorialized through the somatic identity of Michael Jordan. I argue that representative figures like American Jordan are both effects and instruments of modern power. As such, Jordan is an element in and expression of a discursive formation that works to delimit and render intelligible what/who count as violent, criminal, and dangerous. The regulatory ideals invoked through a nation-centric discourse, American principles, Michael Jordan, and the apparent inverse relationship between urban sport and gangs work to bound and limit identities in ways that mask the complexities of the terrain occupied by transnational corporations like Nike, while exacerbating punitive and vengeful desires directed at Black urban youth.

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From ‘Fair Sex’ to Feminism: Sport and the Socialization of Women in the Industrial and Post-industrial Eras

Cheryl L. Cole

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Celebrity Feminism: Nike Style Post-Fordism, Transcendence, and Consumer Power

Cheryl L. Cole and Amy Hribar

We interrogate Nike’s implication in the developments of 1980s and 1990s popular feminisms by contextualizing and examining the advertising strategies deployed by Nike in its efforts to seduce women consumers. Although Nike is represented as progressive and pro-women, we demonstrate Nike’s alliance with normative forces dominating 1980s America. We suggest that Nike’s solicitation relies on the logic of addiction, which demonized those people most affected by post-Fordist dynamics. While Nike’s narrations of “empowerment” appeal to a deep, authentic self located at the crossroads of power and lifestyle, we suggest that these narratives offer ways of thinking/identities that impede political action. Finally, we consider the relations among Nike, celebrity feminism, and the complex and invisible dynamics that enable transnationals to exploit Third World women workers.

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Double Fault: Renee Richards and the Construction and Naturalization of Difference

Susan Birrell and Cheryl L. Cole

This study examines the implications of the entrance of Renee Richards, a constructed-female transsexual, into the women’s professional tennis circuit. The purpose of our analysis is to show how our culture constructs woman and produces particular notions of gender, sex, and difference by examining a case in which these ideological processes are literally enacted: the construction of a “woman,” Renee Richards, from a man. We do this by exploring the cultural meaning of transsexualism in the U.S.; by examining critically how issues of transsexualism, sex, and gender are framed by the media in the Renee Richards case; and by exploring the particular problematic posed by Richards’ entrance into the highly gendered world of professional sport. Although Renee Richards appears to challenge fundamental cultural assumptions about sex and gender, closer analysis reveals that the various media frames invoked to explain the meaning of Renee Richards reproduce rather than challenge dominant gender arrangements and ideologies.