Mary Jo Kane
Scholars have argued that sport is a highly gendered space where dominant and subordinate groups engage in struggles of resistance and counter-resistance. There are two limitations with this research. First, the majority of investigations have been confined to adult women; examinations of adolescent females are virtually nonexistent. Second, most research has focused on print and broadcast journalism. The influence of one important medium—young adult sports fiction—has been neglected. This investigation analyzed “lone girl” novels (where adolescent female protagonists try out for boys’ teams), as well as books focusing on women’s team sports. Findings revealed lone girl novels characterized female protagonists as going against their “true nature.” Novels featuring women’s team sports undermined female solidarity by equating it with heterosexual desire. These results constitute a fictional denial of sport as a site of resistance and empowerment for athletic females.
Mary Jo Kane
This study examined the impact of Title IX on media coverage given to female athletes to determine if there has been a shift away from negative social stereotypes traditionally associated with women’s sports participation toward a more socially accepting view of the female athlete. A content analysis of feature articles within 1,228 issues of Sports Illustrated was undertaken for the years 1964-1987. These represented three 8-year time spans before (1964-71), during (1972-79), and after (1980-87) Title IX. In order to assess whether attitudes have changed toward female athletes as related to a Title IX timeline, amount and type of coverage were considered. Chi-square analyses revealed mixed results. There was a significant increase in the proportion of coverage given to women in athletic (e.g., professional golfer) versus nonathletic (e.g., swimsuit model) roles. However, feature articles about female athletes gave significantly more coverage to women in "sex-appropriate" sports such as tennis versus "sex-inappropriate" sports such as rugby, regardless of the Title IX time frame. Results are discussed in terms of challenging current beliefs that women’s athletics have gained widespread social acceptance following the enactment of Tide IX. Implications for practitioners and academics within sport management are presented.
LeeAnn Kriegh and Mary Jo Kane
Over the past two decades, sport media scholars have demonstrated that female athletes are portrayed in ways that trivialize and undermine their accomplishments as highly skilled competitors, thus denying them power. More recently, scholars in a related field of knowledge—homophobia in women’s athletics—have also addressed the various ways in which power is denied to sportswomen. Although scholars within both bodies of knowledge have investigated institutional structures, ideologies and practices by which men continue to monopolize sport, few studies have explicitly linked sport media scholarship to the literature on homophobia in women’s athlet. An additional limitation in both fields of knowledge is that analyses focused primarily on adult female athletes; examinations of adolescent females are virtually nonexistent. A final limitation is that the vast majority of studies have focused on print and broadcast journalism, thereby ignoring another influential medium, young adult sports fiction. Therefore, the purpose of our investigation was to extend the knowledge base in three ways: 1) to explicitly link two bodies of knowledge concerned with women’s athleticism--sport media and homophobia/heterosexism; 2) to focus on a population that has been sorely neglected; and 3) to investigate a rich new area of analysis-young adult literature-particularly as it relates to the presence, and characterization of, lesbians in sport.
The sample consisted of novels meeting the following criteria: (a) published for a young adult audience, (b) featured a female athlete as protagonist, (c) had sport as a major characteristic of the story, and (d) and be published during or after 1970. Using a qualitative methodology, we examined themes and character portrayals related to the suppression and oppression of young sportswomen in general and lesbians in particular. More specifically, we were interested in whether manifestations of homophobia in women’s athletics (e.g., silence and denial) were present in the novels under consideration. Results indicated that a lesbian presence was subverted in numerous ways, ranging from explicit verbal attacks on female protagonists accused of being “freaks,” to more subtle, apologetic constructions in which female athletes were characterized as ultra-feminine. These findings suggest that the homophobic and heterosexist coverage given to sportswomen in print and broadcast journalism extends into young adult sports fiction.
Mary Jo Kane and Nicole LaVoi
Two generations removed from Title IX, women have made unprecedented advances in sports. Yet there remains one important arena where females have witnessed dramatic declines—leadership positions, most notably in coaching. The percentage of female coaches has declined from 90% in the early 1970s to 43% in 2018. In 1988, Acosta and Carpenter surveyed intercollegiate athletic directors (ADs) regarding their attributions for this employment trend. They found significant gender differences whereby male ADs focused on the attributes of individual women (e.g., they are unqualified), while female ADs highlighted organizational factors (e.g., success of “old boys’ network”). This investigation replicated and extended the earlier study. We surveyed a nationwide sample of college athletic administrators to determine current-day perceptions regarding the underrepresentation of female head coaches. Significant gender differences emerged in that female administrators continued to rate institutional variables such as unconscious discrimination as key attribution factors, while male administrators attributed the absence to individual variables such as time constraints due to family obligations. An unexpected finding compared to 30 years ago was that female ADs, even more strongly than their male counterparts, believed that a major contributing factor was women’s failure to apply for jobs. These findings—and their broader implications—are discussed within the theoretical framework of critical feminist theory.
Mary Jo Kane and Jo Ann Buysse
In the aftermath of the passage of Title IX, Michael Messner laid the theoretical groundwork for what was at stake as a result of this landmark legislation. He argued that women’s entrance into sport marked a quest for equality and thus represented a challenge to male domination. He further argued that media representations of athletic females were a powerful vehicle for subverting any counterhegemonic potential posed by sportswomen. Scholars should therefore examine “frameworks of meaning” linked to female athletes because they have become “contested terrain.” Our investigation addressed Messner’s concerns by examining the cultural narratives of intercollegiate media guides. We did so by analyzing longitudinal data from the early 1990s through the 2003–04 season. Findings revealed an unmistakable shift toward representations of women as serious athletes and a sharp decline in gender differences. Results are discussed against a backdrop of sport scholars in particular—and institutions of higher education in general—serving as agents of social change.
Eldon E. Snyder and Mary Jo Kane
Previous research has identified gender appropriate and inappropriate sports for females. The present study uses a photo elicitation technique to study respondents’ attitudes toward two women’s sports: college basketball and gymnastics, Interestingly, this methodology manifests different results from more traditional techniques. Contrary to the expected results based on previous studies, the photo elicitation technique indicates that the perceptions of female participation in basketball were similar to gymnastics. This method of gathering data as well as the results of this study have several important implications for the field of sport management.
Mary Jo Kane and Lisa J. Disch
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.
Jane Marie Stangl and Mary Jo Kane
The dramatic decline of women coaches since Title IX has been well documented. This investigation examined how homologous reproduction has influenced the proportion of female to male head coaches within the historical context of Title IX. Homologous reproduction is a process whereby dominants reproduce themselves based on social and/or physical characteristics. Therefore the employment relationship between sex of athletic director and sex of head coach was considered. The sample included 937 public high schools for three Title IX time periods. Analysis of variance procedures indicated significant main effects for sex of athletic director and Title IX timeframe: Significantly more women were hired under female versus male athletic directors. However, there was also a significantly smaller proportion of female coaches in 1981-82 and 1988-89 compared to 1974-75. This latter pattern occurred under both female and male athletic directors. Findings are discussed in terms of analyzing employment practices toward females as manifestations of hegemony.
Joah G. Iannotta and Mary Jo Kane
Previous research has relied on the personal narratives of female coaches and athletes to generate knowledge related to homophobia in women’s athletics. We suggest that the body of knowledge generated from these investigations has served to construct a meta story of victimization surrounding women’s sport experiences. We make this claim primarily around theoretical frameworks that link a final, liberating stage of development with being explicitly out as a lesbian. As a result, only a narrow range of sexual identity performances (e.g., linguistically naming oneself as lesbian) is recognized as being effective in creating climates of tolerance and, by extension, social change. Employing an analytical tool developed by Plummer (1995), we examined the “sexual stories” of intercollegiate coaches who did not identify themselves as “out” lesbians, but who nevertheless employed a multiplicity of strategies related to the performance of their sexual identity to actively resist social injustice. Based on these findings, we call for a reconceptualization of identity performance that recognizes the non-linear, fluid and contextualized nature of sexual identity.