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Patricia Vertinsky

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Patricia Vertinsky

In this paper I view the history of kinesiology in America through the lens of a shifting academic landscape where physical culture and building acted upon each other to reflect emergent views concerning the nature of training in physical education and scientific developments around human movement. It is also an organizational history that has been largely lived in the gymnasium and the laboratory from its inception in the late nineteenth century to its current arrangements in the academy. Historians have referred to this in appropriately embodied terms as the head and the heart of physical education, and of course the impact of gender, class, and race was ever present. I conclude that the profession/discipline conundrum in kinesiology that has ebbed and flowed in the shifting spaces and carefully organized places of the academy has not gone away in the twenty-first century and that the complexities of today’s training require more fertile and flexible collaborative approaches in research, teaching, and professional training.

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Patricia Vertinsky

Elderly athletes running the marathon offer a barometer of what is possible in physical aging. Gender, however, has a strong influence on one’s chances in the marathon race, just as it has on the manner and pace with which one navigates the marathon of life. This article looks at the obstacles that women, especially older women, have had to overcome in order to compete in the marathon race. It explores the ways that gender has limited their real and perceived opportunities in pursuing strenuous sports and shows how male–female dichotomies have been used historically to perpetuate patriarchal views on the ways women could and should use their bodies. Finally, it illustrates how feminist inquiry and methods of analysis can help us understand why aging women in the past have more often been seen as “eternally wounded” than as special candidates for sporting excellence in later life.

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Patricia Vertinsky

Selecting Springfield College, founding home of the International YMCA as a training ground for male dancers was an inspired choice by American modern dancer Ted Shawn given the founding credo of the College to ‘build builders of men.’ I would like to see men dancing in gymnasiums and stadiums, he claimed, so that the dance could reach again the position it held among the Greeks as the most perfect athletic accomplishment and the finest means of physical training and development. They were earnest and interesting efforts to foster an aura of ‘authentic rugged American masculinity’ for the era, given that Shawn himself was a closeted homosexual and the troupe’s lead dancer was his long term muse and lover Barton Mumaw. Scholars have shown how Shawn’s ideas about gender and sexuality became increasingly complex once he acknowledged his own homosexuality and engaged with ideas about sexual difference. His appropriation of various facets of the physical culture movement, however, and his reliance on the work and ideas of female modern dance pioneers and the physical education profession have been less noted. In this sense, Shawn was lucky, for he fell in love with dance when the art was mature enough to need a man.

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Patricia A. Vertinsky

Despite growing indications of increased participation in healthful physical activity among the elderly, aging women tend to participate in exercise and sport to a lesser extent than their male peers. This paper suggests that strongly held beliefs about the potential risks of vigorous exercise deter many elderly women from being physically active. It then examines the gendered nature of myths and stereotypes concerning aging and physical activity and explores those social and cultural factors that have historically persuaded aging women to practice "being" old and inactive before "becoming" old. The purpose is to elaborate upon studies in the history of aging which indicate that popular perceptions rather than reality shaped social expectations, professional prescriptions, and public policy. These studies suggest how the creation of negative stereotypes around the aging female paved the way for an unbalanced version of the realities of female old age, at times delimiting aspirations and constraining opportunities for vigorous and healthful physical activity.

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Ellexis Boyle, Brad Millington and Patricia Vertinsky

Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won five Academy Awards but also came under attack from female boxers and disability activists. Ostensibly a drama about a tenacious woman’s quest to become a professional fighter and the male coach who assists her, Million Dollar Baby appears to insert a radical portrayal of femininity, female athleticism, and power into the male-dominated genre of boxing films and, more generally, a media that has been largely hostile to female boxing. We explore the extent to which the female lead can be viewed as a transgressive figure along with the discourses of containment that reduce her threat to longstanding cultural myths about boxing as a male preserve. Our analyses of the film’s racial, gender, class, and disability politics contend that its focus is not women’s boxing, disability, or the right to die; rather, like boxing, this film is about the male struggle to protect masculinity in a sporting world deeply shaken by the increasing presence of women.