Biology, Sex, and Gender
The interaction of
nature and environment

Biology, Sex, and Gender
The interaction of nature and environment

The latest word…
"Humans have only about three times as many genes as the fly, so human complexity seems unlikely to come from a sheer quantity of genes. Rather, some scientists suggest, each human has a network with different parts like genes, proteins and groups of proteins. These parts connect at different times and on different levels, and human complexity arises from the structure of the network and the dynamics of its interactions." NYTimes Science Section, F1, 2/13/01

In other words,
humans are not hard-wired by either evolution or the genome. What we are at any time is a work in progress -- developmental, interactive, and processual.

What do we mean by “interaction of nature and environment”?
“…our bodies are social, too, and our experiences of, and engagement with, a gendered world is as embodied persons”.

A transformative account of gender development
…examines how culture and individual behavior may impact biology and physiology as well as vice versa
underlines pitfalls of using biological principles to justify gender inequality.

The example of Sport, Bodies, and Gender
Just do… what?

Dworkin and Messner, 1999, in Revisioining Gender (Ferree, Lorber, & Hess).

Sports as a gender domain
The construction of hegemonic masculinity
Sports as emphasized femininity
Possibilities of empowerment

Hegemonic masculinity
A socially constructed set of characteristics that define an “ideal type” of masculinity, based on physical power, brute force, total rationality, and a lack of emotion.  It is an artificial image, based on cultural icons rather than reflecting the reality of most men’s lives.

The centrality of the body in sport practice and ideology
Female and male body builders
Professional women golfers
“Doing gender” by men and women cheerleaders
Sports media’s “denial of power” to women athletes
Cases of transgendered athletes

Sports and power
A historical and contemporary relationship between sports and men’s power
Created by and for white middle class men to bolster a sagging ideology of “natural superiority” over women and race- and class-subordinated groups of men

The exercise of power
Seemingly based in “natural” physical endowments
Most women and girls have been excluded
Those who did participate were stereotyped as sexual and gender deviants
Upholds the belief in masculine superiority of all men to all women

When ideas, however unintentionally, distort reality in a way that justifies the prevailing distribution of wealth, power, and privilege, hides society’s injustices, and thus demands uncritical allegiance to the existing social order, we have IDEOLOGY

Organized sports is used to sell masculinity to men

“Separate will never be equal”
Gender segregation in sports
Men’s sports is mostly for men spectators
Women’s sports must also be attractive to men
“Making gender” is the primary function

Athletic men:  Paying the price
Stabilizes hegemonic masculinity
emotional & inter- personal development
permanent injuries, poor health, low life expectancy
disproportionately affects subordinated men
The invisible 99.9%

Reproduction of gender order
Public symbols of masculinity
Contradictions:  “primitive sexuality”
Class and race segregated
But… what about the successes?
Success of subordinated men stabilize gender order

Agency is not necessarily synonymous with “resistance”

Reproduction v. resistance

A gender lens must include other categories of difference

The sexualization of women
When women are included, they are often objectified and sexualized in ways that are both similar and different to the bodification of African-American men

emphasized femininity

Sex Equity for “Women in Sport”
Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 applies to academics and athletics.
"No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to dis-crimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."

But still...
College participation has not improved as much
more boys and men play at every level
more opportunities for boys, from peewee to professional

Show me the money...
Women’s gains have not been at the expense of men
girls and women still struggle for access to uniforms, travel $, practice facilities, scholarships

Many myths...
Sorry guys… the hard truth is that even “big” time men’s sports such as football and basketball don’t pay their own way.

Nevertheless… women are forging a contested terrain
Some argue that the Women’s World Cup win in 1999 was the single greatest sporting event of the century.

A contested terrain constitutes both agency and resistance
AIAW: health, cooperation, participation
NCAA: hierarchy, competition, aggression

Power and leadership shifts
college team coaches   1972:  90% women 1996:  47.7% women
women’s program athletic directors 1972:  >90% women 1996:  18.5% women

Be aggressive;
be submissive
Be a strong athlete;
be sexy

If you let me play...
80% less likely to have unwanted pregnancy
92% less likely to use drugs
3x more likely to graduate, have high self esteem and self confidence

The Nike “swoosh”
…becomes a statement that is equated with independent, empowered women of the 90s

Nike as “celebrity feminist”
Much of women’s athletics and women athletes have been coopted to commercialism
Nike’s commitment to women’s liberation?
CEO Phillip Wright is worth $5 billion; Indonesian women are paid $2.25/day to make the product; suffer human rights abuses

Power, but not too much...
Patriarchy reproduces itself through men’s ability to dominate and exploit women’s bodies
Individual agency is emphasized, but at the expense of collective resistance
Identity with corporate consumerism is a reproducing agency
Collective resistance emphasizes institutions such as rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, community athletic leagues

Media images
Just do it...

An individualized, gendered ideology is sold back to women as individual consumers that prevents collective resistance.

Women and muscles
New emphasis on fitness and muscular development
creates space for gender contestation and negotiation

Affirming for women-based power
antithetical to the patriarchal definition of passive, weak, docile

Just do what?  And for whom?
May be modern version of “docile body”
a “third shift” requirement?
Detracts from collective resistance

Excludes most working class, poor women
glorifies youth, excludes older women
like Af-Am men, sexualized, bodified

Just doing… what?
Just doing contemporary “heterosexy” femininity

The beast must be “tamed” by beauty

Florence Griffith Joyner
The world’s fastest woman
Standing world records in the 100 and 200 meter
“Griffith Joyner’s winning smile was more riveting than any outfit” (SI 10-3-98)
America’s Golden Girls...
“In contrast to her husband, 1984 Olympic triple jump  champion Al Joyner, who was unfailingly sweet and happy-go-lucky, Griffith Joyner could seem distant at times.  Her exotic beauty made her appear remote and unapproachable“ (CNN/SI 9-22-98)
Jackie died at age 38

Griffith Joyner, who died in her sleep on Monday of an apparent heart attack, was an astonishing athlete, and also a              controversial one. Competing at a time when the sport's  profile was sinking, Griffith Joyner was like a gaudy comet flashing across the sky. In mid-1988, in the short span of 75  days, she transformed herself into FloJo, a flesh?and?blood action hero who dazzled the world with her six-inch long fingernails and sexy running attire, scorching tracks and  retinas with her line of skin-tight negligées, some of which she dubbed one-leggers."
CNN/SI  September 22, 1998

Sports is a contested gender terrain, but the results have been individual rather than collective
Sports remain segregated, and men’s sports are still dominant
Organized sport recreates the power of hegemonic masculinity and the subordination of emphasized femininity
Abandon the cause?
Absolutely not!
Push for equal opportunities for girls and women
Recognize the power of legal action
Acknowledge the emotional and physical costs
Explore alternatives to the “military model” for both women and men