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Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon

Leslie Heywood
Shari L. Dworkin
Foreword by Julie Foudy
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Built to Win
    Book Description:

    Leslie Heywood and Shari L. Dworkin examine the role of empowered female athletes in American popular culture through interviews with girls and boys; readings of ad campaigns by Nike, Reebok, and others; discussions of movies like Fight Club and Girlfight; and explorations of their own sports experiences. Important, refreshing, and engrossing, Built to Win examines sport in all its complexity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9181-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Julie Foudy

    For me, sports have always been about expressing myself through competition, perseverance, laughter, and self-confidence. I started playing soccer, tackle football, and softball as soon as I could walk. As the youngest of four kids in a very active (most would say hyperactive) family, I had no other choice: sports were a way of life for the whole Foudy household. Our vacations centered on ski trips, hiking trips, and sport outings. Mom never told me I couldn’t play tackle football because it “wasn’t feminine.” Dad never told me that skateboarding was for guys. I just followed my passions—and being...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Shari L. Dworkin
  5. PROLOGUE: Women We Love Who Kick Butt
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    In the October 1995 issue ofOutsidemagazine, the cover story, “The Ubergirl Cometh,” proclaimed a new archetype for women:

    The age of Gabrielle Reece is upon us. She’s big, she’s strong, and with thousands more like her out there, she’s replicating fast. . . . Reece leads a pack of women who are currently redefining our image of the female athlete, inspiring a generation of young girls to take control of their bodies and pride in their strength. . . . Can you deal with that?¹

    In January 2001, the cover ofVoguemagazine was set in resplendent tones...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Powered Up or Dreaming?
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the early 1990s, the near invisibility of female athletes in popular culture began to undergo a startling reversal. Although there was still a marked absence of women’s televised games, meets, and races, or reports about their athletic feats in the papers, corporations such as Nike began to make female athletes highly visible in their ads.

    Invoking all the benefits of sport for women’s health and self-esteem, these corporations started to capitalize on the largely unheard publichealth arguments that had long been put forth by physical fitness educators, coaches, and athletes. For good and ill this capitalization—and the public...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Sport as the Stealth Feminism of the Third Wave
    (pp. 25-54)

    In the years since the 1996 Olympic games, the American cultural landscape has changed for the better, at least for the female athlete. 1996 was the “year of the woman” at the Olympics. The year the cover of the preview issue ofSports Illustratedfeatured women, specifically five African-American members of the women’s basketball team, and their coach, Tara Van Derveer. The year hurdler Kim Batten was featured on one page, Michael Johnson the next. The year women athletes showed up in ads for every product you can imagine, ads attesting to female power and self-assertion, like the State Farm...

  8. CHAPTER THREE A New Look at Female Athletes and Masculinity
    (pp. 55-75)

    Benchplay. Arcs of muscle swung through space. Steel frame on which the bar rests, waiting for weight plates. Thick discs of iron, 45, 35, 25 pounds. Black rubber floor for dug-in feet. Human backs like bridges, the weight of the world between. Humidity, liniment, sweat, grind in the joint, exhalation of shadows more than double in size. With your broad back and hard waist you are under it, raw, a breathing monster slowly lowered to your chest. It weighs much more than you do. Your back is arched, thighs tight. You draw breath until your chest fills. You feel the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Bodies, Babes, and the WNBA
    (pp. 76-99)

    Predictably if not paradoxically, some of the same critics who argue against female masculinity are adamant in their arguments against emphasized femininity in athletes as well. The seeming obverse of female masculinity is emphasized femininity, and the most obvious place that emphasized femininity has been present lately has been in representations of female athletes who have posed in ways that some call “pornographic.” A major issue that continually resurfaces in the discussion of women’s sport images and seems to argue against the claim that the female athlete images have been functioning in a way that counteracts the objectification thesis is...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Body Panic Parity
    (pp. 100-130)

    If there is increased gender flexibility in popular cultural images, if female athletes can now in some ways own “masculinity,” a parallel trend marks the male body as a “feminine” object of beauty. In terms of traditional gender codes, male and female bodies are now sometimes presented quite differently than they were in earlier decades. Female athletes and their fantasy counterparts in female action heroes, along with the overt commodification of the male body in advertisement and popular culture, have destabilized the polarity that formed the cornerstone of earlier feminist theories of objectification. This polarity argued that men were represented...

  11. CHAPTER SIX She Will Beat You Up, and Your Papa, Too
    (pp. 131-159)

    It’s late afternoon on the school grounds, recess is over, and mounds of buzzing bodies begin to shuffle, maneuver, and make their way into a maze of classroom seats. Young boys and girls approach the door, peer in, hesitate, smile, then zoom by, as others begin to yell, “Are we gonna talk about soccer today?!”¹ Boys sitting far away from one another begin to yell, “Soccer! Yea!” and madly shuffle through their pockets, take out the most recent schedule for the WUSA, slap it out onto the table, excitedly reciting when the next televised match between the CyberRays and Freedom...

  12. EPILOGUE: It’s an Image
    (pp. 160-166)

    Slide 1: it’s an image, so you can change it—wash in the colors from gray to red, elongate a little of the hind part, add depth to breast and chin. You can spin from gamine lines of straightness with all hairs a wisp, blue ruffles, long arms like bones caved in. Thin torso, narrow hip bones, lips parted as though for a kiss. The Princess, light easy locks in a tousle. Head thrown back against a tree, all gamine dreams, light, lightness, airy space: lips and breasts and caved-in waist, belted hips to hold her firm in place.


  13. APPENDIX: Focus-Group Research on Youth Attitudes about Female Athletes
    (pp. 167-176)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 177-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-218)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)