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Female Gladiators

Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Female Gladiators
    Book Description:

    Female Gladiators is the first book to examine legal and social battles over the right of women to participate with men in contact sports. The impetus to begin legal proceedings was the 1972 enactment of Title IX, which prohibited discrimination in educational settings, but it was the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the equal rights amendments of state constitutions that ultimately opened doors. Despite court rulings, however, many in American society resisted--and continue to resist--allowing girls in dugouts and other spaces traditionally defined as male territories._x000B__x000B_Inspired, women and girls began to demand access to the contact sports which society had previously deemed too strenuous or violent for them to play. When the leagues continued to bar girls simply because they were not boys, the girls went to court. Sarah K. Fields's Female Gladiators is the only book to examine the legal and social battles over gender and contact sport that continue to rage today.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09120-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. 1 The History of American Women in Sport, Society, and Law
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book traces the stories and the lawsuits of the school-aged girls who fought to compete in contact sports and the communities that sometimes supported but often resisted their efforts. The vast majority of these cases began after 1972, and to understand the significance of the legal and social changes marked by that landmark year one must remember what happened before and during it. The girls in this book were not the first female athletes in the world or even in the United States; they were just the newest generation. Their legal struggles built on the work of mothers and...

  5. 2 Baseball
    (pp. 17-33)

    In the flood of lawsuits seeking to open contact sports to girls in 1973, the first sport contested was baseball, a fact significant for the importance of baseball’s role to American culture and the fact that it is not a quintessential contact sport, nor is it included in Title IX’s enforcement regulation list of enumerated contact sports. Baseball, the national pastime, has long been inseparably intertwined with American identity and been part of what it means to be American. Yet it has traditionally been a game for men—fathers and sons. When society changed, however, and daughters asked to play...

  6. 3 Football
    (pp. 34-54)

    Although baseball has traditionally been America’s pastime, football has been its rival in the affections of Americans, especially American males, since the 1960s. Like baseball, football evolved primarily in America and even more than baseball has grown in popularity with players and spectators alike thanks in large part to television. Unlike baseball, however, football is clearly a contact sport with emphasis on tackles and blocking, and the Title IX enforcement regulations list the game as one of the definitive contact sports exempt from Title IX.¹

    After baseball, football was the second sport subjected to court action. The first gender and...

  7. 4 Basketball
    (pp. 55-82)

    Basketball, like baseball and football, plays an important role in the broader American culture. It is the third major sport in most schools, the winter game for the athletically inclined. It is a game, like football, which rewards size and strength, elements that help emphasize masculinity and toughness. Although its rules forbid contact, punishing it through a system of fouls and penalties, interpretation and enforcement of the rules has created a game in which physical contact is a major component. As a result, under the enforcement regulations of Title IX, basketball, like football, is plainly, legally a contact sport and...

  8. 5 Soccer
    (pp. 83-101)

    After the debate over the gender of baseball players had been resolved, but during a time when football and basketball were still being contested, a quiet struggle over a different sport was being waged. If in 1977 baseball, football, and basketball were sports that had strong American traditions, soccer was somewhere at the fringe, a game played predominantly by immigrants and those not skilled enough for traditionally all-American sports. But in that year, the same one in which an Oklahoma judge and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that girls had no constitutional right to play full-court basketball, a...

  9. 6 Wrestling
    (pp. 102-120)

    Wrestling, one of the world’s oldest sports, is built on strength and enhanced fighting skills. The ancient Greeks wrestled in their Olympic games, and the sport has survived in various forms ever since. In general the sport in the United States does not have the numbers (excluding professional wrestling), either in terms of participation or revenue production, of football, baseball, or basketball, although in some regions it is exceedingly popular.¹ For example, midwestern members of the Big Ten and Big Twelve collegiate conferences have long been wrestling powerhouses, and wrestling in those states has been and remains a successful sport,...

  10. 7 Boxing
    (pp. 121-131)

    The role of boxing in American culture has been similar to that of wrestling. Like wrestling, boxing is an extremely physical sport historically designed to promote warrior skills, and as such it is and has been male-dominated. Joyce Carol Oates in a cultural consideration of boxing writes that women’s role in the sport, according to traditional gender roles, must be marginal, whether as card girls and singers of the national anthem, because female boxers so obviously reverse the gender norm: “raw aggression is thought to be the peculiar province of men, as nurturing is the peculiar province of women. (The...

  11. 8 Boys on Girls’ Field Hockey Teams
    (pp. 132-153)

    Most lawsuits involving gender and contact sports, which are traditionally male, focused on girls trying to gain access to boys’ teams. Before enactment of Title IX the original lawsuits, quite reasonably, concerned girls who wished to try out for boys’ teams. The sport of field hockey, however, holds a unique spot in American sporting history. It is arguably a contact sport, and in the United States it is played almost exclusively by girls. Inevitably in the war over gender and sports some boys have asked for the opportunity to try out for girls’ field hockey teams.

    Although field hockey has...

  12. 9 Wrapping Up Contact Sports
    (pp. 154-168)

    Title IX triggered numerous lawsuits, and the equal protection clause often was the deciding factor in the most of these cases. There were, however, contact sports in America into which girls and women seemed to slip almost unnoticed without lawsuits being filed to keep the sports female-free. An examination of the sports helps explain the discord between law and society over those that were more fiercely contested and how Americans have come to accept the notion of separate but equal for gender and sport.

    Legally contested contact sports arose in part from the Title IX enforcement regulations that introduced the...

  13. Appendix: Timeline of Laws and Major Cases
    (pp. 169-172)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 173-202)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 203-212)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-216)