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Qualifying Times

Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women's Sport

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Qualifying Times
    Book Description:

    This perceptive, lively study explores U.S. women's sport through historical "points of change": particular products or trends that dramatically influenced both women's participation in sport and cultural responses to women athletes. Beginning with the seemingly innocent ponytail, the subject of the Introduction, scholar Jaime Schultz challenges the reader to look at the historical and sociological significance of now-common items such as sports bras and tampons and ideas such as sex testing and competitive cheerleading. Tennis wear, tampons, and sports bras all facilitated women's participation in physical culture, while physical educators, the aesthetic fitness movement, and Title IX encouraged women to challenge (or confront) policy, financial, and cultural obstacles. While some of these points of change increased women's physical freedom and sporting participation, they also posed challenges. Tampons encouraged menstrual shame, sex testing (a tool never used with male athletes) perpetuated narrowly defined cultural norms of femininity, and the late-twentieth-century aesthetic fitness movement fed into an unrealistic beauty ideal. Ultimately, Schultz finds that U.S. women's sport has progressed significantly but ambivalently. Although participation in sports is no longer uncommon for girls and women, Schultz argues that these "points of change" have contributed to a complex matrix of gender differentiation that marks the female athletic body as different than--as less than--the male body, despite the advantages it may confer.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09596-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: The Politics of the Ponytail
    (pp. 1-14)

    Consider the ponytail, that seemingly innocuous mass of hair bundled together on an individual’s head. It might be worn loose or pulled tight, bound by a casual length of string or secured with a mass–produced elastic. It might be positioned at any number of spots: the nape of one’s neck, the crown of one’s skull, or the side of one’s head should the fickle winds of fashion so dictate. Slicked backed, fringed with bangs, teased for volume, softened by tendrils, haphazardly fastened, or deliberately styled, it might sprout from the follicles of one who exists anywhere along the sexual,...

  6. 1. What Shall We Wear for Tennis?
    (pp. 15-46)

    After “vanquishing a young lady at lawn tennis, though in his judgment she was the better player,” Major Wingfield, “the English gentleman who generally has the credit of being the inventor of Lawn Tennis,” sought to understand why he emerged the victor. And so, following the 1881 match, he arranged for a comparative assessment of their respective costumes. “He therefore rolled up his flannel suit, lawn–tennis shoes, socks, cap, and belt. Five pounds and a quarter was the result.” He requested the woman similarly weigh her ensemble, described as “a tweed tailor’s made costume,” the equivalent of which was...

  7. 2. Commercial Tampons and the Sportswoman, 1936–52
    (pp. 47-72)

    Tennis underwent tremendous change after the 1960s. Television, corporate sponsorship, and the “open era” (bringing together amateur and professional players at Grand Slam events) all played important roles. Women continued to buck convention, bringing unprecedented strength and athleticism to the game, all of which contributed to a substantial “transformation in tennis clothing” during the postmodern age. Regardless of the time period, there is an attendant yet rarely acknowledged issue to consider when thinking about women’s sport and fashion history: menstrual protection. Considering the often body–conscious clothing of the athlete, combined with her mobility in the context of sport, it...

  8. 3. Rules, Rulers, and the “Right Kind” of Competition
    (pp. 73-102)

    For nearly a century, female physical educators provided athletic opportunities for girls and women. They offered programs for their students to learn about and experience physical activity in ways that contested residual beliefs about female frailty. At the same time, these leaders made sure students developed within gender–appropriate confines. A significant characteristic of the prevailing physical education philosophy, particularly between the 1920s and 1950s, was the denouncement of excessive, commercialized, exploitative sports for girls and women. Physical education leaders were not, as many interpret, “anticompetition.” Rather, they advocated for a tempered approach that would not violate culturally sanctioned understandings...

  9. 4. Women’s Sport and Questionable Sex
    (pp. 103-122)

    I do not know why Santhi Soundarajan attempted suicide in September 2007, though many speculate it had something to do with the “sex test” she was forced to take at the 2006 Asian Games. Following the Indian athlete’s second–place finish in the 800–meter race, officials compelled Soundarajan to face a medical panel responsible for determining her sex. Her birth certificate indicates femaleness. Her parents raised her as such. She grew up, competed in sport, and lived her life in accordance. Yet media outlets soon reported that the Indian Olympic Association determined that she “did not possess the sexual...

  10. 5. From “Women in Sports” to the “New Ideal of Beauty”
    (pp. 123-148)

    The advent of sex testing and the National Institutes in the 1960s were attempts to control gender normativity in the face of an undeniable and impending explosion in women’s sport participation. Both were important precursors to what many felt was an athletic “revolution” in the 1970s, an era replete with points of change. Symbolic of this transformation, editors devoted the June 26, 1978, cover ofTime, a weekly publication that rarely featured sportswomen (or any women, for that matter), to “women in sports” (see figure 5.1).¹

    The simple title, in stark yellow font, appears as a banner across the figures...

  11. 6. A Cultural History of the Sports Bra
    (pp. 149-166)

    The U.S. women’s victory in the 1999 World Cup certainly was “a kick,” asTimedescribed it.¹ After 120 minutes of spectacular scoreless action, the championship match between the United States and China came down to a penalty shoot–out. One after the other, ten athletes—five from each squad—traded shots. A key save by American goalkeeper Briana Scurry evened the score at 4–4, opening up the possibility for her team’s success. In the tenth and final spot was Brandi Chastain, who stepped up, drove the ball into the top corner of the net, and clinched the win...

  12. 7. Something to Cheer About?
    (pp. 167-186)

    I attended my first competitive cheerleading contest at the University of Maryland with only a rudimentary understanding of what to expect. It was 2010 and, seven years earlier, the Terrapins became the first collegiate program to grant the sport varsity status. I had no doubt that the women who competed on the squad were top–level athletes. The sport, I knew even from its paltry media coverage, consisted of more than synchronized chanting, clapping, leg kicks, and the occasional back handspring. There were deathdefying tosses, powerful tumbling sequences, and more than a few back handsprings. Of course, this was interspersed...

  13. Epilogue: Cheering with Reserve
    (pp. 187-200)

    The summer of 2012 was one of remarkable consequence. June 23 marked the fortieth anniversary of Title IX. It was an occasion for retrospective, introspective, and prospective analyses, a time to marvel at the tremendous growth of women’s sport, a reminder to keep vigilant about persistent inequities, and an opportunity to consider how to address those issues in the future. The opening ceremonies of the XXX Olympiad began just over one month later in London. It would quickly become, as multiple journalists deemed, the “Women’s Games.” As the two–week festival unfolded, the world watched female athletes represent their countries...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 201-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-270)
  16. Index
    (pp. 271-280)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-288)