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Built to Win

The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon

2003
Authors:

Leslie Heywood and Shari L. Dworkin
Foreword by Julie Foudy

Built to Win

A timely look at the rise of women in sports

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.

Offers interesting new paradigms for understanding the cultural significance of representations of female athletes in the media.

Phoebe

The sculpted speed of Marion Jones. The grit and agility of Mia Hamm. The slam-dunk style of Lisa Leslie. The skill and finesse of these sports figures are widely admired, no longer causing the puzzlement and discomfort directed toward earlier generations of athletic women. Built to Win explores this relatively recent phenomenon—the confident, empowered female athletes found everywhere in American popular culture.

Leslie Heywood and Shari L. Dworkin examine the role of female athletes through interviews with elementary- and high school-age girls and boys; careful readings of ad campaigns by Nike, Reebok, and others; discussions of movies like Fight Club and Girlfight; and explorations of their own sports experiences. They ask: what, if any, dissonance is there between popular images and the actual experiences of these athletes? Do these images really “redefine femininity” and contribute to a greater inclusion of all women in sport? Are sexualized images of these women damaging their quest to be taken seriously? Do they inspire young boys to respect and admire female athletes, and will this ultimately make a difference in the ways gender and power are constructed and perceived?

Proposing a paradigm shift from second- to third-wave feminism, Heywood and Dworkin argue that, in the years since the passage of Title IX, gender stereotypes have been destabilized in profound ways, and they assert that female athletes and their imagery are doing important cultural work to that end. Important, refreshing, and engrossing, Built to Win examines sport in all its complexity.


Built to Win

Leslie Heywood is professor of English at Binghamton University. She is the author of Pretty Good for a Girl: An Athlete’s Story (Minnesota, 2000), Bodymakers (1998), and coeditor of Third Wave Agenda (Minnesota, 1997). A former track and cross-country runner who is currently a competitive powerlifter, Heywood is a vice president of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Shari L. Dworkin is a sociologist and works as a research fellow at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University.

Built to Win

Offers interesting new paradigms for understanding the cultural significance of representations of female athletes in the media.

Phoebe

In this well-researched book, Heywood and Dworkin trace the new acceptance of women athletes, especially the increased coverage by the media. Highly recommended.

Choice

This is a bold and insightful book. Like the athletes they write about, these women have opened the door for many others to follow in their footsteps and continue this very necessary research.

Altar Magazine

Demonstrates a solid and yet fairly lively dialogue with both established and emerging critical voices. Like any good study of gender issues, Built to Win includes a look at the increasingly blurred line that attempts to divide male and female, as well as corresponding representations of masculinity.

Canadian Literature

Built to Win

Contents

Foreword Julie Foudy

Acknowledgments

Prologue:Women We Love Who Kick Butt

ONE Powered Up or Dreaming?
TWO Sport as the Stealth Feminism ofthe Third Wave
THREE A New Look at Female Athletes and Masculinity
FOUR Bodies,Babes,and the WNBA
FIVE Body Panic Parity
SIX She Will Beat You Up,and Your Papa,Too

Epilogue:It’s an Image

Appendix:Focus-Group Research on Youth Attitudes about Female Athletes

Notes
Index