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Taking the Field

Women, Men, and Sports

2002
Author:

Michael A. Messner

Taking the Field

A hard-hitting look at the persistent inequities in women’s sports participation.

Michael Messner argues that despite profound changes, the world of sport largely retains and continues its longtime conservative role in gender relations.

Sport and Culture Series, volume 4

North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Outstanding Book Award winner

For many years, Michael Messner has provided unparalleled insights into gender issues in the arena of sport. With Taking the Field he opens our eyes and ears to how much work still lies ahead before girls and women truly take the field with equal societal approval as boys and men. We're thirty years beyond the passing of Title IX, but when you read Taking the Field, you realize we're not yet where we want to be.

Diana Nyad is currently the sports business reporter for Marketplace and provides commentary on the CBS News Sunday Morning program

In the past, when sport simply excluded girls, the equation of males with active athletic power and of females with weakness and passivity seemed to come easily, almost naturally. Now, however, with girls’ and women’s dramatic movement into sport, the process of exclusion has become a bit subtler, a bit more complicated-and yet, as Michael Messner shows us in this provocative book, no less effective. In Taking the Field, Messner argues that despite profound changes, the world of sport largely retains and continues its longtime conservative role in gender relations.

To explore the current paradoxes of gender in sport, Messner identifies and investigates three levels at which the "center" of sport is constructed: the day-to-day practices of sport participants, the structured rules and hierarchies of sport institutions, and the dominant symbols and belief systems transmitted by the major sports media. Using these insights, he analyzes a moment of gender construction in the lives of four- and five-year-old children at a soccer opening ceremony, the way men’s violence is expressed through sport, the interplay of financial interests and dominant men’s investment in maintaining the status quo in the face of recent challenges, and the cultural imagery at the core of sport, particularly televised sports. Through these examinations Messner lays bare the practices and ideas that buttress-as well as those that seek to disrupt-the masculine center of sport.

Taking the Field exposes the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which men and women collectively construct gender through their interactions-interactions contextualized in the institutions and symbols of sport.

Taking the Field

Michael A. Messner is professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California. His previous books include Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity (1995) and Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements (1997).

Taking the Field

For many years, Michael Messner has provided unparalleled insights into gender issues in the arena of sport. With Taking the Field he opens our eyes and ears to how much work still lies ahead before girls and women truly take the field with equal societal approval as boys and men. We're thirty years beyond the passing of Title IX, but when you read Taking the Field, you realize we're not yet where we want to be.

Diana Nyad is currently the sports business reporter for Marketplace and provides commentary on the CBS News Sunday Morning program

Messner examines the everyday practices of sport participants and how these are saturated with gendered meanings. One of the key features of Taking the Field is its its emphasis on the interaction of hierarchies, most particularly how gender hierarchies interact with those of class, race and ethnicity, and sexuality. Challenges to sport’s center are astutely analyzed by Messner. The sophistication and scope of the discussion, and insightful integration of the theoretical, conceptual, and empirical materials, make Taking the Field a first-rate analysis. It is a key reference on gender and sport, of interest not only to scholars in sport studies and gender studies but also to readers keen to learn about the paradoxes and challenges of contemporary social life.

Gender and Society

This book has a logical structure and everyday vocabulary making it suitable for many college courses dealing with gender and sport. This text is highly readable. The book can be used as a primary text or as a supplementary text.

Communication Booknotes Quarterly

Messner’s work is fascinating...a terrific summary of sports studies work.

Aelthon

“Messner argues that despite profound changes, the sports world retains its conservative role in gender relations. This book is bound to stir up controversy by identifying and investigating the day-to-day practices of sports participants, the structured rules and hierarchies of sport institutions, and the dominant symbols and belief systems transmitted by the major sports media.” Athletic Business

An expert in the sociology of sport...Messner’s analysis is lucid and detailed, his documentation excellent.

Choice

Insightful, clearly written, well-researched, and compelling to read, Taking the Field would be an excellent text for courses on the sociology of gender and the sociology of sport... a valuable resource.

Contemporary Sociology

Taking the Field

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction: Jumping Center

1. Center Snap: Children Creating the Fiction of Gender
2. Playing Center: The Triad of Violence in Men’s Sports
3. Center of the Diamond: The Institutional Core of Sport
4. Center of Attention: The Gender of Sports Media
5. Contesting the Center: Just Do What?

Notes
References

Index