Overwhelming praise for comprehensive and thought-provoking handbook

Benjamin Moreland [1]
University of Gloucestershire

Jennifer Hargreaves & Eric Anderson (red)
Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality
524 pages, paperback.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2016 (Routledge International Handbooks)
ISBN 978-1-138-69504-7

This Routledge handbook provides an excellent opportunity for explorations pertaining to Sport, Gender and Sexuality across a breadth of disciplinary and contextual domains. This book is a success in various ways, yet its biggest success is its ability to compile a volume that consolidates and situates historical and contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality for a number of audiences. This book should be welcomed by academic staff and students alike as a companion for those working across the multitude of sporting and activity contexts alike, acting as an introduction and catalyst for understanding and pursuit.

Preceded by an introduction, the book is comprised of eight parts, each consisting of five to eight chapters. Thus, in total, the book contains 52 chapters, spanning 524 pages. Each part opens with an editor’s introduction to the focus as well as a brief foreshadowing of the chapters – a very useful guide to the reader. Between them, these parts and chapters give an important overview of the breadth and depth of ongoing academic discussion in this context. Chapters range from the theoretical and conceptual to empirically situated investigations, all of which offer a rich contribution to discussions of gender and sexuality in sport. Given the length of the compendium, a chapter by chapter analysis is impossible. I will therefore attempt to provide a brief overview of each part, drawing out relationships between chapters and those that I feel are important contributions for discussion.

Part one provides contributories discussing both contextually and theoretically informed examinations of historical encounters of gender and sexuality in sport. These chapters offer a vital starting point for explorations ranging in focus from the Olympics and Paralympics to governance in sport. This is exemplified by a number of engaging chapters, for example, Patricia Vertinsky seeks to present a number of cases of female rejection of rationalisation through a number of mechanisms, most notably dance. In addition, the work of Pike and Matthews provides an empirical, post-colonial feminist insight into the work carried out by International Women’s Sport organisations, critically detailing contemporary examples of organisational work in western and non-western contexts and the colonial/privileged/access issues at play. Set against these selections, explorations of gendered landscape of governance within Governing Body contexts gives critical insights into the realities of perceived and actual progress. These range from Jean Williams’ critical focus on the English Football Association to Smith and Wrynn’s examination of IOC.

The second area of focus seeks to provide a platform for voices from across the globe and with less focus placed on thematic continuity and more on providing a platform for non-dominant accounts. Chapters include those focussed on China and Japan that discuss women and the role of Physical Education and Sumo in developing notions of gender. These are intersected by Simon Creaks account of masculinities in Laos and Southeast Asia, exploring the relationships between gender, power and sports events. Importantly, this challenges the reader to explore the (post) colonial role of these events in promoting vehicles for the cultivation of masculinities. Moving focus to South America, both Jorge Knijnik and Katia Rubio provide examinations of Brazilian histories of football and Olympic participation. Knijnik draws upon traditional and cultural notions of masculinity and femininity and Rubio’s gives historical and contemporary account of female sports participation in Brazil, introducing the concept of cordiality as a mechanism for the lack of challenge to male power. The part concludes with Christopher Merrett’s provocative account of female participation in long distance running in South Africa, drawing focus on prevailing notions of masculinity and racial superiority.

The chapter by Pamela Bettis and Natalie Adams presents important critical insights into the problematic landscape of cheerleading.

The third part contains an engaging and hugely important contribution to discussions of gender and sexuality, introducing the concept of intersectionality and its ability to reveal complexities beyond frames of single characteristics. An emerging theme in contemporary research in sport, this inclusion is both timely and vital. The chapters within this part present a rich examination of the role various social characteristics play in the experiences of differing groups in sport. Chapters range from Mary McDonalds comprehensive overview of intersectionality theory and its application with whiteness and racialisation, to Nikki Wedgewood’s empirically informed analysis of the intersection of gender, disability and sport in an Australian context. It is of note to the reader that key contributions in this section include chapters by Aarti Ratna as well as Sparkes, Brighton, and Inckle, with important offerings that seek to draw upon analyses of empirical work to illustrate to the reader the complexities and importance of explorations of intersectionality, specifically in British Asian female and disabled environments.

Part four places focus on gender norms and the role they play in success and achievement in a sporting domain. Within part four a unique extension is introduced to critique the experiences of those groups most successful in the sporting arena, extending notions of conformity into the realm of over-conformity. The chapters in this part position theoretical lenses in a number of sporting contexts to examine the conforming intricacies at play in examples ranging from discussions of sexuality in male body building to the experiences of female surfers in the UK. The chapter by Pamela Bettis and Natalie Adams presents important critical insights into the problematic landscape of cheerleading. This focus is vital and welcomed in light of popular, contemporary examples highlighted in recent media accounts of the activity. This chapter contests the once perceived bastion of heterosexualised femininity and over-conformity to traditional notions of gender. Rather, it is quite possibly the other way round, a paradoxical arena for the rejection of these notions through deep rooted practices of pain and injury regulation less discussed.

Part five seeks to explore the issues and challenges apparent in various sporting contexts for homosexual individuals. Problematising sporting practice and traditional notions of masculinity constructed through these practices, chapters in this part seek to provoke the reader into examining the history of homosexuality to better understand the contemporary experiences of individuals and groups in sport. Contributions from Pat Griffin and Bullingham, Magrath and Anderson provide this foundation exploring both the degree of progress made and the understanding of surrounding culture(s). Utilising this platform, Mark McCormack explores contemporary understandings of homophobic language; Elizabeth Cavaliers offers an empirically situated discussion of workplace experiences of homosexual individuals in Co-Ed sport; and concluding chapters from Scarlett Drury, Caroline Symons and Terry Allison provide explorations of sporting experiences in gay and lesbian affiliated sport and the Gay Games. An important point of focus in this part is Scott Ogawa’s stimulating and potentially divisive contribution that seeks to utilise statistical data to attest that whilst a silence and non-participation hypothesis may contribute to understandings of low levels of gay male athletes in professional sport, time and care also needs to be placed on his selection hypothesis.

Whilst this handbook can be utilised through directed and specific chapter reading, if approached as a single body of work it provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview of work in this arena.

The intention of part six is to examine the transgressing of sex within sport to present a number of important questions for the reader. This part moves discussion from interpreting experiences of those who participate in sporting activities, to providing a unique insight into scientific and biological discussions of sex. Chapters by Vanessa Heggie, Adam Love, Payoshni Mitra and Leslie Heywood illustrate the restrictive frameworks present in the governance and consequent reporting of sport. In various ways they seek to give important alternatives that celebrate gender beyond sex binaries through improvements in neuroscience and in approaches to sex testing. Oher chapters from Claudio Tamburrini and Helen Carroll provide visions for the future with Tamburrini reiterating the provocative potentialities available through genetic enhancement for women, and Carroll offering an alternative framework for the governance of sport that celebrates human difference, specifically for under researched transgender individuals and groups.

The penultimate part presents theoretical examinations of power through its mobilisation by certain groups in sporting contexts, thereby problematizing various practices within, and looking upon, the sporting terrain. This part contains vital contributions to understanding culture(s) both on and off the field, and Richard Pringle’s lead chapter draws attention to the importance of utilising various theoretical frameworks during examinations in these contexts. His work overviewing the use Foucault affords an important directive for Foucault’s continued importance and use in these discussions. The chapter by Cunningham, Pickett, Melton, Lee and Miner gives a detailed examination of psychological safety within NCAA basketball for lesbian athletes, concluding that if psychological safety is high, then players are more likely to express their sexual orientation and have high degrees of satisfaction in their personal identity. Additions from Michele Gregory introduce the concept of Sportswork and the unequal distribution of power, based upon sex, gender and sexuality, with the Part concluding with two important and thought-provoking chapters related to child sexual abuse in sport, incorporating the work of Bourdieu and Wittig respectively in their analysis.

The final part is an eclectic mix of contributions from media spheres ranging from sports literature and broadcasting to sports film. It contains worthy contributions for the reader to recognise and understand to some degree the unequal gender coverage in sports media. Chapters include Jeffrey Hill’s historical overview of themes to emerge from sports literature since the eighteenth century and David Nylunds powerful examination of Sport Talk Radio, both of which unsurprisingly position masculinity at their centre. Edward Kian and latterly David Rowe examine the presentation of LGBT individuals and groups in media agencies and the role of the sporting infidel respectively. Both these chapters seek to reveal further the centrality of hegemonic masculinity and the preferential outcomes it achieves. The final two chapters provide a review of abstract and popular film and the presentation of masculine and feminine ideals. Presented against one another, Ian McDonald seeks to contextually extend Connells concept of hegemonic masculinity in road cycling context through ‘A Sunday in Hell’, while Katharina Linder reveals the impact of gender transgressive films such as Girlfight and Million Dollar Baby in the rejection of traditional notions of femininity.

Concluding comments

This Handbook presents a vital contribution to the academic conversations surrounding gender and sexuality and should be seen as a foundational read for any student or academic concerned with this terrain. It contains progressive and stimulating thematic parts and chapters that begin to address historic and emerging trends in sport, pertaining to discussions of gender and sexuality within many disciplines. Whilst this handbook can be utilised through directed and specific chapter reading, if approached as a single body of work it provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview of work in this arena. Key themes to emerge for further discussion centre on the emerging trends within academic literature of unheard voices and narratives. Whilst great strides have been made in the representation and discussion of LGBT groups and issues, a key theme to emerge in this compendium is the somewhat favourable position found by male, gay, affluent white voices, at the expense of less visible groups. It is my hope the Handbook reveals this to its readers and provokes further examination and positioning of these voices.

Copyright © Benjamin Moreland 2019

[1] Benjamn Moreland is a Senior Lecturer in Coaching, PE and Development at University of Gloucestershire. Ben has completed research on the role of factors such as race on participation, and the role that sport can play in helping individuals at risk of crime. He has completed research into the impacts of Sport for Development work upon Higher Education Students and is now focussing on contemporary competitive sport, proposing the adoption of slower practices to regain meaning.


Table of Content


  1. Sport, Gender and Sexuality: Surveying the Field
    Jennifer Hargreaves and Eric Anderson

Section 1 Historical Perspectives: Setting the Scene

  1. Games for the Boys: Sport, Empire and the Creation of the Masculine Ideal
    Dean Allen
  2. Sport, Gender and Sexuality at the 1908 London Olympic Games
    Martin Polley
  3. Gender In/Equality at the Olympic and Paralympic Games
    Maureen M. Smith and Alison M. Wrynn
  4. The Dancing Body, Sexuality, and the Emergence of the ‘New Woman’
    Patricia Vertinsky
  5. Women and Sport in Interwar Britain
    Carol Osborne and Fiona Skillen
  6. The Gendered Governance of Association Football
    Jean Williams
  7. A Post-Colonial Critique of the International ‘Movements’ for Women and Sexuality in Sport
    Elizabeth C.J. Pike and Jordan J.K. Matthews

Section 2 Views from Countries across the World

  1. Women and Sport in Mainland China: Revolution, Resistance and Resilience
    Jinxia Dong
  2. From Ryōsaikenbo to the World Cup Win of Nadeshiko: Women and Sports in Japan
    Keiko Ikeda
  3. Sumo and Masculine Gigantism
    Hans Bonde
  4. Rituals of the Masculine State: Sports Festivals, Gender and Power in Laos and Southeast Asia
    Simon Creak
  5. Gendered Barriers to Brazilian Female Football: 20th Century Legacies
    Jorge Knijnik
  6. The Participation of Women in Brazilian Olympic Sport
    Katia Rubio
  7. Women and Athletics in South Africa
    Christopher Merrett

Section 3 Diversity and Division

  1. Intersectionality and Whiteness: Troubling Gender and Sexuality in Sport Studies
    Mary G. McDonald
  2. British Asian Female Footballers: Intersections of Identity
    Aarti Ratna
  3. Black Female Athletes as Space Invaders
    Ben Carrington
  4. Disabled Sporting Bodies as Sexual Beings: Reflections and Challenges
    Andrew C. Sparkes, James Brighton and Kay Inckle
  5. The Role of Sport in Negotiating the Dilemma of Disabled Masculinity
    Nikki Wedgwood
  6. Religion, Culture and Sport in the Lives of Young Muslim Women: International Perspectives
    Symeon Dagkas, Tansin Benn and Kelly Knez

Section 4 Gender Conformity and its Challenges

  1. Interrogating the Body in Contemporary Cheerleading
    Pamela Bettis and Natalie Guice Adams
  2. Sexuality and the Muscular Male Body
    Kenneth R. Dutton
  3. Can Gender Equality Become an Encumbrance?
    Håkan Larsson
  4. Women and Surfing Spaces in Newquay, UK
    Georgina Roy and Jayne Caudwell
  5. Female Football Fans and Gender Performance
    Stacey Pope
  6. Watching Women Box
    Kasia Boddy

Section 5 Homosexuality: Issues and Challenges

  1. Overcoming Sexism and Homophobia in Women’s Sports
    Pat Griffin
  2. Sport and a Cultural Shift Away from Homohysteria
    Rachael Bullingham, Rory Magrath and Eric Anderson
  3. Contextualizing Homophobic Language in Sport
    Mark McCormack
  4. 100 Missing Men: Participation, Selection, and Silence of Gay Athletes
    Scott Ogawa
  5. I Don’t “Look Gay”: Different Disclosures of Sexual Identity in Men’s, Women’s and Co-ed Sport
    Elizabeth Cavalier
  6. Gay Sport Spaces: Transgressing Hetero(/homo)normativity and Transforming Sport?
    Scarlett Drury
  7. The Gay Games: A Beacon of Inclusion in Sport?
    Caroline Symons
  8. The Pink Flamingo: A Gay Aquatic Spectacle
    Terry L. Allison

Section 6 Questioning and Transgressing Sex

  1. Subjective Sex: Science, Medicine and Sex Tests in Sport
    Vanessa Heggie
  2. Affective Forms: Neuroscience, Gender and Sport
    Leslie Heywood
  3. Queer Genes? The Bio-Amazons Project: A Response to Critics
    Claudio M. Tamburrini
  4. Transgender Exclusion and Inclusion in Sport
    Adam Love
  5. The Inclusion of Transgender Students in United States School-Based Athletics
    Helen Carroll
  6. Male/Female or Other: the Untold Stories of Female Athletes with Intersex Conditions in India
    Payoshni Mitra

Section 7 Power, Control and Abuse

  1. Foucauldian Examinations of Sport, Gender and Sexuality
    Richard Pringle
  2. Psychological Safety and the Expression of Sexual Orientation Personal Identity
    George B. Cunningham, Andrew C. Pickett, E. Nicole Melton, Woojun Lee and Kathi Miner
  3. Sportswork: The Gendered Significance of Sport at Work
    Michele R. Gregory
  4. Suffering in Gratitude: Sport and the Sexually Abused Male Child
    Mike Hartill
  5. The Olympic Missionary Position: Gender, Race, and the Telling of Truths
    Laura Robinson
  6. Transcending the (White) Straight Mind in Sport
    Caroline Fusco

Section 8 Gender and Sexuality in the Mediation of Sport

  1. Sporting Fictions: In Praise of Masculinity?
    Jeffrey Hill
  2. Transmitting Softer Masculinity: Sports Talk Radio and Masculinity
    David Nylund
  3. Sexuality in the Mediation of Sport
    Edward M. Kian
  4. Gender, Media and the Sport Scandal
    David Rowe
  5. Myth and Masculinity in the Sport Films of Jorgen Leth
    Ian McDonald
  6. Gender Trouble in Female Sports Films
    Katharin A Lindner
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.