by The Editors
NEW YORK | The convergence of two events this summer brings excitement and attention to women in sports: the anniversary of Title IX, which opened the way for women’s greater participation in sports in the U.S., is on June 23, 2012, 40 years since its passage. And on July 27 is the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in London, where an estimated 45 percent of the 10,500 athletes are expected to be female, the highest level ever.
This attention to women’s sports participation runs concurrent with surging interest in yoga, biking, adventuring and zumba. But, there are also undercurrents of tension, rarely discussed, What is the role of sports in U.S. culture? How do gender “roles” play out in sports? What is the effect of media coverage and spectatorship? What is the interplay with feminism? What is being done to address misogyny, homophobia and transphobia? On The Issues writers and artists look at these big-picture topics, along with sharing personal narratives and stories of accomplishment and empowerment in their just-released Spring issue, Level the Playing Field: Girls, Women and Sports.
This issue’s range of content and analysis is vast: Laura A. Shamas reminds readers that ancient history and mythology are filled with stories of women who have incredible athletic powers in Leaping, Racing, Spearing: The Female Athlete Amazes in Myth. Policy analyst Martha Burk cuts right through ongoing objections to Title IX by showing how they are rooted in patriarchal privilege and padded with falsehoods in Who Owns Sports? Dissecting the Politics of Title IX.
Several writers dive straight into the Olympics. Zerlina Maxwell portrays her childhood plan to become the next Dominique Dawes, a gymnastics gold medal winner, and how it has grown up into an appreciation for women competitors in My Olympic Dream and Watching New Gymnastic Generations. Jane Schonberger, whose career blends women’s athletics with communications, takes a hard look at what the Olympics don’t do for women, that is, provide equal media attention to women’s athletic talents in Olympics Coverage Still Shortchanges Female Athletes.
Laura Pappano, an astute observer of women, culture and sport, explains why she changed her mind about women athletes who pose in the buff in Athletes and Magazine Spreads: Does Sexy Mean Selling Out? Andrew D. Linden, in describing the opportunities for women to play football, questions the need for the current lingerie league in Goalposts: Tackling the Last Bastion of Male Monopoly, while Alex Channon of Britain writes that his investigation of martial arts tells him that sex-segregation in sports is outmoded, clinging to a need for male superiority in Why Sex Segregation Is Bad for Society. And Lindsay Parks Pieper takes a hard look at the current guidelines for transgender athletes and what’s wrong with them, in Rules Put Extreme Pressure On Transsexual Players.
Art Editor Linda Stein has featured the fascinating work of Karen Shaw in The Art Perspective, as she plays with gender and stereotypes by showing male athletes in newly-reworked and nontraditional garb, described in a slide display with audio. In The Poet’s Eye, Poetry Co-Editor Judith Arcana has selected four poets — Kathleen Aguero, Judith Barrington, Carolyn Martin, and Penelope Scambly Schott — who probe the sensations and emotions that athletics can unleash. The Video Arcade presents the trailer for Salaam Dunk by David Fine, about the building of a girls’ basketball team in war-torn Iraq.
In this issue, writers, artists, athletes and others explore the many complex ways in which woman athletes are perceived and treated, the ways they relate to one another, the history of the laws that allow them to follow their dreams, and more. It’s up to the reader to decide how much the playing field has been leveled, and exactly how far we have to go.