Shrinking and Pinking: Sex, Sports, and Sociology

It’s always fun when a sociological study makes it into the mainstream press (for a good reason)– especially one about sports. A new paper out in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport titled, “Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011),” has been making the rounds, especially in the blogosphere. I mean, you know you have hit in big when you make it to Jezebel! It likely will surprise no one that the results of the content analysis are that few women are featured on the cover. Turns out it wasn’t so bad several decades ago, but has gotten worse over time. It’s especially interesting to note that the journal where the article appeared this isn’t considered one of the “top” journals in mainstream sociology, but it shows that this doesn’t matter when the subject matter and results are ones that people outside of academic sociology care about. Take note, and good for the authors Jonetta Weber and Robert Carini for studying issues that matter in people’s every day lives. (Note that I have long been fascinated with Sports Illustrated Kids and the Faces in the Crowd features that both SI for Kids and SI do each week/month and I wonder what the sex distribution looks like here, especially over time and for kids– does it change and become more equitable at younger ages, which would bode well for the future of females in sport?)

A useful counterpart to this story is some of the big sporting news coming out of the Middle East: Girls in private schools in Saudi Arabia are now allowed to play sports. This comes on the heels of last summer’s decision to allow a woman to represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympics. So when we think about the inequality between male and female athletes in the US, it’s amazing to think how different this gap really is in other parts of the world., not just historically but also in the present.

And in the US, progress is happening all the time. Now stories appear not just about a single girl playing on a boys’ team, but multiple girls playing with boys. One example is this article about high school baseball players Samantha Yarnall and Taylor Jones. I saw this link by following Justine Siegal, written about in my first Shrinking and Pinking entry, and while she is waiting for the day when this isn’t newsworthy, I’m waiting for the day when: 1) A team is considered co-ed whenever boys and girls play together, not only when a boy plays on a girls’ team, and 2) when there is enough interest to have single-sex teams in almost all sports.

Samantha Yarnell and Taylor Jones, Rich Cooler for Daily

In the meantime, congrats to Yarnall and Jones and both making the starting line-up and here’s hoping they might make the cover of Sports Illustrated sometime.

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