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Black Women in Sports: Sexuality and Athleticism Essay

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Black Women in Sports: Sexuality and Athleticism


Men and women who chose to engage in sports from which they would traditionally be discouraged because of their gender, particularly as professionals, redefine the sport. The social and cultural "costs" are not the result of the individual's participation, but rather the way in which sports have been socially, politically, and economically constructed. Gender is only one of the few ways in which people are categorized according to their proficiency for some athletic activities. Race and class are also factors which may prevent individuals from engaging in sports that have been traditionally excluded to them. Socially constructed notions of race, class, and sexuality compound the way in which the history of sports has developed. For example, black women athletes may be more accepted in certain sports than in others, i.e. black women in the WNBA might seem as less an anomaly for black women than for white women, and yet the success of the Williams sisters in tennis may seem more out of the ordinary for many Americans than the success of their white counterparts. Race, class, sex, and sexuality are the operative notions in which certain sports are less "traditional" for certain groups.

Black women have a long history with such sports and track and field. Tuskegee Institute (later Tuskegee State University) led the nation as powerhouses for the production of Olympic competitors from the fifties to the seventies. Despite the relative lack of funding received by these schools as compared to white schools in Jim Crow Alabama, their track and field programs flourished. Perhaps this is because track and field did not require expensive equipment to train and play. While white schools...


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...more free to develop their game plans rather than their outfits before the match, but hopefully their sexuality will not be completely submerged by the game either. In an article entitled, "Absent Anna Has Sexy Impact," it was noted, "Serena Williams has no problems with Kournikova's beauty bringing a tennis boost even if the subject herself cannot take a title....The majority of the credit pretty much goes to the Williams sisters and Kournikova. Those three have really made the biggest difference in the amount of publicity, the amount of popularity in the sport." Hopefully, there will come a time in women's sports when all women will be recognized for their superior athleticism, and the unique sexuality of each individual female athlete will be appreciated for how it transforms, challenges, and redefines the social, political, and intellectual dimensions of sport.


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