As it becomes increasingly acceptable for women to be athletic in American culture, a new question arises: in which sports should women be allowed to participate? From a physiological standpoint, it has been scientifically proven that female bodies do not differ significantly enough from male bodies to prevent them from participation in any "male" sports. This division between "male" and "female" sports clearly stems from age-old, socially constructed norms of femininity and masculinity. When women attempt to challenge these societal molds by participating in sports that are traditionally male, the intricate web of norms is disrupted. Like many other instances where traditional social constructions are tinkered with, individuals and communities are forced to reevaluate how they think about and categorize their surroundings. I would argue that women's participation in athletics, especially in non-traditional sports, is instrumental in breaking down stereotypes and social confines that have plagued women for centuries
As social theorist Nancy Fraser explains in her book Justice Interruptus, men have been historically considered to be the "universal breadwinners."* In other words, a man's responsibility was to succeed in the public sphere, working outside of the home to financially support his family. The term "universal breadwinner" also speaks to the male's role in sport. It was considered acceptable for the man of the house to be competitive in sport just as he was in the workplace, and to bring home recognition or a medal as he would an income.
Women, however, have had the very different role of the "universal caretaker." This translates into the woman being responsible for all that is within the privat...
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...ure they once loathed. When these women reach their senior year, they walk with an air of confidence in their bodies, their strength, and who they have become. And the silent freshman who was recruited to be a coxswain four years earlier is now running the show. Now she leads all of those who used to intimidate her.
Just as these mindsets were quickly adopted by incoming freshman rowers, they will begin to spread to classmates and co-workers, and eventually breakdown the rigid lines that divide feminine and masculine roles today. Hopefully, the next generation of young girls can aspire to be whomever they want, without the gender prejudices imposed on those who came before them.
* "universal breadwinners" is a term used by Nancy Fraser in "Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the 'Postsocialist' Condition" (New York, NY: Routledge, 1997) pp. 51-62.
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