Woman Studies Questions

THIS IS THE LINK FOR BOOK YOU NEED!   http://rapidshare.com/files/4045469388/%5BHunter_College_Women’s_Studies_Collective__%C3%9Clk%C3%BC(Bookos.org)       THIS IS WOMAN STUDIES BOOK. 



This week, these are the tasks you need to complete for the week’s assignments:

1. read chpt 5 in our Hunter text

2. read the articles on welfare queens, third world women, and on the veil for Islamic women

3. View Videos from the Economist on women in other countries

4. View the TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story”



QUESTIONS! Provide answers with numbers in the front like the questions.

1) After reading the chapter on diversity among women in our Hunter text, please answer question 3 and 4 on page 163. Have negative stereotypes of women affected you in any way in your life?

2) Read the articles on “Welfare queens” and minority athletes (Not a generational thing) that are posted in the RESERVED READING section. Then write about what negative stereotypes do you see at work, and how do they help reinforce the dominant class’s power? Do you feel there is resistance to these images? What could be done to combat them?

3) After watching the videos on Islamic women and the burqua and the veil what are some reasons for their wearing the traditional costume? What do you think should be our attitude towards wearing this traditional costume on US/European soil? What factors have to be balanced while formulating a public policy on it? LINKS FOR VIDEO HERE >>>>


4) In this video, a Nigerian woman writer Chimamanda Adichie talks about her life growing up and the lessons she learned about diversity and finding her individual and cultural voice. She warns if we hear only a single story about another person, group or country, we risk not only misunderstanding the story about also contributing to injustice and oppression. How does her argument about the danger of a single story relate to the view of feminism in our society? LINK FOR VDEO>>>


The public identity of the “welfare queen” is the indigent version of the Black matriarch controlling image (Collins, 1990:74), a dominant mother responsible for the moral degeneracy of America (Amott, 1990; Collins, 1991; Lubiano, 1990; Mink, 1998; Murray, 1984). Wahneema Lubiano, a former welfare recipient who is now professor of English and Afro-American Studies at Duke University, gives the following contemporary definition:

Within the terms specifically of, or influenced by, the Moynihan Report and generally of the discourse on the “culture of poverty,” “welfare queen” is a phrase that describes economic dependency — the lack of a job and/or income (which equals degeneracy in the United States); the presence of a child or children with no father and/or husband (moral deviance); and finally, a charge on the collective U.S. Treasury — a human debit. (Lubiano, 1992:337-338)

The public identity of the “welfare queen,” as enumerated above, crystallized into a political symbol during the Reagan administration, when President Reagan, taking up the cause once championed by Senator Russell Long (D-LA)(8), lambasted them in speeches for living off the hard working American taxpayers. The title “welfare queen,” however, simply gives a name to long-standing beliefs regarding single poor African-American mothers’ laziness and licentiousness.(9) These longstanding beliefs, according to theorists, have numerous effects. First, such beliefs contribute to the political marginalization of single poor African-American mothers within American political culture. Second, such beliefs are shared by many in the African-American community, producing secondary marginalization (Cohen, 1996) within African-American political culture. Third, the use of the “welfare queen” public identity as a proxy for all welfare recipients produces policy solutions that are based on a misrepresentation of welfare recipients and lead to a misdiagnosis of the problem. This miscalculation logically limits the potential success of a proposed solution. The next section of this paper explores the last phenomenon through an analysis of elite dependence on this public identity.

The public identity of the “welfare queen” is a constructed identity designed for the explicit purpose of justifying specific forms of public policy ideologically. The process of public identity creation and dissemination, while subject to challenge and intervention, is largely out of the hands of those who are characterized by it.(10) The introduction of the term “welfare queen” into the American lexicon serves a purpose similar to the term “inner city;” it becomes a code word for a certain “type” of individual with certain “pathological” behaviors preventing them from sharing in the American dream. Thus the public identity described here is a product of both stereotypes (of the intersections of race, class and gender identity) and the tendency towards individual-level explanations found more broadly in American political culture. That the “welfare queen” has a specific race in political discourse has been demonstrated in earlier research (Gilens, 1995, 1996); in upcoming sections of this paper I also account for class, gender and political values such as individualism in this product of the political culture.

While the term “welfare queen” is an explicitly political creation, the cognitive structure it is intended to trigger stems from a larger academic discourse dating to the work of sociologists E. Franklin Frazier, Kenneth Clark and Oscar Lewis, the coiner of a related term, “culture of poverty.” The transition from academic discourse to political discourse occurred through the now well-known efforts of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, author of The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965), more commonly termed, The Moynihan Report.(11)

Moynihan’s work, while perhaps well-intentioned,(12) exacerbated the impact of individual-level, behavioral approaches to solving poverty, sparking a wide body of research and policy analysis in this vein. Similarly, longstanding beliefs about single poor Black women, including attribution to them of lower morals and hyperfertility became guiding assumptions underlying subsequent social science research (Collins, 1998a:101). The report played an important role in shaping the debate both within and outside of the Black community.

In a curious mix of race, class, and gender politics, many aspects of The Moynihan Report received the sotto voce approval of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (SCLC), Roy Wilkins (NAACP), and Whitney Young (Urban League).(13) Civil rights leaders, in keeping with the gender norms of most Black churches, encouraged men to take their rightful places as heads of households. In this sense, they tacitly reinforced Moynihan’s and Frazier’s arguments that female-headed households were countercultural and thus incompatible with the American lifestyle. Combined with pre-existing gender norms of African-American political culture, The Moynihan Report further shaped Black attitudes towards single poor African-American mothers, encouraging Black male chauvinism (Giddings, 1984:329) and hardening the lines of demarcation between the poorest African Americans and their more affluent counterparts.

Another glaring example of secondary marginalization, defined by Cohen as political isolation within a marginalized community (1996), was the National Welfare Rights Organization’s (NWRO) utter lack of support from two influential African-American institutions. During its ten-year existence, the NWRO, a grassroots organization of single poor African-American mothers, received virtually no financial support from Black churches, the strongest independent organizations within the African-American community during the 1960s and 1970s (West, 1981). The NWRO also faced an uphill baffle on Capitol Hill in its fight against a major piece of legislation, the Family Assistance Plan (FAP).(14) The newly formed Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) did not publicly reject the Moynihan-designed FAP (presented by the Nixon administration) or fight against it until the conference committee met to iron out differences in Titles IV and V of the act itself (West 1981, p.318). Anti-welfare attitudes in the African-American community continued into the 1990s (Cose et al., 1999; Kinder & Sanders, 1996).

While several prominent scholars generated voluminous research to refute the findings of Moynihan, the emphasis on individual-level explanations for Black poverty based on the public identity of single poor African-American mothers remained strong in both the American and African-American political cultures.

Moynihan’s role in the political sphere has contributed a great deal to the persistence of the individual-level explanations for persistent poverty.(15) Moynihan, considered a liberal Democrat, contributed to the bipartisan consensus surrounding the public identity of the “welfare queen” during his tenure in the Nixon administration (West, 1981). Although ideologically opposed to Moynihan, Charles Murray (1984) and Lawrence Mead (1986) also predicate their work on the public identity of the “welfare queen”.

This anecdotal evidence portends broader assertions of consensus among elites and dominant groups in the next section of this paper. As the public identity of the “welfare queen” went largely unchallenged, policy options remained focused on individual behavior modification rather than structural changes, largely due to another artifact of American political culture, American individualism. The tone of calls for behavior modification policies, however, shifted from earlier desires to paternalistically socialize welfare mothers into American middle-class values(16) to questions of deserving benefits. Allegations of “rampant” fraud and abuse uncovered by a fourth estate focused on investigative journalism following the Watergate scandal contributed to the changing public perceptions of the welfare rights movement. Requests for benefits or changes in policies signified in citizens’ minds that recipients (and at times NWRO activists) were asking for more than they deserved. Dandridge v. Williams (1970) gave judicial force to the belief that public assistance is a privilege, not a right. While some members of the media earnestly sought answers to the age-old question of Black poverty, they, like Moynihan, reinforced the public identity of the “welfare queen.”(17)

The contemporary findings regarding the outcomes of such investigative attempts note that media reports use African Americans 65% of the time as the face of poverty. Electronic media use African-American images at an even higher rate, to the point where they are used as proxies for each other in coverage on an alarmingly frequent basis (Associated Press, 1997:A2; see also Soss, 1999 for the impact on welfare recipients themselves). Similarly, in academic discourse the “new racism” thesis asserts that as overt racism is less acceptable in public, issues coded by race serve as a method for American citizens to express racially conservative views. This phenomenon has been found to affect welfare politics (Feldman & Zaller, 1992; Gilens, 1995, 1996). Single poor Black mothers, as the centerpieces of welfare discourse in the media and academe, are cast at best as incompetent mothers struggling to survive in a bewildering world. At worst, they are presumed to be lazy, baby-making system abusers in violation of America’s most cherished political values.

The impact of the “welfare queen” public identity on political culture has distinct political and policy ramifications. The “welfare queen” is judged at all levels to be shirking her duty to carry her part of the load as an American citizen. She usurps the taxpayers’ money, produces children who will do the same, and emasculates the titular head of her household, the Black male. In the language of the national family, she avoids contributing her fair share to the national well-being, either as a “bearer of American values” or as a contributor to the political economy of the United States.(18) Particularly with regard to a language of family that implies rights, obligations, and rules (Collins, 1998b:71), those who are presumed to be avoiding their contributions are prevented from sharing in the complete spoils of citizenship granted them via their location in the political system.

A significant amount of anecdotal evidence presented here from the media and academic discourses asserts that the public identity of the “welfare queen” is single, Black, and female. The influence of such an identity also undergirds recent findings exploring White Americans’ negative attitudes towards welfare and their reliance on race as a factor (Gilens, 1995, 1996) and also influences the negative attitudes of African-Americans (Cose et al., 1999). In order to solidify my claim that this public identity constitutes an underlying assumption of mainstream contemporary welfare politics, I turn to the evidence of political elites’ reliance on the identity during public policy debates.

Maybe It’s Not A “Generational Thing”: Values and Beliefs of Aspiring Sports Journalists About Race and Gender

Hardin, Marie; Whiteside, Erin. Media Report to Women36. 2 (Spring 2008): 8-15.

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Furthermore, research shows that U.S. sports journalists bring a value system to the newsroom that leads to lopsided, stereotypical coverage of women’s sports; such attitudes include the “commonsense” belief that women are naturally less interested in competitive sports and less athletic, compared to men (Hardin).

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Before the 2007 Women’s Final Four basketball tournament, high school and college journalism students gathered at a symposium in Cleveland to hear reporters talk about their careers in covering women’s sports.

One student asked why women’s sports, despite their explosive growth since Title IX was signed, continue to occupy a lowly place on newspaper sports pages. Mechelle Voepel, who covers women’s basketball for ESPN.com and the Kansas City Star, answered for the group.

“It’s not completely a male versus female thing,” she told the students. “It’s a generational thing.” Young men realize that “both sexes can share” the playing fields and gym, she added – a departure from the generation that currently occupies the gatekeeping jobs at many media outlets.

“Hopefully,” she added, “generational changes will change attitudes.”

This study considers this idea by exploring the attitudes and values of future sports journalists in regard to the relationship between sports, gender and race in U.S. culture.

Sports Media and White, Male Hegemony

Studies of mediated sports over the past several decades have produced strong empirical evidence, without exception, that sports are positioned as the purview of boys and men (Hardin, 2005; Pedersen, 2002). Although coverage has increased in recent years, sports media generally exclude women from coverage (Kane, Griffin, & Messner, 2002). Furthermore, research shows that U.S. sports journalists bring a value system to the newsroom that leads to lopsided, stereotypical coverage of women’s sports; such attitudes include the “commonsense” belief that women are naturally less interested in competitive sports and less athletic, compared to men (Hardin).

Sports media, racism and racial difference. Intertwined with ideology about male athletic superiority is ideology that espouses “natural” racial difference and “color blindness” to reinforce white supremacy (Ferber, 2007). Coverage of athletes of color, especially black athletes, has increased in recent years as a result of racial integration of sports. However, sports journalists still reinforce a racial dualism that positions black athletes ultimately as inferior – they are “naturally” more athletic than white, but they are also “naturally” less hardworking and more apt toward moral lapses, for instance, than whites (Rada & Wulfemeyer, 2005). (We use racial – black, white – instead of ethnic – African- American, CaucasianAmerican – descriptors. Ethnicity refers to shared cultural and behavioral elements of a group; the notion of race involves the categorization of individuals based on physical characteristics such as skin color (Tidball & Hachtmann, 2004). As Hall (2001, p. 388) states, more than ethnicity, race “remains the potent descriptor in U.S. culture.”)

Although overt racism in institutions such as the media has essentially disappeared, Ferber (2007) argues that “new racism,” integral to the institution of sports, relies on popular notions of a “color-blind perspective.” This perspective assumes that “the playing field has been leveled; therefore, if anyone is not successful, it is a result of his or her own poor choices” (Ferber, p. 14).

Research has provided limited evidence that younger journalists may deviate from sports department norms that extend these ideologies. For instance, Hardin (2005) found that young sports editors were less troubled by Title IX than were their older counterparts. Pedersen and colleagues argue, however, that changes will not occur naturally over time, but only through a conscious re-education of sports journalists.

Gender Role Socialization of Youths

Although gender-role differences between males and females as biological and “natural” exist in popular consciousness, research has long demonstrated that many differences are instead socially constructed (Bandura, 1986; Messner, 2002). Although youths tend to make judgments about others based on their adherence to gender roles, as they age, they become more flexible in their views (Lobel et al., 2001).

Sports and gender roles. Beliefs about the gendered nature of sports, taken for granted by many as a “fixed concept of the natural,” are tied to feminine and masculine identities and gender relations within a given culture (Hargreaves, 1994, p. 31). For instance, research has demonstrated that individuals generally categorize a sport as feminine or masculine based on the level of contact (an indicator of masculinity) and aesthetic elements (femininity). As Koivula (2001) points out, however, these definitions are fluid, and given the discourse about a progressive new generation of boys, there is reason to believe that we may be in the midst of an evolution in terms of how gender is culturally situated in sports. One indicator may be a 2005 survey of 773 college students that found that, although most respondents were not familiar with Title IX, the majority (80%) said they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the law’s extension of “equal opportunities for women and men students in athletics” (Bates, 2005).

Attitudes toward race. A number of studies have examined the attitudes and beliefs of adolescents and young adults in relationship to racism and myths about racial difference. The general consensus of this research is that racist stereotypes persist. Kao (2000), for instance, found in focus groups and interviews with teenagers that stereotypes positioning blacks as athletic and whites as academic were prevalent. Another study relating specifically to stereotypes surrounding sports, race and ability found that college students relied on traditional stereotypes of black and white athletes in evaluating the performance of athletes (Stone, Perry, & Darley, 1997).

This Research

It seems, from an examination of the literature, that assumptions about a “generational change” ushering enlightened views about women, minorities and sports into newsrooms may be premature. However, the influx of girls and women into sports in recent years, the ever-so-slight increase in coverage of women’s sports, the indications that younger sports journalists today do see Title IX differently from their older colleagues, and the increased attention to racial stereotypes in sports coverage among journalists themselves led us to our research question: What are the attitudes and values, in relation to sports, gender and race, of the next generation of television commentators, writers and radio personalities? In relation to that, we sought to understand their sex typing (or not) of sports, their attitudes toward Title IX, their beliefs about the validity of women’s sports, and about race and racial issues in sports.

Method. We used focus groups with aspiring sports media members to answer our research questions. Focus groups examine how knowledge and ideas develop and operate within a cultural context and allow for sharing of individual experiences and making of “collective sense” by members of the group, which we sought to explore (Kitzinger, 1999; Wilkinson, 2004).

Participants. Our participants were boys and girls who attended a sports journalism summer workshop at a major United States university. The students, ages 16-18, were from all over the U.S. and defined themselves as aspiring sports media professionals; many were covering sports for their high school or local papers. All participants were Caucasian (white) and of the 30 students who participated, only four were girls.

Focus Groups. Using an interview guide that was informed by our research questions, we asked the participants a series of non-directive questions (Wimmer & Dominick, 2000). Examples included “Do you think girls’ and women’s sports should get as much coverage as men’s?” and “What do you know about Title IX?” Although we used the same basic rundown of questions for each session, follow-up questions were unique to specific responses (Potter, 1996). The sessions lasted between 60 and 75 minutes.

Data Analysis. We conducted a formal analysis of the transcripts using an iterative approach – that is, a recognition of our own initial formulations about the research combined with our desire for openness to everything the data had to offer (Potter, 1996). Our analysis included the following steps: identification of recurring ideas through a reading of the transcripts, which we tagged with codes, followed by sorting and grouping those codes into categories before returning to our conceptual framework to arrive at our themes. The process was non-linear as we continually returned to the data in an effort to finalize the themes in the most parsimonious fashion possible (Spencer, Ritchie, & O’Connor, 2003).


In our thematic analysis of the discourse we arrived at four themes that were expressed almost unanimously by the participants: sports as natural for boys and men; hegemonic gender roles as natural; equal-access initiatives in sports as disruptive to a natural order; and racial difference as real.

Sports as Natural for Boys and Men

The students saw girls and women as naturally less apt for sports compared to boys and men. They used this ideology to justify beliefs about reasons as to why women’s sports aren’t popular, reasons women should not cover certain men’s sports in the media, and reasons Title IX is unfair.

Further, the students assumed a hegemonically masculine value system in their description of what constitutes a worthy sport. For instance, when describing NASCAR, one student said “wrecks are great.” Another explained that he would watch the ESPN XGames if they featured more competitive races rather than emphasizing aesthetics:

Participant: I think if they’re racing, if they’re actually competing against one another where you can – where they decide who the winner is, I’ll watch it.

Interviewer: So is that important-the idea that it’s got to be head-to-head competition?

Participant: Yeah.

When citing examples in their discussion, the students all used mainstream male athletes, suggesting their idea of an exemplary athlete is a male football/ basketball/baseball player and further illustrating the perceived natural pairing between sports and men.

Said one of the girls who participated: “As a girl, I agree that I think the sports are made more for men because it’s more in their nature to compete like that than it is for girls.” Participating in another group, the other female student said she saw sports as a defining part of the male identity: “Men are more physically inclined to play sports than women are, so let them have that. That’s what defines them, almost. Let them have that – don’t try to take that away from them. It’s just not fair to men.”

In assuming women as less apt in sports than men, the students believed this also translated into lower competence in covering sports in the media. Many of the students flatly rejected the idea of women in roles such as the color/analyst position in radio or television – especially in the hyper-masculine domain of football. Several said they could not imagine hearing a female voiceover because a woman could not capture the drama or the technical elements of the sport adequately.

Students said playing experience lent itself to better coverage, even conceding that point for themselves when they had not played organized football. Said one participant, “If you’ve never played football, you’re not gonna be a good football analyst.” Another chimed in:

Participant: I know a lot about it, but I’ve never played it because I’m tiny.

Interviewer: So do you think, [name], that you should cover – ever cover football?

Participant. Not in an analyst position, definitely not. But as play-by-play, I think I could do that.

Low marketability of women’s sports

Seeing girls and women as less able to compete translated into a perception of a lower market potential and a negative outlook on the future of mediated women’s sports. One group discussed coverage of women’s professional football in the U.S., but partici- pants decided they would not cover it because it could not draw fans, in their estimation. “I severely doubt many people would tune in,” said one participant. “No station’s gonna want to air that if nobody’s going to watch it.”

When asked why they believed women’s sports have a low market value, students reverted to earlier arguments about natural aptitude. For instance, one said, “I think it’s just because of the contact. People don’t want to see women in war, people don’t want to see women smacked around in the game… It just seems like more of a man’s thing.”

Students framed these differences hierarchically, not only devaluing sports that may cater to the strengths of the female body, but discounting girls and women who participate in popular, mainstream sports. Said one boy, “Nobody wants to watch women’s sports. …They don’t have the physical abilities that men do.”

An idea of women being less able, and therefore inferior, solidified any lingering doubt about the possibility of women’s athletics garnering high ratings or demand from the public. Two boys came to this conclusion after one student initially praised women’s tennis:

Participant 1: The only women’s sport that I enjoy more than men’s is tennis, actually.

Interviewer: Why?

Participant 1; Because the men …try to flamethrow it by you 150 miles an hour, and the women – it’s kind of more about shot placement and –

Participant 2: Isn’t that the same thing, because in basketball it’s more about shot placement there and stuff like that –

Participant 1: Yeah, but I don’t want to see that in basketball. I want to see some guy jump 17 feet and put the ball between his legs and throw it down.

Hegemonic Gender Roles as Natural

In the discussion, the students created a sport typology in which they labeled certain sports as more appropriate for boys, girls or both. Much of the rationale for this typology was based on traditional ideas of gender. Students identified sports that feature aggressiveness, strength and violence with men. If a sport did not reflect these characteristics, it was not only labeled a “female sport,” but students questioned the masculinity of male athletes involved.

Interviewer: What about figure skating?

Participant 1: Definitely the females.

Interviewer: Because?

Participant 1: It’s just, it’s like, graceful.

Participant 2: It’s not that physical. It’s just-it’s grace.

Participant 1: 1 always get that feeling that the guys in there just seem a little, you know, swaying the other way. They just don’t seem like most other men.

Students in one discussion were reluctant to admit they liked and would consider playing boy’s volleyball, a sport that is not considered masculine by the traditional sport typology definitions.

Participant 1: I’d like to see men’s volleyball at schools. I’d catch a lot of ridicule for that, but everybody’s thought about it. All my friends thought about it. If there was a men’s volleyball team, we’d do it in a heartbeat.

Participant 2: Our volleyball team’s like-people don’t look down upon them-they’re pretty good. They’re great athletes.

Participant 3: 1 don’t know why, but we kind of look down on them in our school.

Interviewer: You look down on the guy’s volleyball team?

Participant 3: Yeah, people do. I think it’s fine.

The students expected male athletes to conform to a narrow definition of masculinity and generally dismissed sports where athletes do not reflect that definition either by the sheer nature of the sport (noncontact, for example) or by a perceived non-conformist culture within the sport. For instance, when talking about his problem with soccer, one student said there were too many “guys with pony tails.” Another student dismissed men’s figure skating because it was not something “a manly man would do.”

Conversely, all agreed that figure skating was appropriate for girls. Girls were seen as incompatible with physical, contact sports such as football and basketball and instead better suited for cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball and softball. These sports were seen as appropriate for girls and women. For instance, said one participant about figure skating: “It’s graceful. Football isn’t graceful. And it’s the complete opposite. It’s beauty and how women are supposed to be looked at.”

Equal-Access Initiatives in Sports as Disruptive to A Natural Order

Title IX. About half the students who participated in the focus groups were aware of Title IX; however, none were able to offer a thorough and accurate definition of the law. In general, they believed that the law was good in theory, but not practice. The students recognized the value in a law that promotes equality and fairness, but because of the ways they naturalized sports with men, they were then unwilling to support the actual changes Title IX aims to achieve because they saw those changes as illogical and unnatural. Sometimes group members would be “educated” about the law by others, as in this discussion between three boys:

Interviewer: Any opinions on Title IX?

Participant 1: 1 think it’s good.

Participant 2: 1 think it’s a good idea, but I have heard of – I can’t think of specific examples, but boys teams that have been penalized because there is not enough girl interest. That’s not fair at all. That’s reverse discrimination. I’m all for girls being able to play any sport they want. But if they don’t want to play, then why should the boys not be able to play?

Participant 3: That’s totally not fair to them. It should be based on interest and not what some organization says is correct.

Participant 1: 1 didn’t realize they penalized the boys. If the girls don’t want to play then I don’t think they should be penalized.

Participant 2: Yeah, the concept is great, but it’s not being handled right.

Participant 3: …It’s too forced. It’s good that they have it, but it’s like they’re pushing something that doesn’t really need to be pushed as much as you think.

Affirmative Action. As with Title IX, most students expressed a belief that any kind of affirmative action programs that address equal access to opportunity for minorities are problematic because they disrupt what is natural. They said they believe that racism is generally absent or declining in sports, thus rendering affirmative action initiatives as unnecessary because the climate in sports is one in which people who work hard will achieve their goals.

Participants in three of the four groups, without prompting, brought up initiatives that encourage sports organizations to interview minority coaching candidates; all responded negatively. One student said:

That’s not right because that’s like saying you have to draft at least one white player in the NBA, which, if you told most teams that, they would laugh you out of the building. It’s not fair, even if it is a minority. They should have to get it for themselves. We do not have to give it to them or else we’d have to give whites another chance to play.

In a different group, a participant echoed that frustration and emphasized the democratic, everyoneon-equal-footing ideal that he believed exists in sports. “If a white coach is better than a black coach, then a white coach is better than a black coach. It’s not just because the one coach is white and the one coach is black.”

Racial Difference as Real. The interviewer asked participants to respond to the idea of “race, racism, and sports,” and allowed participants to take the conversation where they wished. After addressing what they thought about the issue of racism (that it was generally absent in U.S. sports), they then discussed what they saw as racial differences among black and white athletes. They generally saw blacks (males) as superior athletes and whites as more intellectual, and saw this view as one that was complimentary to blacks. The students justified their position of black athletic superiority by alluding to the NBA, which comprises mostly black players, and pointing out other examples such as what they believed was the prevalence of black athletes in certain sports or the success in golf by Tiger Woods and tennis by Serena Williams.

At least one participant was aware of the controversy behind the notion of black athletic superiority, but did not understand why:

Participant 1: 1 totally defend the Air Force [Academy] coach when he said that comment on ESPN – when he said he needs more black people. I am – I never thought, even though, yes, I’m not African American, but I do not see that that was a bad insult. That’s actually like, praising them. Because he’s saying that they’re good athletes. I think it could have been worded better, though.

Participant 2: It could have been, but –

Participant 1: Yeah, you’re right. You know, it just seems-African Americans just-we white people-they-got-they just seem like they have an edge.

Students speculated about what, exactly, gave black athletes an edge. One girl mused that because many grow up in poverty, they have “a chip on their shoulder” that spurs them to work hard in sports. Others said sports is necessary to the black culture for a way out of a difficult situation. One participant said white youths in poverty may also have to, like blacks, look to sports as salvation because “if you can’t make it in sports per se, then you aren’t going to make it at all. You’re going to be working as the trash guy. That’s just the hand you’re dealt.”

Others solved the mystery of black athletic superiority with amateur biology. One boy said he believed that “their ankles are thinner, and I think that helps them run faster. That probably has something to do within Africa, they way they had to go hunt and gather their food.” In another group, a student asked: “Isn’t it like a medical thing that they might have an extra muscle in their leg or something that helps them jump better?”

The biological superiority, however, was paired with cognitive and moral inferiority to whites, as inferred by this participant:

I think white people play smarter and more as a team. I think black people are more athletic but a little selfish, a little more selfish. I remember when I played basketball, we played inner city teams, and they were just as good as us but we smoked them because they were all about playing one-on-one. They were more worried about scoring 20 points than winning.

In general, the students articulated a narrow definition of sports that preserves white, male hegemony. Women athletes were seen as less apt and less able to compete in sports, therefore also making them less competent to cover sports in media. Students saw the sports /media complex as natural and were troubled by legal and institutional efforts such as Title IX and equal opportunity programs that challenge the social order. Finally, students reinforced racist notions of a “color-blind society” and reified racial difference. The beliefs, attitudes and values we heard in these focus-group interviews all challenge the notion that young people – a future generation of sports journalists – will usher any type of new paradigm into sports media production.

Discussion and Conclusions

As we expected based on the literature, the students we interviewed clung to sex-typed notions of sports that have not progressed much beyond findings of decades-old research. Their sex-typing of sports involves placing sports in a hierarchy with hegemonically masculine sports at the top and feminine sports at the bottom is representative of what they see every day in sports media.

We were surprised, however, at the vitriol leveled against women’s sports, although we know that adolescents strongly cling to gender stereotypes and that sports remain a bastion of virtually untouched male dominance in U.S. culture. We were surprised because these students have grown up with the equal sports opportunity for boys and girls afforded by Title IX and with explosive participation in sports by their female classmates. Even so, they made fun of women’s sports and female athletes who aspire to compete with men. When a participant mentioned the famous Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match in 1973, he was corrected: “But Bobby Riggs was 75, so it didn’t really matter.”

Although we found it regrettable that participants were generally unfamiliar with Title IX, we were not surprised. Prominent sports columnist Christine Brennan has asserted that youths’ lack of familiarity with Title IX is not necessarily a bad thing; it may indicate that they’ve come to expect its guarantees as a taken-for-granted right, and that marks progress in attitudes toward women’s sports (Brennan, 2007).

We are afraid that their lack of understanding about the law is more than that, however. It is a misunderstanding. These students saw the law as an attack on men’s sports, a myth that has been reinforced in news coverage. They saw the law as “unfair” because, to them, it is attempting to change the natural order. If these associations with Title IX persist, how safe is the law? Title IX has consistently been under attack since it was signed in 1972, and those attacks have not abated even three decades after it was signed (Save Title IX, 2007). We cannot help but speculate that the level of defensiveness and disparagement of girls and women in sports by these boys reflects their fear that they may not enjoy the same power and privilege, in relation to women’s status, as their fathers and grandfathers (van Sterkenburg & Knoppers, 2004).

Their comments about equal-access policies in relationship to sports and racial minorities may also reflect a fear that they also will not enjoy the same power and privilege, in relationship to people of color, as their fathers and grandfathers. Their comments reflected a belief in a “color-blind society” that Ferber (2007) argues is central to new racism. This “we’ve done all we can” belief justifies maintenance of racial order, allowing guilt-free perpetuation of the “good ol’ (white) boys” network.

We also found it regrettable that myths about racial difference persist. We found the speculation alarming because of the racist assumptions behind mind (white) /body (black) dualism. Research shows that one way racist assumptions by whites are mitigated is through intergroup contact; that is, through meaningful relationships with non-whites (McClelland & Linnander, 2006). Students tend to racially segregate in school and after school, and the opportunity for such relationships may also be diminished in college, where most colleges are majority white. The good news is, however, that even more important than intergroup contact, “exposure to racial information is a far more important factor” (McClelland & Linnander, p. 110). This is not to say that college educators should not strive to racially diversify their student bodies, but that they should not stop there, but should create educational environments that challenge racist ideas.

We concede that our findings are limited by both the size of this project and by the method we chose to use. For instance, we would have liked to have included more young women and created at least one all-female group where girls could talk freely without pressure from boys to say the (hegemonically) “right” thing; in reviewing the transcripts, we noticed a couple of instances where the lone female participant initially presented a dissenting point of view (say, in support of Title IX), but then joined in the dominant discourse when presented with a counter argument. Of course, as we pointed out in the findings, this also occasionally happened with boys, too. However, our hunch, based on previous research (Harry, 1995), is that female sports fans may have expressed views on women’s sports and Title IX that were more resistant to prevailing ideology. We hope to explore this possibility in future research.

Research also tells us that the attitudes of high school students in relationship to gender roles is likely to change as they become young adults and attend college, and we hope this is the case. Most enlightening would be a longitudinal study that follows young people through college and into their careers, gauging the ways they are socialized (or not) into dominant ideologies regarding sports in collegiate newsrooms and classrooms, for instance. Meanwhile, however, we encourage college educators to consciously and carefully teach aspiring sports journalists to resist the prevailing ideologies that marginalize and stereotype women and minorities. We agree with Pedersen and colleagues’ assertion that such training is critical if we are to truly challenge, and perhaps even dismantle, the hegemony. Time alone, it seems, is not enough.



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By Marie Hardin and Erin Whiteside

Marie Hardin, associate professor of journalism at Penn State University, is director of the university’s Center for Editing Excellence and is associate director of its Center for Sports Journalism. Her research concentrates on diversity, ethics and professional practices in sports media; her work has been published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Sex Roles, Mass Communication & Society, and Critical Studies in Media Communication, among others. Hardin received her Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Georgia. Before completing her Ph.D., she worked as a newspaper reporter and editor; she has also worked as a magazine writer. E-mail: mch208@psu.edu

Erin Whiteside, Ph.D. student in the mass communication program in Penn State’s College of Communications, is a research assistant in its Center for Sports Journalism. Her research focuses on feminist media studies and media diversity. Her research has appeared in Mass Communication & Society, Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal and Visual Communication Quarterly. Before entering the Ph.D. program, Whiteside worked in sports communication for six years at the professional and collegiate levels. E-mail: eewlO@psu.edu.

Word count: 5362

Copyright Communication Research Associates, Inc. Spring 2008

Indexing (details)


Subject Young adults;


College students;

Racial differences;


Secondary school students;

Sex roles;






Black athletes

Title Maybe It’s Not A “Generational Thing”: Values and Beliefs of Aspiring Sports Journalists About Race and Gender

Author Hardin, Marie; Whiteside, Erin

Publication title Media Report to Women

Volume 36

Issue 2

Pages 8-15

Number of pages 8

Publication year 2008

Publication date Spring 2008

Year 2008

Section Research In Depth

Publisher Communication Research Associates, Inc.

Place of publication Silver Springs

Country of publication United States

Publication subject Communications, Women’s Interests

ISSN 01459651

Source type Trade Journals

Language of publication English

Document type Feature

Document feature References

ProQuest document ID 210173220

Document URL


Copyright Copyright Communication Research Associates, Inc. Spring 2008

Last updated 2010-06-08

Database GenderWatch

Access: Read/Write

Policy: Recently, there has been considerable attention paid to “stop and frisk” policies in NY in which police can question and pat-down anyone in a public area that appears to be acting suspiciously (e.g., teenagers hanging out near an ATM). Many police officers note this leads to confiscation of myriad illegal firearms and may be responsible for dramatic drops in violent crime. Others argue it results in racial discrimination and unacceptable infringement on civil liberty. What is your opinion—should police be allowed to do this?

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