analysis woman in society and sports

respond to at least 5 points made in the article below in a one page summary/analysis.

Women of Color in Society

and Sport Yevonne R. Smith

This article reviews literature that discusses parallels between women of color in society and sport. Although special emphasis is placed on African American women’s social, historical, and sport traditions, information on other ethnic groups’ socioeconomic status and participation in sport is in-cluded. The discussion focuses on the absence or silence of diverse ethnic women within the mainstream of society, sport, and scholarship and summa-rizes literature that highlights intersections of gender, race, and socioeco-nomic class. Research completed on women of color in sport is reviewed using Douglas’s analysis of the levels of research. A call is made for more scholarship on women of color from diverse ethnic backgrounds and different social realities in order to have more inclusive womanist feminist scholarship and race-relations theory.

Women of color, representing several diverse ethnic groups-identified as African American, Hispanic (LatinoPuerto Rican/Chicano), Asian American (Korean/Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese), or Native American (Indian/Alaskan

Nativemawaiian Islanders)-have historically been silenced in society and sport. Traditionally, throughout American history, these women have not been privi-leged or highly visible in society and sport. As a consequence, little research has been completed on their unique social histories and experiences. Because the sporting experiences for participants in each cultural group, and in each socioeco-nomic class within these groups, may be decidedly different, it is difficult to merge all minority groups’ sociocultural traditions into one discussion. The experiences of all multicultural women in American society and sport are not identical; there are multiple perspectives and different social realities.

Therefore, diverse ethnic women must communicate what it is like to live both within their own cultural context and in mainstream society and to participate in sport at the intersections of race, gender, and class. Birrell (1989, 1990) called attention to these issues, and particularly to race relations as this dimension has long been neglected in sport studies:

The most effective blending would highlight not only class relations, but racial relations as well. The strong materialist base of both cultural studies and socialist feminism ensures attention to class relations, and socialist feminism

Yevonne R. Smith is with the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

WOMEN OF COLOR 229

ensures a focus on gender relations, but neither theory as presently conceptual-ized provides adequate theoretical attention to the issue of race relations.

The neglect of race is a serious criticism leveled at scholars in all fields, not just those in sport. Many feminists have acknowledged this prob-lem. . . . Unfortunately, sport studies scholars remain largely oblivious to these debates. (Birrell, 1990, p. 185)

She suggested that race and gender can no longer be studied simply as variables but must be understood as power relationships. One must begin to differentiate race and understand that discussions of race in sport have traditionally focused on black males and discussions of gender have traditionally focused on majority-race females (Birrell, 1989, 1990; Edwards, 1969, 1971; Hull, Scott, & Smith, 1982).

The purpose of this article is to review literature on women of color that highlights a tradition of silence and parallel invisibility in society with traditions in sport, sport being a microcosm of society. The article focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the socio-historical and literary traditions, realities, and vantage points of African American women, who, according to Collins (1990), have experiences with implications for all women. Information on socio-economics and sport participation are included on other ethnic females. Women of color, particularly those in academe, have a unique vantage point, a marginal status in society, that can be designated as the “outsider-within” (Collins, 1990). As outsiders-within, we are in a unique position to experience and analyze social conditions and sport at the intersections of race, gender, and class. Therefore, as an African ~mericanwoman, I will draw upon my own sociohistoricaland literary traditions. Where possible, I have reviewed the writings and research of women of color and of others who are sensitive to issues affecting gender, race, and class.

The discussion centers on connecting what happens in society to conditions in sport. Four major topics that highlight the social and sport experiences of women of color are reviewed: historical traditions of silence; critical analyses of gender and race; socialization at the intersections of gender, race, and socioeco-nomic class; and an analysis of research on women of color.

Historical Traditions of Silence for Women of Color

Historically, African American women have been silenced during slavery, prior to and during the civil rights era, and during the women’s movement (Collins, 1990; Giddings, 1984; hooks, 1981). According to hooks (198 I), they have been denied the right to vote, have been raped by white and black men, have received inadequate wages, and have been exploited in service and domestic work. Also, there has been limited access to quality education, well-paying jobs, and legal protection (hooks, 1981). Similarly, their contributions to society and status in sport have been diminished (Green, Oglesby, Alexander, & Franke, 1981; Palmer, 1983).

Literature suggests that women of color have been silenced by being sup-pressed, excluded, and misrepresented at every level of social interaction and have been placed at the margins by the dominant culture in society and in sport (Douglas, 1988a; Gates, 1990). The legacy of societal discrimination and absence from powerful and prestigious positions has served as a backdrop to set the stage

230 SMITH

for the invisibility, silence, and parallel underrepresentation of women of color in sport leadership and scholarship positions. Culturally diverse women represent only 5% or less of all coaching, teaching, and sports administration positions (Alexander, 1978; Janis, 1985; Murphy, 1980; Smith, 1991), and little scholarship or research on multiethnic womenin sport has been published.

One can count on one hand the number of published analyses that specifically focus on women athletes of color. . . . Some unpublished descriptive work on Black women athletes is available . . . and we may find race as a variable in some of our research traditions . . .but no profound analyses have yet been begun. Even less material is available concerning Native American women. . . Asian American women, Chicanas, and members of other Hispanic groups. (Birrell, 1990, p. 186)

With the exception of a few outstanding elite athletes, Oglesby (1981) saw African American women as invisible in sport and described African American sportswomen as “fleeting, if ever in the consciousness of the sporting public. Nobody knows her; not publicists, nor researchers, nor entrepreneurs, nor pub-lished historians. . . . The black sportswoman is unknown and, of course, unher-alded” (p. 1).

In her analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’ work The Darkened Eye Restored: Notes Toward a Literary History of Black Women,Washington (1990) commented on the African American women’s struggle to sustain her identity against a racist and sexist society and suggested that the silence of women results in much repressed anger. She focused on a tradition in literature and social history that misrepresents African American women as “self doubting, retentive and mute on the one hand and aggressive, powerful matriarchs on the other” (Washington, 1990, p. 31). She discussed a literary character, Maude, who symbolizes these images of silence:

Maude is restricted for a good part of the novel to a domestic life that seems narrow and limited. . . and, yet, if the terms invisibility, double-consciousness, and the black mask have any meaning at all for the Afro-American literary tradition, then Maude Martha, whose protagonist is more intimately acquainted with meanings of those words than any male character, belongs to that tradition. (Washington, 1990, p. 32)

This tradition of silence and invisibility excludes images of women of color sharing equally with men of color and with majority-race men and women.

Our “ritual journeys,” our “articulate voices,” our “symbolic spaces,” are rarely the same as men’s. Those differences, and the assumptions that those differences make women inherently inferior, plus the appropriation by men of the power to define tradition, account for women’s absence from our written records. (Washington, 1990, p. 32)

Critical questions have been asked concerning why the fugitive slave, fiery orator, political activist, or person of color in sport is always represented as a black man, or the woman in sport-and-gender studies as a white woman (Birrell, 1990; Washington, 1990). These omissions and biases continue to reinforce historical patterns of silence and contribute to the invisbility of women of color.

WOMEN OF COLOR 23 1

African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American women are minority groups hidden within two more conspicuous groups (women and ethnic minority men). Consequently scholars have tended to disregard or overlook them

because been falsely assumed that their experiences are identical to those of other minorities and women (Allen, 1990). Critical feminist theorists of color have pondered these omissions and asked how is it that “heroic voices, and heroic images of the . . . [African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian American] women get suppressed in a culture that has depended on . . . [their] heroism for its survival” (Washington, 1990, p. 32).

Palmer (1983), in analyzing the economic strengths and events surrounding the speech of Sojourner Truth in 1851, “Ain’t I A Woman,” recalled how feminists accepted the message that denounced the prevailing opinion of women

as weak, fragile,creaturesandbutdependentlargely ignored women of color as a part of the feminist movementof. Because discriminatory practices based on

power relations, women of color have remained largely invisible in society, even during the civil rights and women’s movements, although they have provided leadership, role models, and the strength and work that has served as the catalyst for both movements (Collins, 1990; hooks, 1981, 1990; Palmer, 1983; Washing-ton, 1990). This observation caused Palmer to comment on the use of African American women as role models for all women in terms of their strength of character and ability to go beyond gender-role stereotypes:

Yet, the actions of one Black woman, Sojourner Truth, have become familiar to almost everybody, a standard exhibit in modem liberal historiography. White feminists who may know almost nothing else of Black women’s history are moved by Truth’s famous query, “Ain’t I A Woman.” They take her portrait of herself as “one who ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns” as compelling proof of falsity of the notion that women are frail, dependent, parasitic. They do not . . . use Sojourner Truth’s battle cry to show that Black women are not feeble. . . . Rather they have used Sojourner Truth’s hardiness and that of other Black women as proof of white women’s possibilities. . . . Women such as Sojourner Truth embody and display strength, directness, integrity, fire. (Palmer, 1983, pp. 152-153)

Yet, despite their personal strength and integrigty, women of color have historically been oppressed and omitted from the mainstream of society, sport, and scholarship. Douglas (1988a, 1988b) also observed the silence of African American women in sport literature and research and was overwhelmed by the silence, inaccuracy, and misrepresentation. In instances where African American female athletes have been made visible, she noted that often discussions are “replete with inaccuracies and misrepresentations” (Douglas, 1988b, p. 1). Simi-larly, Oglesby (1981) noted that when the African American sportswoman “looked to society and physical education and sport systems to clarify and define her, she found that her images were either distorted and inaccurate or absent” (p. 3). Major sites of the silence have been in media representations (Corbett, in press), power-based societal relationships, published literature, and sport research. The creation of these sociohistorical traditions have been described as a “matter of power, not justice, and that power has always been in the hands of men-mostly white but some Black” (Washington, 1990, p. 32). (…)

Summary and Conclusions

Women of color in sport are impacted by multidimensional sociocultural phenomena in society, within racial or ethnic groups, and in organized sports. Women of color in society and sport have been, and continue to be, challenged and silenced by the triple oppressions of sexism, racism, and classism. Because of the multiple oppressions faced by women of color, they are often concerned with issues inclusive of, but different from, majority-race women and minority-race men. Issues such as inclusionary practices in women’s and feminist studies (Baca Zinn et al., 1986; hooks, 1981, 1984, 1990), traditions of silence and invisibility for women of color in research and scholarship (Birrell, 1990; Douglas, 1988a; Palmer, 1983; Washington, 1990), and critical feminist thought and em-powerment (Collins, 1990; Davis, 1990, Giddings, 1984; hooks, 1981, 1984, 1990) are important issues to woman of color.Women of Color in Society

and Sport Yevonne R. Smith

This article reviews literature that discusses parallels between women of color in society and sport. Although special emphasis is placed on African American women’s social, historical, and sport traditions, information on other ethnic groups’ socioeconomic status and participation in sport is in-cluded. The discussion focuses on the absence or silence of diverse ethnic women within the mainstream of society, sport, and scholarship and summa-rizes literature that highlights intersections of gender, race, and socioeco-nomic class. Research completed on women of color in sport is reviewed using Douglas’s analysis of the levels of research. A call is made for more scholarship on women of color from diverse ethnic backgrounds and different social realities in order to have more inclusive womanist feminist scholarship and race-relations theory.

Women of color, representing several diverse ethnic groups-identified as African American, Hispanic (LatinoPuerto Rican/Chicano), Asian American (Korean/Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese), or Native American (Indian/Alaskan

Nativemawaiian Islanders)-have historically been silenced in society and sport. Traditionally, throughout American history, these women have not been privi-leged or highly visible in society and sport. As a consequence, little research has been completed on their unique social histories and experiences. Because the sporting experiences for participants in each cultural group, and in each socioeco-nomic class within these groups, may be decidedly different, it is difficult to merge all minority groups’ sociocultural traditions into one discussion. The experiences of all multicultural women in American society and sport are not identical; there are multiple perspectives and different social realities.

Therefore, diverse ethnic women must communicate what it is like to live both within their own cultural context and in mainstream society and to participate in sport at the intersections of race, gender, and class. Birrell (1989, 1990) called attention to these issues, and particularly to race relations as this dimension has long been neglected in sport studies:

The most effective blending would highlight not only class relations, but racial relations as well. The strong materialist base of both cultural studies and socialist feminism ensures attention to class relations, and socialist feminism

Yevonne R. Smith is with the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

WOMEN OF COLOR 229

ensures a focus on gender relations, but neither theory as presently conceptual-ized provides adequate theoretical attention to the issue of race relations.

The neglect of race is a serious criticism leveled at scholars in all fields, not just those in sport. Many feminists have acknowledged this prob-lem. . . . Unfortunately, sport studies scholars remain largely oblivious to these debates. (Birrell, 1990, p. 185)

She suggested that race and gender can no longer be studied simply as variables but must be understood as power relationships. One must begin to differentiate race and understand that discussions of race in sport have traditionally focused on black males and discussions of gender have traditionally focused on majority-race females (Birrell, 1989, 1990; Edwards, 1969, 1971; Hull, Scott, & Smith, 1982).

The purpose of this article is to review literature on women of color that highlights a tradition of silence and parallel invisibility in society with traditions in sport, sport being a microcosm of society. The article focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on the socio-historical and literary traditions, realities, and vantage points of African American women, who, according to Collins (1990), have experiences with implications for all women. Information on socio-economics and sport participation are included on other ethnic females. Women of color, particularly those in academe, have a unique vantage point, a marginal status in society, that can be designated as the “outsider-within” (Collins, 1990). As outsiders-within, we are in a unique position to experience and analyze social conditions and sport at the intersections of race, gender, and class. Therefore, as an African ~mericanwoman, I will draw upon my own sociohistoricaland literary traditions. Where possible, I have reviewed the writings and research of women of color and of others who are sensitive to issues affecting gender, race, and class.

The discussion centers on connecting what happens in society to conditions in sport. Four major topics that highlight the social and sport experiences of women of color are reviewed: historical traditions of silence; critical analyses of gender and race; socialization at the intersections of gender, race, and socioeco-nomic class; and an analysis of research on women of color.

Historical Traditions of Silence for Women of Color

Historically, African American women have been silenced during slavery, prior to and during the civil rights era, and during the women’s movement (Collins, 1990; Giddings, 1984; hooks, 1981). According to hooks (198 I), they have been denied the right to vote, have been raped by white and black men, have received inadequate wages, and have been exploited in service and domestic work. Also, there has been limited access to quality education, well-paying jobs, and legal protection (hooks, 1981). Similarly, their contributions to society and status in sport have been diminished (Green, Oglesby, Alexander, & Franke, 1981; Palmer, 1983).

Literature suggests that women of color have been silenced by being sup-pressed, excluded, and misrepresented at every level of social interaction and have been placed at the margins by the dominant culture in society and in sport (Douglas, 1988a; Gates, 1990). The legacy of societal discrimination and absence from powerful and prestigious positions has served as a backdrop to set the stage

230 SMITH

for the invisibility, silence, and parallel underrepresentation of women of color in sport leadership and scholarship positions. Culturally diverse women represent only 5% or less of all coaching, teaching, and sports administration positions (Alexander, 1978; Janis, 1985; Murphy, 1980; Smith, 1991), and little scholarship or research on multiethnic womenin sport has been published.

One can count on one hand the number of published analyses that specifically focus on women athletes of color. . . . Some unpublished descriptive work on Black women athletes is available . . . and we may find race as a variable in some of our research traditions . . .but no profound analyses have yet been begun. Even less material is available concerning Native American women. . . Asian American women, Chicanas, and members of other Hispanic groups. (Birrell, 1990, p. 186)

With the exception of a few outstanding elite athletes, Oglesby (1981) saw African American women as invisible in sport and described African American sportswomen as “fleeting, if ever in the consciousness of the sporting public. Nobody knows her; not publicists, nor researchers, nor entrepreneurs, nor pub-lished historians. . . . The black sportswoman is unknown and, of course, unher-alded” (p. 1).

In her analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’ work The Darkened Eye Restored: Notes Toward a Literary History of Black Women,Washington (1990) commented on the African American women’s struggle to sustain her identity against a racist and sexist society and suggested that the silence of women results in much repressed anger. She focused on a tradition in literature and social history that misrepresents African American women as “self doubting, retentive and mute on the one hand and aggressive, powerful matriarchs on the other” (Washington, 1990, p. 31). She discussed a literary character, Maude, who symbolizes these images of silence:

Maude is restricted for a good part of the novel to a domestic life that seems narrow and limited. . . and, yet, if the terms invisibility, double-consciousness, and the black mask have any meaning at all for the Afro-American literary tradition, then Maude Martha, whose protagonist is more intimately acquainted with meanings of those words than any male character, belongs to that tradition. (Washington, 1990, p. 32)

This tradition of silence and invisibility excludes images of women of color sharing equally with men of color and with majority-race men and women.

Our “ritual journeys,” our “articulate voices,” our “symbolic spaces,” are rarely the same as men’s. Those differences, and the assumptions that those differences make women inherently inferior, plus the appropriation by men of the power to define tradition, account for women’s absence from our written records. (Washington, 1990, p. 32)

Critical questions have been asked concerning why the fugitive slave, fiery orator, political activist, or person of color in sport is always represented as a black man, or the woman in sport-and-gender studies as a white woman (Birrell, 1990; Washington, 1990). These omissions and biases continue to reinforce historical patterns of silence and contribute to the invisbility of women of color.

WOMEN OF COLOR 23 1

African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American women are minority groups hidden within two more conspicuous groups (women and ethnic minority men). Consequently scholars have tended to disregard or overlook them

because been falsely assumed that their experiences are identical to those of other minorities and women (Allen, 1990). Critical feminist theorists of color have pondered these omissions and asked how is it that “heroic voices, and heroic images of the . . . [African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian American] women get suppressed in a culture that has depended on . . . [their] heroism for its survival” (Washington, 1990, p. 32).

Palmer (1983), in analyzing the economic strengths and events surrounding the speech of Sojourner Truth in 1851, “Ain’t I A Woman,” recalled how feminists accepted the message that denounced the prevailing opinion of women

as weak, fragile,creaturesandbutdependentlargely ignored women of color as a part of the feminist movementof. Because discriminatory practices based on

power relations, women of color have remained largely invisible in society, even during the civil rights and women’s movements, although they have provided leadership, role models, and the strength and work that has served as the catalyst for both movements (Collins, 1990; hooks, 1981, 1990; Palmer, 1983; Washing-ton, 1990). This observation caused Palmer to comment on the use of African American women as role models for all women in terms of their strength of character and ability to go beyond gender-role stereotypes:

Yet, the actions of one Black woman, Sojourner Truth, have become familiar to almost everybody, a standard exhibit in modem liberal historiography. White feminists who may know almost nothing else of Black women’s history are moved by Truth’s famous query, “Ain’t I A Woman.” They take her portrait of herself as “one who ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns” as compelling proof of falsity of the notion that women are frail, dependent, parasitic. They do not . . . use Sojourner Truth’s battle cry to show that Black women are not feeble. . . . Rather they have used Sojourner Truth’s hardiness and that of other Black women as proof of white women’s possibilities. . . . Women such as Sojourner Truth embody and display strength, directness, integrity, fire. (Palmer, 1983, pp. 152-153)

Yet, despite their personal strength and integrigty, women of color have historically been oppressed and omitted from the mainstream of society, sport, and scholarship. Douglas (1988a, 1988b) also observed the silence of African American women in sport literature and research and was overwhelmed by the silence, inaccuracy, and misrepresentation. In instances where African American female athletes have been made visible, she noted that often discussions are “replete with inaccuracies and misrepresentations” (Douglas, 1988b, p. 1). Simi-larly, Oglesby (1981) noted that when the African American sportswoman “looked to society and physical education and sport systems to clarify and define her, she found that her images were either distorted and inaccurate or absent” (p. 3). Major sites of the silence have been in media representations (Corbett, in press), power-based societal relationships, published literature, and sport research. The creation of these sociohistorical traditions have been described as a “matter of power, not justice, and that power has always been in the hands of men-mostly white but some Black” (Washington, 1990, p. 32). (…)

Summary and Conclusions

Women of color in sport are impacted by multidimensional sociocultural phenomena in society, within racial or ethnic groups, and in organized sports. Women of color in society and sport have been, and continue to be, challenged and silenced by the triple oppressions of sexism, racism, and classism. Because of the multiple oppressions faced by women of color, they are often concerned with issues inclusive of, but different from, majority-race women and minority-race men. Issues such as inclusionary practices in women’s and feminist studies (Baca Zinn et al., 1986; hooks, 1981, 1984, 1990), traditions of silence and invisibility for women of color in research and scholarship (Birrell, 1990; Douglas, 1988a; Palmer, 1983; Washington, 1990), and critical feminist thought and em-powerment (Collins, 1990; Davis, 1990, Giddings, 1984; hooks, 1981, 1984, 1990) are important issues to woman of color.

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