Black Women in Sports: Sexuality and Athleticism Essay

935 Words4 Pages
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
…show more content…
Women have a special aptitude for track because they have greater flexibility and their smaller bodies make them able to run for long distances at a faster rate.

Black women track athletes were also confined to popular notions of female sexuality. Cleveland Abbot, the formidable Athletic Director of the Tuskegee women's track program said in the documentary "Dare to Compete," a documentary film on the history of women sports, that he wanted "foxes not oxes." Black women athletes had to look attractive as well as be good athletes, unlike their male counterparts who just had to concentrate on bringing home the trophy. However, although black women had to concentrate on being attractive, the standards that dictate black female sexuality are different in different arenas and in comparison to different groups. Black "femininity" has never been given the same credence as white "femininity," and perhaps mainstream preoccupation with racial stereotypes of black athletic prowess superceded the perception of black women's sexuality. In other words, black women track athletes were probably seen as more "athletic" than the average (i.e. white) woman, and therefore, their femininity was discounted as irrelevant. Moreover, track, like many other sports at this time was seen as a masculine sport. During the thirties and forties, women's track was virtually ignored. Black women, throughout US history, were not sexualized in the same way
Get Access