Reconstructing sport


Refractory Girl
Women and Sport edition, Winter 1992
Edited By Angela Matheson
Reviewed by Carolyn Beecham

"It has been argued", says Shona Thompson, "that sport is a trivial and frivolous issue for feminism when lined up against concerns such as rape, domestic violence, pornography, health and control of reproduction". The argument of which she writes is dealt with in a few swift blows by this collection of thorough and informed pieces, of which hers ("Men play Football and Women Wash the Dirty Socks) is one.

Thompson's other observations about the reasons many feminists ignore sport certainly hit home with me. She writes: " has alienated many women. Often this comes about through negative early experiences as participants (Yes!) but more often because the nature of sport is considered anathema to feminism."

Along the same lines, Sue Mason Cox and Simone Fullagher, in their contribution, "The 'Feminine' in Sport", remark that "Feminists have always argued that 'equality' was a low goal to aim for: after all, football has high social value but it is simply a form of legitimised violence."

But this edition of Refractory Girl doesn't merely deconstruct sexist conceptions of sport, nor simply critique sexist representations of women in sport (although several contributions do both of those things very well). I found this collection of feminist thinking most interesting because it goes further than deconstruction, and attempts the next challenge: reconstruction.

Lynn Embrey, a lecturer in sports science, writes of one of her daily jogs, during which the attitudes of three generations of women towards physical exercise were revealed to her by women she met as she made her way around a lake near her office. She says the three attitudes — "I couldn't do that (exercise)", "I wish I had time to do that", and "Isn't it great!" — sum up for her why sport is such an important item on the women's agenda.

Penny Rossiter explores the growing involvement of women in rock climbing in an inspiring piece which highlights the real physical and psychological barriers which are broken down by sportswomen. She asserts, "Women's successes are a challenge, not just for other climbers to emulate but challenges to masculinity and male achievement. It seems more than just a matter of body blows to fragile male egos. It seems to speak to a greater sense of loss, of myth, meaning and male location."

The issue also contains essays on Wild Men, Adventurous Women and sports administrators who are making attempts to reconstruct sport for women from within the sports establishment. As usual, the journal contains short fiction, poetry and some short news pieces such as Anna McCormack's update on the struggle for abortion rights in Queensland.

Refractory Girl is available by subscription for $20 for four issues, including postage within Australia. Write to PO Box 646, Glebe NSW 2037. It is also available in some bookshops and newsagents.


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