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Points of Change in U.S. Women's Sport

Jaime Schultz

Publication Year: 2014

This perceptive, lively study explores U.S. women's sport through historical "points of change": particular products or trends that dramatically influenced both women's participation in sport and cultural responses to women athletes.Beginning with the seemingly innocent ponytail, the subject of the Introduction, scholar Jaime Schultz challenges the reader to look at the historical and sociological significance of now-common items such as sports bras and tampons and ideas such as sex testing and competitive cheerleading. Tennis wear, tampons, and sports bras all facilitated women's participation in physical culture, while physical educators, the aesthetic fitness movement, and Title IX encouraged women to challenge (or confront) policy, financial, and cultural obstacles.While some of these points of change increased women's physical freedom and sporting participation, they also posed challenges. Tampons encouraged menstrual shame, sex testing (a tool never used with male athletes) perpetuated narrowly-defined cultural norms of femininity, and the late-twentieth-century aesthetic fitness movement fed into an unrealistic beauty ideal.Ultimately, Schultz finds that U.S. women's sport has progressed significantly but ambivalently. Although participation in sports is no longer uncommon for girls and women, Schultz argues that these "points of change" have contributed to a complex matrix of gender differentiation that marks the female athletic body as different than--as less than--the male body, despite the advantages it may confer.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Sport and Society


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Title Page, Editor's Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

I would like to begin by acknowledging Willis G. Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press and the person who really made this book possible. I first met Bill at a North American Society for Sport History conference. More accurately, Melvin L. Adelman made sure we met, and for that (and a...


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pp. xiii-xvi

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Introduction: The Politics of the Ponytail

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pp. 1-14

Consider the ponytail, that seemingly innocuous mass of hair bundled together on an individual’s head. It might be worn loose or pulled tight, bound by a casual length of string or secured with a mass-produced elastic. It might be positioned at any number of spots: the nape of one’s neck, the crown of...

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1. What Shall We Wear for Tennis?

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pp. 15-46

After “vanquishing a young lady at lawn tennis, though in his judgment she was the better player,” Major Wingfield, “the English gentleman who generally has the credit of being the inventor of Lawn Tennis,” sought to understand why he emerged the victor. And so, following the 1881 match...

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2. Commercial Tampons and the Sportswoman, 1936–52

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pp. 47-72

Tennis underwent tremendous change after the 1960s. Television, corporate sponsorship, and the “open era” (bringing together amateur and professional players at Grand Slam events) all played important roles. Women continued to buck convention, bringing unprecedented strength and athleticism to the...

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3. Rules, Rulers, and the "Right Kind" of Competition

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pp. 73-102

For nearly a century, female physical educators provided athletic opportunities for girls and women. They offered programs for their students to learn about and experience physical activity in ways that contested residual beliefs about female frailty. At the same time, these leaders made sure students developed...

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4. Women's Sport and Questionable Sex

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pp. 103-122

I do not know why Santhi Soundarajan attempted suicide in September 2007, though many speculate it had something to do with the “sex test” she was forced to take at the 2006 Asian Games. Following the Indian athlete’s second-place finish in the 800-meter race, officials compelled Soundarajan...

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5. From "Women in Sports" to the "New Ideal of Beauty"

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pp. 123-148

The advent of sex testing and the National Institutes in the 1960s were attempts to control gender normativity in the face of an undeniable and impending explosion in women’s sport participation. Both were important precursors to what many felt was an athletic “revolution” in the 1970s, an...

6. A Cultural History of the Sports Bra

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pp. 149-166

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7. Something to Cheer About?

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pp. 167-186

I attended my first competitive cheerleading contest at the University of Maryland with only a rudimentary understanding of what to expect. It was 2010 and, seven years earlier, the Terrapins became the first collegiate program to grant the sport varsity status. I had no doubt that the women who...

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pp. 187-200

The summer of 2012 was one of remarkable consequence. June 23 marked the fortieth anniversary of Title IX. It was an occasion for retrospective, introspective, and prospective analyses, a time to marvel at the tremendous growth of women’s sport, a reminder to keep vigilant about persistent inequities...


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pp. 201-238


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pp. 239-270

Index, About the Author, Series Page, Back Cover

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p. 271

E-ISBN-13: 9780252095962
E-ISBN-10: 0252095960
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038167

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Sport and Society
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OCLC Number: 871039990
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Qualifying Times

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sports for women -- United States -- History.
  • Sports for women -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Women athletes -- United States -- History.
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