- Women’s Sport: What Everyone Needs to Know® by Jaime Schultz
Jaime Schultz’s Women’s Sport is the 103rd entry in Oxford’s “What Everyone Needs to Know®” series and is the second volume to address sport, following Robert L. Simon’s 2016 contribution, The Ethics of Sport. Like the 102 books in the series that precede it—which cover diverse topics ranging from antibiotics to Venezuela and white privilege with a variety of topics including overfishing and physician-assisted death in between—Schultz’s entry is organized in a question-and-answer format. According to the publisher’s website, this format is “ideal for college students, professionals, and inquiring minds alike.”
Beyond summarizing women’s challenges and successes in sport, the book is characterized by an intersectional approach typical of Schultz’s past work addressing gender, women, and sport, which analyzes competing inequalities that intersect sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, class, power, religion, and so on. In Women’s Sport, Schultz acknowledges the primarily American-centric approach typical of works addressing women’s sport and avoids claiming issues in U.S. sport are representative of the issues women face globally. In doing so, the book recognizes the multiple identities women athletes and sports administrators hold and tackles difficult subjects, including women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and heteronormative stereotypes.
Schultz organized the book along eleven thematic chapters: 1. Why Women’s Sport Matters; 2. Women’s Sport History; 3. Title IX; 4. Gender; 5. Sexualities; 6. Sex Segregation; 7. Olympics and Paralympic Games; 8. Media; 9. Professional Opportunities; 10. Sport-Health Connections; and 11. Next Steps, with each chapter positing and answering four to eleven questions. Despite the formulaic organizational approach, a hallmark and requirement of the series, Schultz successfully weaves throughout the book the idea that “sport remains stratified along lines of sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, impairment, geography, and social class” (169). Contrary to many sources on women’s sport, which present the experiences of middle-class cisgender white athletes exclusively and as the norm, Schultz includes in her analysis the contributions and struggles of women of color, differently abled women, and women identifying as queer.
Sport historians will find the second and third chapters, addressing sport history and Title IX, respectively, most relevant. Focusing on past and current impacts of women’s exclusion from sport spaces, Schultz argues convincingly that sport continues to objectify and exploit women athletes and reinforce heteronormative stereotypes of conventional femininity. Questions such as “what were the medical rationales for keeping women out of sport?” (17) and “when and how did physical educators change their collective philosophy about competitive sport for girls and women?” (27) show that, despite the question-and-answer format, the book is far from simply a work of women’s sport history trivia. The critique of Title IX is one of the most succinct and compelling analyses of Title IX’s impacts, both historically and today.
While some readers might quibble about the lack of inclusion of references to many influential sport historians’ foundational works, given the breadth of topics covered in under three hundred pages while emphasizing current controversies, it is not possible to give a nod to all the foundational trail-blazing authors and articles addressing women’s [End Page 102] sport. Much of the bibliography comprises electronic open-access websites, reports, and journals, which is helpful for readers without access to articles requiring paid subscriptions.
After ten eye-opening chapters highlighting the struggles, inequities, and problems that were historically present and remain today in sport, the final chapter reaches a cautiously optimistic note. Schulz concludes:
The range of sports available to women, their visibility, the continual smashing of social, medical, and aesthetic rationales against their participation, the growing acceptance of powerful sportswomen, and the move to include more women in leadership positions all speak volumes about how far things have come. At the same time, however, congratulations should not give way to complacency. Despite all the gains women have...