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Record Type: Review   ID: 230

Women and Sport: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Costa, D. Margaret, & Guthrie, Sharon R. (Eds.).

 This scholarly compendium edited by two California State University professors was inspired by their students, who required a text such as this. They "examine three major sub-disciplinary areas in sport and exercise science: historical and cultural foundations, biomedical considerations, and psychological and social dimensions" (p. xi). The editors aim is not simply to present what is known about women’s sporting experience from a multidisciplinary perspective but also to raise questions and point out "the implications for future research and practice" that in themselves will generate further questions for discussion and study. Certainly the historical section breaks new ground in both depth and breadth of coverage, far surpassing the usual cursory coverage, and relating women’s sport to social and cultural factors. The section on biomedical considerations offers in-depth treatment of key aspects of female physiology relevant to sports activities, such as body composition, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and endurance, and the relation of exercise to bone health. The last section, "Psychological and Social Dimensions," is most relevant to the concerns of this Journal. Although the chapters cite research findings where possible, new ground is being broken in all the areas covered, and so emphasis is rightfully placed on the various theories that will facilitate progress in enabling women athletes to gain equality with their male counterparts at as many levels as possible, not in the sense of competing with males but rather enabling women to experience their full potential in sports participation at the physical, psychological, social, and—it is to be hoped—spiritual/cosmic levels. The book closes with a discussion of "sport as a site for social struggle." Perhaps because at this stage in its evolution, women are necessarily locked in this social struggle for freedom to be in sport, there is no mention of exceptional human experience in women’s sports. Michael Novak’s book, The Joy of Sports, is cited as an example of romanticizing sport and in so doing obstructing "critical analysis of the role sport plays in reproducing social inequities" (p. 362). The last chapter deals specifically with transformation, but it is used in connection with the transformation of gender relations in sports. At a time when men are revealing more transformation and exceptional experiences in sport, women are strangely silent. I have had at least one exceptional experience I have never forgotten. I have heard some women relate their experiences. There is a great need for research on transcendent experiences of women ocurring while they are engaged in sport.
Publisher Information:Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994. 400p. Chap. bibl; 17 figs; 48 illus; Index: 377-393; 19 tables
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