(Un)natural athletes: The rhetoric of gender performances in sports and the media
Schwertner, Amanda J.
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This thesis works to challenge the dominant cultural conceptions. I will show how we view bodies and how the person, their character, and ability are read through sporting performances. The thesis focuses on how “masculine” performances are communicated in the media. I analyze two texts, one masculine and one feminine, in order to show how the media (re)produces gender ideologies in relation to athletic bodies. I analyze both texts using a critical cultural lens in order to uncover the role the body plays in the evaluation of the athletes and their performances. The analysis revealed that there are deep seated cultural ideologies related to speed, toughness, autonomy, and domination associated with sports discourses. The first analysis shows how this preoccupation with masculinity pushes male athletes to disregard their bodies and push through in order to play where as the second analysis shows how female athletes cause a dissonance when they exhibit the same characteristics. Female athletes often find their gender and biological sex in question when they do perform well and push themselves to their physical limits. This has more to do with the fact that the gender differences are located in the physical bodies of the athletes rather than there being an actual issues with biological sex. Gender ideologies are pervasive in our culture and they are hard to overcome, even when we are aware they are there. I propose of new definition of sports related violence, one that takes into account violence done to the self and other in order to have the physical body adhere to the cultural norm. I also call for a rhetoric of fairness and equality that not only refers to issues of race, class, and gender, but also of mind and body, one that can help us “overcome” the dualistic notions we still hold of the body and takes into account the natural variations and experiences of the human body.