Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports
Eileen McDonagh & Laura Pappano, Authors; Published: 2007 by Oxford University Press; 349 pages; ISBN-13: 978-0195386776
Book Review by Paige Nehls
Why do we not accept the ‘separate but equal’ stance when it comes to race, but encourage and expect it when it comes to sex? This book is a brilliant argument about why we should not accept either. The ties the authors make between the historical and present oppression of women and other marginalized groups is a great example of why feminism must be intersectional.
The central argument of Playing With the Boys is that how women are perceived and treated on the athletic field translates off of the field and dominates most Americans’ lives – whether they know it or not. Women are never given the same amount of seriousness, training, equipment quality, and requirements when it comes to athletics, so it is no wonder that women do not compete at the same level as men. That does not mean we can’t, however.
Women have always been put in shorter races, older facilities, and told that their pursuits surely must come second to being a wife or mother. This way of thinking has become so engrained into our subconscious that we don’t even realize how dangerous it is to our liberation.
There must be an end to coercive sex-segregation in sports and in life. The authors propose a multi-step process to ending this gross disparity between the sexes that involves letting the historically marginalized group seek segregation, but only if they choose to and have the option of being integrated with the dominant group.
Playing With The Boys proposes that only when women are treated the same as men in athletics – an area of life so glorified in American culture – can we hope to be treated as equals in all other aspects of our lives. It is an absolute must-read for those wishing to enlighten themselves about the invisible ways sexism pervades every aspect of our lives.