Document Type

Book Chapter

Book Authors/Editors

Frank Rudy Cooper & Ann C. McGinley


New York University Press

Publication Date



This paper uses the lens of masculinities theory to examine the connections between sport and masculinity and considers how law both reinforces and intervenes in sport’s production of masculinity. The paper urges moving beyond a "women vs. men" framework for examining gender equality in sport to include critical study of sport’s relationship to masculinities. The primary law examined in this chapter is Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972, which is widely (and properly) credited with the explosive growth of women’s sports in the intervening decades. While Title IX has greatly expanded the range of culturally valued femininities for women, and broadened the social category of "woman" in the process, it has not broadened the masculinities that sport constructs for male athletes, nor has it made significant inroads into the hyper-masculine ethos that pervades the most-valued men’s sports. The paper draws out several themes that characterize sport’s relationship to masculinity, including: the historic purpose of adding sport to schools in order to produce more masculine boys; the multi-dimensional nature of the masculinities sport constructs; the hierarchies of masculinity within men’s sports; and the costs to even the beneficiaries of a hegemonic masculinity produced through sport. The paper then turns to consider why it is that, despite the massive entry of women into sport in the past four decades, sport’s relationship to masculinity has not significantly changed. The paper examines how several aspects of Title IX reinforce this relationship, including Title IX’s default rules approving of sex-segregated teams and its limited integration rights, and an equal treatment standard that accepts as a baseline the hierarchies within men’s sports that privilege the most masculine sports, football and basketball. The paper then turns to a more promising development in the potential for law to intervene in the production of masculinity, examining recent cases in which Title IX has held educational institutions accountable for the harms caused by extreme performances of hyper-masculinity, including sexual assaults by male athletes of women and of other male athletes. The article notes some reasons for caution, but views this development as a potentially useful intervention into the worst excesses of hegemonic masculinity in sport. Finally, the article urges an examination of the costs of hegemonic masculinity to even those men who benefit from it. Exposing the costs to men of hegemonic masculinity is a critical part of beginning to think about how we might change sport’s relationship to masculinity so as to develop alternative, more democratic masculinities through sport.