Gender & Sports

When I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, sports was defined by and for boys and men. The few girls and women who played sports were either ignored or stigmatized. That began to change dramatically in the early 1970s, as the women’s movement stimulated a continuing burst of participation by girls and women. This historic shift—and the idea that sport is a “contested terrain” of gender, sexual, and racial meanings—has animated much of my work.

First, I have explored sport as a site where the social meanings of “masculinity” are played out—including men’s institutional power and privilege, the “costs” of masculinity (including bodily injuries and emotional/relational costs), and differences and inequalities among men, especially those constructed by social class, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientations.

Second, I have sought to study sport not as some separate and insulated “sportsworld,” but rather, in the ways that it connects and resonates with, and sometimes contradicts other aspects of social life, including off-field gender-based violence, the gender socialization of children, and how parents’ participation in youth sports meshes with their own work and family divisions of labor and gender beliefs.

Selected Books

Cheryl Cooky & Michael A. Messner (2018) No slam dunk: Gender, sport, and the unevenness of social change. Rutgers University Press. (View Book)
Michael A. Messner & Michela Musto, Eds. (2016) Child’s Play: Sport in Kids’ Worlds. Rutgers University Press. (View Book)
Michael A. Messner (2009) It’s all for the kids: Gender, families and youth sports. Berkeley: University of California Press. (View Book)
Michael A. Messner (2007) Out of play: Critical essays on gender and sport. State University of New York Press.  (View Book)
Michael A. Messner (2002) Taking the field: Women, men, and sports. University of Minnesota Press. (View Book)
Michael A. Messner (1992) Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. (View Book)

Selected Articles (See also Sports Media page)

Michael A. Messner & Michela Musto (2014) “Where are the kids?” Sociology of Sport Journal 31: 102-122. (Download)
Michael A. Messner (2014) “Gender relations and sport: Local, national, transnational,” pp. 17-35 in Mariann Vaczi, ed. Playfields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport. Reno, Nevada: Center for Basque Studies Press. (Download)
Michael A. Messner (2011) “Gender ideologies, youth sports, and the production of soft essentialism,” Sociology of Sport Journal 28: 151-170. (Download)
Michael A. Messner & Suzel Bozada-Deas (2009) “Separating the men from the moms: The making of adult sex segregation in youth sports” Gender & Society 23: 49-71. (Download)
Michael A. Messner & Nancy M. Solomon (2007) “Social justice and men’s interests: The case of Title IX.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues: 31: 162-178. (Download)
Michael A. Messner (2005) “The triad of violence in men’s sports,” in E. Buchwald, P. R. Fletcher & M. Roth, eds. Transforming A Rape Culture (Milkweed Editions). (Download)
Michael A. Messner (2000) “Barbie Girls vs. Sea Monsters: Children Constructing Gender,” Gender & Society 14: 765-784. (Download)
Michael A. Messner (1996) “Studying Up On Sex,” Sociology of Sport Journal 13: 221-237. (Download)
Michael Messner (1990) “When bodies are weapons: Masculinity and violence in Sport,” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 25: 203-218. (Download)
Michael Messner (1989) “Masculinities and Athletic Careers,” Gender & Society 3: 71-88. (Download)
Michael Messner (1988) “Sports and Male Domination: The Female Athlete as Contested Ideological Terrain,” in Sociology of Sport Journal 5 (3) September, pp. 197-211. (Download)