Athletic contests help define what we mean in America by "success." By keeping women from "playing with the boys" on the false assumption that they are inherently inferior, society relegates them to second-class citizens. In this forcefully argued book, Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano show in vivid detail how women have been unfairly excluded from participating in sports on an equal footing with men. Using dozens of powerful examplesgirls and women breaking through in football, ice hockey, wrestling, and baseball, to name just a fewthe authors show that sex differences are not sufficient to warrant exclusion in most sports, that success entails more than brute strength, and that sex segregation in sports does not simply reflect sex differences, but actively constructs and reinforces stereotypes about sex differences. For instance, women's bodies give them a physiological advantage in endurance sports, yet many Olympic events have shorter races for women than men, thereby camouflaging rather than revealing women's strengths.
McDonagh (political science, Northeastern Univ.; Breaking the Abortion Deadlock) and journalist Pappano convincingly argue the notion that sports, like politics, higher education, and employment generally, should provide equal opportunity for women. Athletics-the last bastion where segregation by sex is tolerated-are so important in American society that women's marginalization there impedes their social progress. The authors discuss at length how Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits exclusion-on the basis of sex-from any program receiving federal moneys, got more women playing but actually made sex-segregated teams more common. Marshaling facts, research, and opinions from biology, history, sociology, law, media, and psychology, the authors make their feminist argument more plausibly than does Colette Dowling in The Frailty Myth. By the last third of the book, they really hit their stride, cogently proposing that if occupationalequality laws allow for BFOQ (Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications), then sports can provide for BFAQs for athletic qualifications, with some exceptions specified. Highly recommended for all academic libraries.