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Title:What we talk about when we talk about the locker room: Women sportswriters' stories
Author(s):Bruce, Toni
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Greendorfer, Susan L.
Department / Program:Kinesiology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Women's Studies
Psychology, Industrial
Abstract:Every week, hundreds of women sportswriters enter male sports locker rooms without incident as they gather post-game quotes from players and coaches. Locker room interactions comprise less than 10 per cent of most women sportswriters' jobs yet they have profoundly impacted women writers' lives.
Based on in-depth interviews with 27 female sportswriters and a close reading of more than 100 newspaper and magazine articles, this study explores how locker room interactions have affected women sportswriters since the late 1960s. Using Norman Denzin's (1989) interpretive interactionist approach, I attempted to understand women sportswriters' worlds from within--through their eyes, using their language and frameworks for understanding.
My analysis revealed that women sportswriters' lives are far more dynamic and diverse than is apparent from media representations. Changes in women sportswriters' understandings of the locker room and their experiences within it have been marked by ruptures: public moments that have catapulted writers into new ways of seeing. Three key moments mark shifts in understanding from seeing the locker room first as inaccessible, then as a male space in which athletes' definitions dominate, and recently as a public space in which women writers' and athletes' definitions hold equal weight. The first rupture was Sports Illustrated writer Melissa Ludtke's successful 1978 lawsuit which forced the New York Yankees to provide her with equal access to athletes. The second involved the 1990 media "feeding frenzy" over the locker room harassment of Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson by naked New England Patriots players, and the third was a result of the 1991 public debate around Anita Hill's testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Women sportswriters draw upon a variety of resources to categorize their interactions with male sports personnel, such as cultural context, personal knowledge of the individuals involved, past experience, and the specific characteristics of the encounter, as well as their understandings of the space of the locker room. Behaviors that objectively appear similar, such as players undressing in front of a woman sportswriter, have been categorized by women in each of the four major categories which emerged from my analysis (supportive, professional, teasing/testing or hostile). Hostile interactions cause the most emotional trauma and constitute the majority of stories women tell about the locker room. In hostile interactions, gender relations are revealed in particularly powerful ways, as males reject female sportswriters' professional selves and choose to attack them based solely on gender. Hostile interactions cause epiphanic, or turning point, moments in writers' lives, and may lead to gradual or abrupt changes in careers. Despite their ongoing discomfort, however, women writers support the dominant sports journalism belief that locker room access is vital to good reporting.
Finally, my analysis revealed a huge contrast in women sportswriters' understandings of themselves and those of the public and male sports personnel. Many men appear to believe women writers are sexually aroused by locker room interactions and driven by sexual desires for male athletes. Women writers universally reject this interpretation and many appear mystified at how males could imagine a locker room as sexually appealing.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Bruce, Toni
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543542
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543542

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