POWER AT PLAY: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity by Michael A. Messner

POWER AT PLAY: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Fuzzy, argot-driven tract on men and sport. Messner (Sociology/Univ. of Southern California) introduces his feminist-inspired analysis with the premise that neither sports nor masculinity are biological in essence but are social creations. For his study, Messner selected 30 male former athletes who, he says, based their identity on athletic roles and ""therefore...had 'athletic careers'"" (although a dozen did not play past high school). Using self-proclaimed ""feminist"" methodology (""both interviewer and interviewee should benefit""), Messner asked his subjects to talk about their sports experiences. Although he worried he was getting a better deal than his subjects (""The intimate information...would help me complete my Ph.D. degree, write a book, and launch my career as a sociologist""), he decided that the interviewees were receiving a ""learning experience."" With his small sample--unhindered by standard research methodologies of random selection, structured interviews, etc.--Messner buttresses his conception of ""feminist psychoanalytic theory."" Taking snippets from the interviews, he discusses topics such as: ""Playing Hurt"" (athletes have an ""alienated"" relationship with their bodies); ""Recreational Drugs"" (""Alcohol...can give men permission to 'open up'""); ""Sexuality and Sexual Identity"" (""the erotic bond between men is neutralized through overt homophobia and [by using] women as objects of sexual talk and practice""); and ""The Challenge of Female Athleticism"" (""its challenge to sport's construction of hegemonic masculinity has been largely defused""). Not surprisingly, the conclusion of Messner's ""research"" is that, for sport to be ""humanized,"" boys and girls must be nurtured equally with the work shared by both parents, and ""all our social institutions"" reorganized to maximize equality. An ideological document masquerading as a research study, focused solely on the downside of sports and ignoring its benefits.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1992
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Beacon