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Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports [Hardcover]

Eileen McDonagh , Laura Pappano
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 25, 2007 0195167562 978-0195167566 1
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 examples--girls and women breaking through in football, ice hockey, wrestling, and baseball, to name just a few--the 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.

Frequently Bought Together

Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports + Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America
Price for both: $85.92

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Editorial Reviews


"A serious examination of the role of gender politics in sports."--The Nation

"Convincingly argue[s] the notion that sports, like politics, higher education, and employment generally, should provide equal opportunity for women... 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... Highly recommended."--Library Journal

"Playing with the Boys dismantles the common assumption that women must be inferior to men when it comes to sports. McDonagh and Pappano impressively show how this deep stereotype has no grounds and why it's so important we get rid of it."--Donna Brazile, author of Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics

"This is one of those rare gems of a book that makes you entirely reassess what you thought you knew. Provocative, absorbing and meticulously argued, Playing with the Boys questions the received wisdom about Title IX and women's sports from the most unexpected perspective. Read the book."--Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Stephen and Evalyn Milman Professor of American Studies, Cornell University and author of Faithful and Fearless: Moving Feminist Protest inside the Church and Military

"McDonagh and Pappano hit a home-run! This book shows that coerced sex segregation in sports does not benefit women, and in fact holds back women who are fully capable of competing with men--and that flies in the face of U.S. ideals of equality. Readers will never think of Title IX in the same way again."--Kim Gandy, President, National Organization for Women (NOW)

"This is a wonderful work! It offers novel evidence from biology, history, and the law that makes us realize that women's sports are not only intrinsically interesting as a topic of study, but also a key part of larger debates about who we are as a society and a nation."--Kristin Goss, Assistant Professor of Public Policy Studies and Political Science, Duke University and author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America

"In this informative, well-written book, [McDonagh and Pappano]...offer relevant information critical to understanding the role of gender in sport. The authors not only define the specifics of the problem but also probe questions associated with the formulation of gender roles... Offering conceptual frameworks, case studies, and practical applications, this book will be valuable both as a textbook and in libraries supporting the study of sports and gender, including sociological aspects... Highly recommended."--CHOICE

"A strong case history about the inequalities that existed for female athletes not only in the 1800s and 1900s, but also today."--The Chicago Sun-Times

"Makes a dynamic case for reshuffling our gendered assumptions about sports."--Bust Magazine

"Start thinking about the issues they raise and you may never stop."--The New York Times

"This exhaustively researched, historically informed book represents an important step in the debate surrounding gender equity in sport." --Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

About the Author

Eileen McDonagh is Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. She is the author of Breaking the Abortion Deadlock and The Motherless State.

Laura Pappano is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and The Washington Post. She is the author of The Connection Gap and is currently a writer-in-residence at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195167562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195167566
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read - things I never thought about! December 9, 2007
This book takes an in-depth look at the history of sports and womens inequalities and how far women have come. But it really make you realize how far women have to go. It is jam packed with examples of how segregating sports has lead to completely unequal treatment and how this not only effects top athletes but also all women. Women have proven over and over that they are not inferior in other areas - why is the sports arena any different? Let the games begin! I especially liked this book because the facts are so interesting and the authors presents them in a way that makes the book entertaining as well as informative. Anyone interested in gender equality would enjoy this book.
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I wonder what the authors of this excellent and thought provoking book would think about me and my country. I come from the UK where girls can by law be stopped from "playing with the boys" because women as a group are considered inferior. I used this law to threaten my school so me and my freinds could stop two girls from trying out for my school's soccer team. We even took advice from one of our fathers (a lawyer). The school backed down and we were very proud of ourselves. That was in 1997. I never thought we did anything wrong. Until I read this book.
Although this book is mainly about the US I woud still recommend it to non Americans as a lot of the issues they raise cut acros national borders. One issue is the practice of having different rules for male and female versions of the same sport. Until i read this book I never even thought of this so ingrained is the practice but some of the differences are ridiculous. There are plenty of examples in the book but I'll give one that has occured since the book was published. At the best Olympics ever - London 2012 - women's boxing made its (very popular) debut. Fights for women last 4 2 minute rounds. For men it is 3 3 minute rounds. Is it really believeable female boxers can't fight for an extra minute without needing a break, or that they need an extra break? Male and female versions of the same sport must have the same rules They are right.
If that is uncontroversial, another of their ideas is not. They propose that women should be able both to "play with the boys" and play in single sex teams. My gut instict was to think "Typical feminists. They want it all their own way" But.. this already happens in sport. Just substitute age for gender.
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By SIlo
This book does a good job at bringing you into the topic, but then gets a little dry.  If you can stick with it the whole time it is actually an awesome bit of information to learn.  I would recommend this book as a great educational piece, but there is not an overload of  excitement.    I think that there is a reasonable amount of Fact, Annotations and Politics to make it a good story. The duo of authors have a good opinion and an awesome way of conveying it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Provocative July 6, 2008
This is a courageous book. The Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano illustrate how our stereotypical thinking about Women in sports can diminish not only the great accomplishments of women athletes, but shows how our views have been shaped by unsportman-like events in politics and by the media. This is not about men vs women, or a treatise on how the sexes should compete. It is simply a well researched and common sense read that challenges us to re think what sports is all about in America. It keeps the focus on what is important; Sports.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating take on sports in American society May 14, 2008
Even if you don't like sports, you should read this book because it is about a lot more than games. It argues powerfully that sports matters in American society and that it is an entrenched bastion of sex segregated policies that perpetuate false assumptions that women are inferior to men. Yes, of course , there are sex group differences, but those differences don't explain the myriad rules, regulations, and prohibitions that make a person's sex, rather than ability, the first criterion when assigning team membership. While you can probably guess at the obvious in ridiculous sex segregation (billiards, for example) there are also stories and abilities that will surprise you. Read it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Pass This Up!! January 9, 2008
By Natalie
Hooray for McDonagh and Pompano, they clearly have done their homework.
They articulate the meaning of "Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports".
This book makes you reassess what you thought you knew. Being on a
women's ice hockey team I feel this book really is uplifting and hits
home in how sports is really a battlefield in the fight for gender
equality, and that it encourages sex integration rather than sex
segregation. Also, it depicts the attitudes of our culture toward women
as they have strived to achieve equality in this country. "The writers have achieved an absorbing read for anyone interested in women's journey toward sports equality."
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a bold, thorough and unsparing account of coercive sex segregation in sports, both overt and insidious. The common current (and past) practices and beliefs about women's necessary 'places' on the field are called out and examined with great clarity. You may not think you need to be persuaded that women's coerced separation from men in sports is unfair and wrong; this reader belonged in that category. The facts and the argument they thoroughly support are nonetheless stunning, and enable the reader to reexamine the topic on a level both personal and political.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Segregation is Un-American
Proponents of racial segregation more often than not protested that their motivation was not prejudice or fear but science fact. Read more
Published on March 27, 2008 by R. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars So you think you've considered every angle on gender and sports?
Well, think again. Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano have produced a highly provocative and stimulating thesis opposed to segregated boys and girls sports. Read more
Published on January 10, 2008 by Stephen Quatrano
5.0 out of 5 stars finally separate is not equal!
Finally a legally sound, cogent and rational argument for sports equality. The Supreme Court established over fifty yeas ago that separate is not equal: period! Read more
Published on December 16, 2007 by ilovad
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour de Force that Illuminates Equality of Women in Sports
Impeccably researched, filled with lively anecdote and written with conviction and passion, this book made me confront my own conplacency when it comes to the treatment of women in... Read more
Published on December 15, 2007 by Roaming Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars Clever Hoax
Is this book a hoax, ala Alan Sokal's in the infamous "Social Text" Affair? The authors' arguments are preposterous: to "desegregate" all sports, to abolish the "discriminatory"... Read more
Published on December 15, 2007 by Jerusalemite
1.0 out of 5 stars Proof is in the pudding
This book perpetuates a myth. It argues that somehow society's treatment and opinion is responsible for an athlete's superiority or inferiority. Read more
Published on December 10, 2007 by C. R. Parker
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