Olympic Games (2): sport and sex(ism)… And synonyms and related search terms

16 Aug

The moment colleague Janneke Staaks drew my attention to the post What’s wrong with the media coverage of women olympians, published on the blog of Northeastern University media researcher Sarah J. Jackson, being myself busy with the sport-and-race topic of my previous post, I thought that addressing the issue of sex(ism) and sport could prove as interesting. And so it did.

Sarah J. Jackson’s post – a highly reccomended one – brought me, among others, to the column (London Olympics 2012: here’s 20 jolly good reasons to feel cheerful about the Games) London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote on last 15th August for The Telegraph, with as jolly-good-reason number 19 the following: «As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers».

Though appreciating Johnson’s reference to the work of one of my favourite 18th Century Venetian artists, I couldn’t help feeling some discomfort with the ‘glistening wet otters’, a comparison which made me think back to Italian footballer Antonio Cassano’s publicly abusing homosexuals as ‘froci’ or to Dutch trainer Frank de Boer’s assertions regarding gay people’s conspicuous locomotion and their being less sporty. (Both sportsmen later apologised; I don’t know about London Mayor).

A truly intercultural topic – USA, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands – which proves nicely relevant with regard to information literacy as well. The multidisciplinarity of the issues at stake (communication, sexuality, sport sociology etc.) does namely correspond to the sheer variety of search terms you can think of… even without recurring to animals or insults.

The list of subject terms suggested by the database Sociological Abstracts when running a search for peer reviewed articles on “sexism in sport” is astounding: females‎, athletes‎, sex differences‎, racism‎, sports participation‎, news coverage, professional sports‎, sexual inequality‎, college sports‎, masculinity‎, mass media images‎, sex stereotypes‎, opposite sex relationss, males‎, sports teams‎, television‎, sex/sexes/sexism/sexist/sexists‎, sex role attitudes‎, feminism‎, olympic games‎, language usage‎, social reproduction‎, mass media effects, homophobia‎, naming practices‎, athlete/athletic/athletics‎, patriarchy‎, adolescents‎, feminist theory‎, mass media‎, sport/sporting/sports, sportsmanship, ethnography, sexuality‎, discrimination‎, stereotypes‎, attitudes‎, physical education‎, asian cultural groups, magazines‎, lesbianism‎, leisure‎, discourse‎, role models‎, woman/women, journalists‎, high school students, sex roles‎, sex role identity‎, colleges‎, social problems‎, assimilation‎, womens rights, american indians, conversation‎, aggression‎, age differences‎, sociocultural factors‎, sociology of sports‎, culture/cultures/cultural/ culturally‎, black white differences‎, death‎, spectators‎, embodiment‎, student attitudes‎, discursive practices‎, teacher attitudes‎, universities‎, programming (broadcast)‎, occupational roles‎, norms‎, nontraditional occupations‎, race‎, newspapers‎, role/roles‎, nationalism‎, male/males, man, minority groups‎, methodological problems‎, resistance‎, membership‎, physical fitness‎, social history‎, hegemony‎, physical characteristics, heterosexism‎, performance‎, sexual harassment‎.

In other words ( 🙂 ): choosing a topic to do research on is not only a matter of conveniently limiting it (geographically, historically, socially etc, see my previous post) but also to think of as many search terms as possible which may be related to the topic. Both these activities together represent a crucial initial stage in any search for scholarly information on a specific topic (have a look at the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, with number one & two being the ones applying in the present case).

Photo’s: Australia’s first women Olympians, Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie, swimming gold and silver medalists in 1912, from the collections of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and American Greg Louganis, openly gay athlete, gold medalist in diving in 1984 and 1988 (image), from the official site of the Olympic Movement.


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