Women Athelets in India: A Tale of Intersectional Inequalities

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:44 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Saheli CHOWDHURY , University of Calcutta, India
The present study aims to examine the relevance of analysing the multidimensional experiences of women athletes in India based on their gender, class and sexuality from an intersectional perspective. Intersectional paradigm during the last three decades emerged as a primary analytical tool among feminist scholarship, which explicitly acknowledged differences among women and how diverse social identities of women i.e. class, ethnicity, race,  nationality, religion, sexuality, language along with gender intensify their subordinate experiences within varied spheres of social institution including sports. Susan Birrell advocates that ‘sports’ should be conceived as a critical arena for divulging multifaceted nature of discrimination on women athletes, influenced not by gender alone but also by their multiple social identities which are inextricably linked. In fact, a new proliferation of researches in North American and European societies adopting intersectional approach within sports sociology has brought to the fore on the ‘multiple oppression’ of women athletes. Conversely in India, the interrelationship of sports and gender and more specifically of sports and other social variables has remained an uncharted territory for sociological analysis. The ‘secondary’ or ‘inferior’ status of Indian women athletes which centres on the overriding importance of femininity is furthered by the complex union of class and sexuality. Thus, with the embedded patriarchal ideology as a devoted partner, Indian sociological discourses has legitimized its abortive outlook by failing to document the intersecting experiences of women athletes within the domain of sports. This paper, thus  illustrates,  drawing significant examples from Indian context like, the case of Baby Ghosh, Nisha Rani Dutta, under 14 girls football team and many more, how identities of gender, class and sexuality intersect to accentuate discrimination, reproduce disparate relations, which in turn shape the reality of lives and experiences for Indian women athletes.