“We Made You Pay Attention”: Media Representations of Sex Segregation and Male Practice Players in Women’s College Basketball

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Laura UPENIEKS, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
Ioana SENDROIU, University of Toronto, Canada
To take a step forward and move beyond the bounds of sex segregation and its stringent grip on sport, we need to both imagine and implement spaces for competition between women and men. This paper gives close consideration to the interaction between male practice players and elite NCAA Division 1 female basketball players in the United States, through a content analysis of media articles on the subject. We analyze 122 news articles using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a software program comprised of a set of database dictionaries that reflect psychologically meaningful linguistic categories. Our findings suggest that in contrast to NCAA committees that have raised concerns that this practice subordinates female athletes, the media has portrayed the practice in a largely positive light. We find that the media largely ignore the ways in which the use of male practice players reinforces gender essentialism, instead highlighting the friendships that develop as part of these cross-gender interactions. Moreover, the use of male practice players is advocated in terms of its diffuse rewards or benefits rather than success or failure. While the use of male practice players may be a way to challenge sex segregation in sport, much more work is needed to understand the “promises and pitfalls” of gender integration in sport.