Laura Pappano, co-author with Eileen McDonagh of Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports, is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and The Washington Post. Pappano and McDonagh’s book is about how women have been unfairly excluded from participating in sports on an equal footing with men. The book calls for sex-sensible policies in sports as a crucial step towards achieving equality for men and women in our society.
From a Q & A at the OUP Blog:
Read the entire Q & A.
OUPblog: What first inspired you to write this book?
Laura Pappano: Eileen and I first began discussing the connection between the “rules” around how sports are organized and how this related to power structures in politics when we were both visiting scholars at The Murray Center at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. As a kid playing on a boy’s newspaper carrier league baseball team I’d felt firsthand that sense of not being considered equal (even though I played as well as any of my teammates) just because of my gender. I stole a base once and the other team was so upset they wanted me to go back - and then my own teammates (who didn’t like having a girl on “their” team) told me to go back, too. I refused. Every game and practice was an opportunity for me to be reminded by my teammates that I was intruding on their territory. I can’t tell you how many car rides home (one of the boy’s moms was the manager who drove us) I spent staring down at my shorts and sitting in silence as they teased. In good ways (I played field hockey at Yale) and bad I have seen the power of sports to influence who we are and what opportunities and status we have available to us. Sports matter too much to be allowed to stand unchallenged in their role as enforcers of gender inequality.
OUP: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing females in sports?
Pappano: The biggest challenge is that women are often afraid to challenge the status quo for fear of losing what “progress” has been made. The problem is that we have codified a system of organized sports which places male athletes at the center and female athletes at the periphery.