Sterkenberg, J, and
Knoppers, A (2004) 'Dominant
Discourses About Race/Ethnicity and Gender in
and Performance', in International
Review for the Sociology of Sport,
301 - 21
[Quite an openly
gramscian piece this, unlike
some of the other stuff written by this team. This one displays all the
contradictions, double thinkings, special pleadings and
required to uphold the Holy Writ of Stuart Hall and somehow use it to
messy complex reality].
deprivation follows stereotyping
in Holland based on ethnicity/race and gender. At the
same time [!], group relations are used
to give meaning to experience. The dominant ones support a hierarchy.
Thus 'This discourse of white and male
often dominates the labour market' (301) [only 'often'?]. The
are maintained in a number of discourses, including media accounts.
them 'may not be a conscious process'--
for example white men just see their dominance as 'natural
and self evident' [this lets people
off the hook since no-one needs to be blamed, but are other political
positions also 'unconscious', even
radical oppositional ones? The mission of the wise pedagogue, helping
remove the scales from their eyes lurks here].
dominated by white men.
Sports coverage is popular which means that the media are potentially
in offering hegemonic discourses. A discourse is a series of
'from a particular perspective', citing Fairclough
(302) [presumably some
version of a class perspective?]. Of
course, there may
be [must be?] resistance and alternate
discourses constructed by subjected groups. However, these groups lack
power. Nevertheless, sports coverage will feature multiple discourses,
are 'a "site of struggle"'
(303). [A nice mixture of Marxist
perspectives here. The link with economic power reminds me of the
formula that 'In every epoch, the ruling
ideas are the ideas of the ruling class' of the German Ideology, while
emphasis on struggle is the familiar and much more fashionable
Instead of the need for a radical overthrow of the ruling classes, we
do politics in a genteel academic way by analysing alternate
discourses. Is the
difference in economic power the main issue or not?].
studies which look merely at the
content of sports media, to examine coverage of women's sports and
relations. Generally, the research finds that there are stereotypes,
hierarchy. There is an important difference with sport, however since
differences are formally structured into providing separate events [an issue to which we shall turn in further
discussion of whether discourses reflect practices, or are somehow
variables]. In terms of the coverage of black athletes, themes such as
their 'natural' ability seem common, and
again this connects to the hierarchy of mental and manual labour. Such
partly arises because so many white males occupy important positions in
media. However, there are 'subconscious'
sources of stereotyping as well [so why
don't we analyse them a bit more, especially to see how they are
fairly simple and conscious economic interests?].
course, there are
contradictions [opposing results from
which happened to be easily explained by smuggling in the marxist
contradiction and attaching it to the logical term]. Thus sometimes
women sportspeople are portrayed in a positive way, sometimes black
described primarily in terms of their physicality [and
the McCarthy study is cited here].
However, more conventional stereotypes still persist, and, more
more positive depictions are still balanced by unhelpful ones -- for
women athletes also have to be sexy. [This
is known in the trade as 'Mulvey 2',
following the progression of Laura Mulvey's
work from a
simple combination of Hollywood media as uniformly and necessarily
sexist, to a
recognition that there are contradictions and exceptions to 'the male gaze', to a further argument that
these contradictions and exceptions are still part of overall sexism].
about how audiences read media
representations, though. Social context, and the availability of a
other discourses, seems to be important. Not only that, but gramscian
insists that there must be some sort of opposition
[or else we must face the prospect that
capitalism has won -- but did not Gramsci himself,
actually in someone else's words, urge just
to balance our pessimism of the intellect with optimism of the will?].
white men may read the media in the 'preferred'
way, and this reading might look simply
oppositional readings can arise, and so can negotiated readings [blow me down! We are back to Frank Parkins'
old three-stage model, based on logical possibilities not empirical
McCarthy found that black men can resist dominant commentary, for
another study [Duncan and Brummett (1993)] found that women were also capable of
making 'ironic and sarcastic remarks
about the presented images and the commentary' (305)
[Shades of the famous study of Dallas viewers
therefore arise from complex circumstances.
Immigrants may differ from non immigrants, different ethnic minorities
differ in their readings [and students
might differ in their readings from normal people -- which seems to
largely overlooked in this study, despite the fact that all the
were students]. There are other sources of perceptions apart from the
arising from other social institutions. However, the media is likely to
important and to inform discourses from other institutions. [However, presumably the media still do not
inform oppositional readings?]
research looked at an number of
discourses on gender, ethnicity and sport, with the intention to see if
overlapped with 'hegemonic media discourses' ['hegemonic'
meaning simply dominant ideological, or
necessary cultural struggle?]. A small group of students, both 'white
Dutch' and 'black Surinam - Dutch' were recruited and interviewed
(12 and 11 students respectively). 10 were women, 13 men,
and mostly the
black students had lived in Holland for 10.5 years. Semi structured interviews took place.
analysed to see if themes had
emerged, and these were guided by the research questions, but also
the data -- 'open coding
(Glaser, 1978)' (306). [This
sort of empirical research would offend
an orthodox Marxist, of course -- why root around in what will only be
of ideological 'epiphenomenal' positions?]. Groups were then divided
and black, and men and women. The researchers deliberately looked for
'contradictory evidence' (307), and
sought to classify various data into discourses, including any new
discourses. [This all looks a bit
empiricist to me].
discourses emerged from the study.
The most common one was:
Physicality Discourse'. In terms of
race, black athletes was seen as having different physical
both black and white respondents. They were stronger, had different
bones, body build, or whatever. Exceptions were rare. Oddly, many
seem to think that as bodies change in the future, so would black
overachievement in sport. Overachieving white athletes in sports such
and tennis, were not seen as having different bodies. In terms of
black and white participants assumed that men were physically stronger
women naturally. This justified separate sports for the two genders, but not for the two races. Again,
exceptions were rare. Contradictions included the one over separate
Natural differences were supposed to explain more of the gender
than the racial ones.
This was also common, and
some examples were given even after a formal denial of such differences
black and white people. Mental differences including an ability to
lack of the keen, different attitudes. Sometimes these were developed
result of particular circumstances [as
were physical differences, from slavery], such as the need to find a
college (for Americans). Black students
tended to stress mental attitudes in particular, especially a lack of
confidence, or a competitive instinct. In terms of gender, mental
were less common, although two female black students did say that 'men
women think differently' (310) or have
Tradition Discourse'. Black
people's culture affected their participation, in running, rather than
for example. Only one respondent argued it was possible to escape
culture. Tradition was also used to explain [actually, 'to justify'
female patterns of participation. Separation of the genders was
as good, although some mixed gender sports were also popular. Again,
not extend to the separation of races.
differences between white and black people were seen as responsible,
involvement in expensive sports, for example -- running is cheap,
expensive. Things might be changing, but it is still rare to see black
as prosperous. No such economic discourse was found in explanations of
differences of gender.
findings tell us about hegemony?
The natural physicality discourse was common, sometimes combined with
others. This does overlap with 'a
dominant sport media discourse about race' (313) [although
McCarthy et al found it was
common]. The natural mentality discourse also overlapped, mostly in the
White groups used the arguments. Black students did occasionally use
discourse to blame past patterns of culture and education. In gender
there was less of an overlap with the media mentality discourses,
because 'the natural physical discourse
about gender was seen as the most explanatory' (313).
respondents had another discourse
not reflected in sports media discourse -- the arguments that certain
attitudes differ. In particular, white students tended to view black
as having a positive mental attitude which could be combined with hard
produce success. This is important locally, in Holland,
perhaps, but less common in sport media.
This '"hard work theme' (313)
"may be part of a negotiated reading'
[this could be read as a desperate attempt to reclaim it for
hard work seemed might be responsible for the widespread admiration for
Jordan. This hard work theme could also be interpreted
'as white resistance to hegemonic (physical)
discourse that stereotypes
immigrants in a negative way' (314). [This is the first time we have
white resistance of this rather liberal kind. Where does it come from?
simply a discourse that you would find among students?]
dominate here. There are
differences between Dutch and American media discourses, however. Yet
be that respondents were referring to the American media discourses,
American athletes. A variable here might be whether the groups watch
or more American sports coverage [a bit
late to have discovered this problem?]. It seems that the Dutch media 'tend to use a natural physicality discourse
more often', which could explain non-resisting responses by the Surinam-Dutch
students. Surinam-Dutch athletes are
more common in Dutch sport media. [Real
convoluted special pleading here!].
black over-achievement in
athletics as a combination of history, and the existence of only a few
opportunities, and black students in this study echoed those [I'm not all sure what is being argued here!
Black students agree with academic accounts? Academic accounts are also
examples of hegemonic discourses? The whole thing seems designed to
the disappointing finding that black students in this sample are not
responding with hegemonic or oppositional readings]. White people in
also attract a few negative comments, including that they don't
work hard or enter particular sports!
There is a
methodological problem too. 'In part these
discourses may have been
elicited by the interviewer who asked specifically about white over -
- representation' (314). [Along comes
this methodological problem, just in time to explain the puzzlingly
commentary on white underachievement]. Perhaps it would have been best
at only black representation [certainly,
if you want to maintain a simple view that white culture is always seen
superior in sports media]. Cultural tradition was used more
explain gender differences, usually in combination with the natural
discourse [in other words culture simply
follows physical differences?]. [Thank goodness! Conventional hegemony
seems to hold up with gender!]
Hall says there must
be contradictions, and the
study found some [no surprises here then].
it is not clear whether or ideologies create structures all the other
around. Gender differences in separate sport were seen as a result of
ideological physicality discourses. However, this ideology was not used
argue for separate black-and-white sports. When it came to discussing
the existing separation between the genders was taken as the starting
but not with racial differences. 'The
respondents seem to be searching for reasons to argue why the existing
structure should not be changed' [which raises doubts about the whole
exercise, of course -- respondents were supposed to be simply giving
naive and sincere views]. Existing structures may have influenced
Other factors might
have influenced discourses
too, including the globalised American media and its specific concerns
African-Americans. The American conception of race is not used in the
as it is in Holland --'... an ethnicity paradigm informs dominant
Dutch discourses', and the context is provided by immigration. [Just in case you might be tempted to
consider Dutch discourse as more liberal than American discourse,
authors explain that the notion of ethnicity arises from a discomfort
Dutch colonialism]. Thus 'the use of
words in interviews such as "race" and "black/white" by
researchers may have place the focus on American instead of Dutch
(316). Dutch interpretations might use different classifications.
are likely to be less
different at the local and global level, however. But Dutch differences
important, and in particular Dutch schools have made a real effort
with 'non-competitive and mixed gender
competition' (316). [What? Liberal reforms have made a difference?].
Experiences at school might differ from television representations.
this experience did not minimise the natural physicality discourse --
experience was overwhelmed by national and global media?
Overall, there is
some support for the view
that the media do inform hegemonic discourses, yet there was evidence
negotiated reading. There is more overlap with discourses about gender.
structure of sport seems to be important as well, as providing
alternative discourses. The focus of the actual study perhaps also
more attention to white culture than would be the case normally, and
the use of
terms such as 'race' raises problems in Holland.
However, luckily, 'The current study is...
nature... [and]... Further research... is needed before any definite
conclusions can be made' (317).
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