chapter  5
20 Pages

Producing girls: Empire, sport, and the neoliberal body

In the years since Title IX, the Education Act of 1972 which mandated equal funding in high school and college sport and which is widely held to have inaugurated the widespread development of girls’ and women’s sport in the US, the global economic structure has undergone two major shifts. First, following the collapse of state socialism and the worldwide consolidation of capitalism, along with the rapid spread of information technologies, the phenomenon of globalization was increasingly explained by the belief that (for its affluent inhabitants) the world was a shared social and economic space, centred on the decline of the nation-state and the growing influence of the multinational corporation; and second, following the events of 11 September 2001,1 there has been a reassertion of geopolitics and state power, but within the context of an already globalized world constructed according to the main tenets of neo-liberalism: (i) that there is no substitute for the market economy; (ii) free trade will benefit the poor; and (iii) that less-developed countries simply lack development capital and that such capital can only flow to these countries in sufficient quantities via private capital markets (Brown 2003: 571-2). This economic context raises a particular set of questions for the discussion of contemporary girls and women in sport in the US: first, to what extent are contemporary definitions of ‘girlhood’ in affluent countries dependent upon the definition of young women as a metaphor for positive social change? To what extent have young women become the poster image of the ‘opportunities’ increased privatization offers – an economic structure in which there is supposedly no further need for feminism? How does the strong, healthy image of the athletic female body reinforce this definition? Second, to what extent do women’s sports advocacy organizations (which, with the severe curtailment of public sources are increasingly dependent on private funding) further the ideology of Empire, making girls’ success in sport the projection of their future success in the corporate world? And third, to what extent might it be said that the image of the powerful, athletic female body functions as the representation of health, success, and the physical representation of these ‘opportunities’ the new economic structure supposedly provides?