chapter  3
14 Pages

Sport, gender and international relations

WithJohn Harris, Barbara Humberstone

While the discipline of international relations has rather neglected the study of sport, the internationalization and globalization of sport have received much attention from other scholars, particularly during the 1990s, and continue to be popular and extensively researched subjects in the new millennium. All the leading sports journals have devoted extensive coverage to the area and numerous academics have produced texts looking at the subject.1 Works on global football also continue to appear frequently.2 Nevertheless, there is little articulation of the three areas of gender, sport and international relations, and little recognition of the implications of gender and gender relations in the representation of nationalism. This is a significant gap in the IR literature, in which nation-states remain important, if not the central, actors. IR theory has, consequently, largely ignored the implications of the ways in which hegemonic masculinity, embroiled in sport, reinforces nationalistic ideology and concomitantly ‘normalizes’ discourses around the position and practices of women in sport and society. Sporting images, packaged for the consumption of worldwide audiences, are heavily gendered; yet academic literature on sport and globalization, particularly within IR, has largely ignored the role of women as participants and consumers.3 For adherents of the realist perspective on IR’s traditional problematic, namely inter-state relations and the issues of war, peace and security, this is not seen as a problem; but for those chiefly using critical theoretical perspectives who seek to explore the power structures underlying states, gender imbalances may provide important explanatory mechanisms for state behaviour. This chapter, while it will, for the large part, not focus directly on the consequences for IR of gender divisions in sport, will nevertheless demonstrate the importance of gender stereotypes in sport to conceptions of ‘the nation’ and thereby raise a number of issues which have an important bearing on our understanding of state power and therefore the inter-state system.