Description - Power at Play by Michael Alan Messner
"Jock culture," the culture of sports, plays an important role in the definition of American masculinity. This text is based on interviews with 30 school, college and professional athletes. ichael Messner sets out to discover what effect sports has and can have on men's lives, and their attitudes and self-image in the social world of sport. As a result, this text is an examination of the heartland of masculinity, of sport's compelling allure and its ability to bestow social status, as well as an examination of its dark side.
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(228mm x 152mm x 17mm)
Publisher: Beacon Press
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Book Reviews - Power at Play by Michael Alan Messner
US Kirkus Review »
Fuzzy, argot-driven tract on men and sport. Messner (Sociology/Univ. of Southern California) introduces his feminist-inspired analysis with the premise that neither sports nor masculinity are biological in essence but are social creations. For his study, Messner selected 30 male former athletes who, he says, based their identity on athletic roles and "therefore...had 'athletic careers'" (although a dozen did not play past high school). Using self-proclaimed "feminist" methodology ("both interviewer and interviewee should benefit"), Messner asked his subjects to talk about their sports experiences. Although he worried he was getting a better deal than his subjects ("The intimate information...would help me complete my Ph.D. degree, write a book, and launch my career as a sociologist"), he decided that the interviewees were receiving a "learning experience." With his small sample - unhindered by standard research methodologies of random selection, structured interviews, etc. - Messner buttresses his conception of "feminist psychoanalytic theory." Taking snippets from the interviews, he discusses topics such as: "Playing Hurt" (athletes have an "alienated" relationship with their bodies); "Recreational Drugs" ("Alcohol...can give men permission to 'open up'"); "Sexuality and Sexual Identity" ("the erotic bond between men is neutralized through overt homophobia and [by using] women as objects of sexual talk and practice"); and "The Challenge of Female Athleticism" ("its challenge to sport's construction of hegemonic masculinity has been largely defused"). Not surprisingly, the conclusion of Messner's "research" is that, for sport to be "humanized," boys and girls must be nurtured equally with the work shared by both parents, and "all our social institutions" reorganized to maximize equality. An ideological document masquerading as a research study, focused solely on the downside of sports and ignoring its benefits. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michael Alan Messner
Michael A. Messneris associate professor of sociology at the University of Southern California.