Women’s Soccer

Our Review of the Week explores the world of women’s soccer from the lens of an elite Chicago team

Kicking center : gender and the selling of women’s professional soccer

Allison, Rachel. Rutgers, 2018
194p bibl index, 9780813586786 $99.95, 9780813586779 $27.95, 9780813591315 $27.95

Rachel Allison’s tightly argued first book offers an ethnographic sociology of Chicago’s Momentum, a professional women’s soccer team that encountered challenges emblematic of women’s sports generally in the US. Allison (Mississippi State Univ.) addresses these challenges in chapters on sexuality and gender in the history of sports, which continue to be segregated by sex. The text covers the debate over whether women’s soccer should be seen as a business project, like men’s professional teams, or as a social cause that offers role models for young girls. Also discussed are the challenges of building and maintaining a fan base, which involves both media and financial sponsorship—and the agonistic politics of media imagery, which tends to promote images of heterosexual, white, “nice girl” athletes and to exclude women of color, lesbians, and others who fail to fit this mold. The “center” Allison “kicks” or tries to decenter refers to the domination of male athletes and men’s sports in US sports culture, which privileges men’s sports in terms of corporate funding, television and media coverage, and resources. Allison convincingly demonstrates the systematic marginalization of women’s athletics and athletes, who nonetheless challenge the inequalities they routinely face.

Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: T. L. Loos, Cornell University
Subject: Science & Technology – Sports & Recreation
Choice Issue: Feb 2019