The women's distance running industry and the paradox of women's sports
Ariail, Catherine Murray
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This research explores the persistent paradox of women in American sports culture. Through an examination of the women’s distance running industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s, this project highlights the function of class not only in determining a woman’s access to the sport, but also in defining the popular identity of women runners around a specific set of characteristics. The women’s distance running industry achieved great successes by providing opportunities and resources that ostensibly invited more women to participate in the sport, epitomized by the establishment of a women’s Olympic Marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games. However, such successes masked the complexity of factors that ultimately contained the cultural conception of the sport. The sport’s class foundations combined with stringent consumptive, bodily, and gender requirements to perpetuate the subordinate status of women’s sports in the media- and commercial-driven hierarchy of sports culture in late-twentieth century America.