runningIn her Festival talk on the role of gender in sports, UB Professor of History Susan Cahn will discuss the evolving cultural image of the female athlete. Once considered “masculine” intruders in a male realm, women athletes were long characterized as “mannish amazons.”  For more than a century, women have had to fight for the right to compete in athletic competitions and be taken seriously as competitors.

Now, in high school and college, women’s participation rates are approaching parity with their male peers.  But old stereotypes linger and many doubt that women can ever be “equal” to men in sports. For example, in the wake of the US women’s soccer team’s victory at the world cup, there have also been reports about the horrible playing conditions that the athletes were forced to compete in and the outrageous pay gaps between female and male soccer players. Even at the highest levels, female athletes still garner less respect than male athletes.

Susan Cahn’s presentation, which will be held on September 26th from 3—4pm at Ketchum Hall, will examine the history of women’s sports in the United States to explore the many ways gender, sexuality, and sports intersect.  This history offers surprising insights about today’s sports world and the struggles that female athletes still face.

At the University at Buffalo, Susan Cahn teaches U.S. history, women’s history, and the history of sexuality.  She recently published Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Women’s Sport (2nd edition). In this edition of her book, “Susan K. Cahn updates her detailed history of women’s sport and the struggles over gender, sexuality, race, class, and policy that have often defined it. A new chapter explores the impact of Title IX and how the opportunities and interest in sports it helped create reshaped women’s lives even as the legislation itself came under sustained attack.” If you’re interested in reading it in advance of the Festival, you can get a copy here.