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Moravian College Sociology Professor Joel Nathan Rosen recently released a new book, A Locker Room of Her Own: Celebrity, Sexuality, and Female Athletes, profiling superstar female athletes and the obstacles they face in the public eye. This is the third volume of a collaborative series co-edited with David C. Ogden, associate professor of communication at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and published by University Press of Mississippi.
With a team of contributors, including Moravian College English Professor Martha Reid, A Locker Room of Her Own: Celebrity, Sexuality, and Female Athletes attempts to investigate female athletes and their celebrity status by analyzing the myths that surround them, delving into the role that nostalgia and collective memory play.
“This is a series that looks at issues pertaining to reputations and how they are built and maintained among athletes,” Rosen said. “The first two books of the series looked specifically at issues of race and how it pertains to the reputation among male athletes. With this third book, our intention was to focus the entire volume on female athletes.”
The third volume explores the reputations of iconic female sports figures and pioneers and the cultural and social forces that helped to forge their unique and often problematic legacies. Several of the most prominent female athletes of the past century are featured, including Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Billie Jean King, Marion Jones, Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Danica Patrick.
Reid authored a chapter detailing Didrikson Zaharias, a standout athlete in basketball, track and field, and golf, who was voted the greatest female athlete of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press. “It is a brilliant chapter by Reid, and it was a great way to kick off the book,” said Rosen.
A Locker Room of Her Own: Celebrity, Sexuality, and Female Athletes also delves into the story of Jones, a record-breaking Olympic track star who admitted in 2007 to using performance-enhancing drugs and served time in prison for making false statements to investigators. Rosen explained omitting Jones from the series’ second volume, Fame to Infamy: Race, Sport, and the Fall from Grace, was a deliberate decision, one that brought attention and criticism. “But putting Marion Jones in the second book would have diluted the issue of gender,” Rosen said. “She became a prominent sports figure not because of her athletic ability, but because of the infamy she achieved from her dramatic fall from grace.
“It was precisely that fall that put her on par with male athletes as she was able to crack that barrier by joining the likes of Barry Bonds, Mike Tyson and even O.J. Simpson by becoming one of sport's most notorious outlaws.”
“Of our three books, this one clearly takes on a brand-new look at women athletes,” he continued. “It takes on this idea that individually, not just collectively, women athletes have unique followings and reputations that either afford them a certain level of acclaim or a certain level of villainy. That, to me, is the most important aspect that we were able to accomplish in book three.” Pleased with his most-recent volume, Rosen calls it “a piece of a much larger puzzle.”
“With this series, what stands out is, athletic reputations are constructed around this idea that athletes are celebrities, but they pay a great deal for the celebrity,” Rosen explained. “We tend to overlook the fact that to get to be an athletic celebrity, you have to be an athlete first. There is a lot more to being a great athlete than having great skills.” A Locker Room of Her Own: Celebrity, Sexuality, and Female Athletes is now available at Amazon.com.
Rosen has commenced work on the anthology’s fourth book, under the working title, “More than cricket and football.” It will highlight international athletes, many of whom have or had little main-stream exposure in North America.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America’s sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College’s website at www.moravian.edu.