Action sports, the Olympic Games, and the opportunities and challenges for gender equity : the cases of surfing and skateboarding / Belinda Wheaton, Holly Thorpe

Wheaton, Belinda | Thorpe, Holly

Commentators have suggested that action sports have provided space for more progressive gendered power relations than many more traditional, institutionalized sex-segregated sports. However, as action sports become institutionalized via Olympic inclusion, what are the potential opportunities and challenges for girls and women as both athletes and industry leaders? Drawing on interviews with male and female leaders in surfing and skateboarding industries, media and cultures, and an analysis of niche media, the authors assess the opportunities for women as the sports prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The two case studies reveal the different struggles and strategies of women in these two sporting cultures, as well as the roles played by men in supporting cultural change. This article contributes to the critical literature assessing the International Olympic Committee’s claims to provide opportunities for diverse groups of women and, more widely, the challenges in establishing effective policies to “empower” girls and women in and through sport.


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