Science, Feminism, and Sex Differences, 1950–2005
Chapter 8 (the counterpart to Chapter 2) explores physical educators’ ideas about sex differences and active womanhood during the second half of the twentieth century. In each decade, teachers reconsidered what female fitness meant and how parity in the gym could be achieved. Disagreements rather than unanimity prevailed, as American science, law, and politics offered divergent concepts of difference, equity, and equality. From the 1960s through 1980s, physical educators’ views often paralleled those of the second- and third-wave women’s movement, including liberal feminism and radical (or difference) feminism. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the theme of diversity or multi-culturalism took hold of American society and physical education alike. No mainstream philosophy, however, broke the traditional binaries of male/female, white/black, and straight/gay nor ensured universal equity. When more progressive philosophies of “difference” emerged by the turn of the twenty-first century, maverick physical educators proposed new ways to conceptualize and promote justice in the gym.
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