Response Paper #3
Masculinity and Sports
Masculinity has come a long way since the start of time. It has evolved into a socially
constructed way of acting and feeling pressured. For boys and men, showing masculinity is
especially prominent in sports. Boys are “expected” to participate in sports, starting at a young
age. They are usually pushed by their fathers or brothers or other male relatives, but mainly, it is
society and culture that puts the most pressure on them. In Messner’s article,
Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities
, he interviews 30 male former athletes.
They tell about their life as a child, how they got into sports, and where they are today.
Messner’s group included 14 black men, 14 white men, and 2 hispanics. All of them were
athletes at some point in their life and had put a lot of their time and efforts into sports. Seven of
them were professional athletes, 11 played through college, and the rest played up until high
school. Their ages ranged from 21 to 48. They all had come from different backgrounds – over
90% of the black and Hispanic men came from low/working-class families, while over half of
the white men came from middle-class or higher status families. Messner asked each man in the
interview to explain his first experiences with sports, his athletic career, how he retired from the
career, and his life after. He also asked them to relate their life in sports with their family,
women, other males, and his own self.
Being asked how they got into sports, some of them answered – “it was a natural
instinct”. One black man said, “it was like brushing your teeth … and if you didn’t [do it], there
was something wrong with you”. He thought of it as an unlearned habit, and just did it. Another
man, 35, and a former professional football player had the same state of mind when he was a kid.