Women’s crew and its role in the hegemonic masculinity that dominates rowing

Research Question:

How and why does women’s rowing continue to be used as a tool to add to the hegemonic masculinity that dominates men’s collegiate rowing? What are the historical practices that can explain this? And what are the current practices that (although modified) continue to add to this?

“Paddling Against the Current: A History of Women’s Competitive International Rowing Between 1954 and 2003”

This article provides a very detailed history of women’s rowing. The main argument of the article is that women fought incredibly hard (especially at the beginning of the twentieth century) to be allowed to compete there are major hardships that came about due to these changes. While women were fighting to have more opportunities to compete, and access to resources (boathouses, boats, oars) they ultimately ended up relinquishing their control in the sport. Specifically this occurred in the coaching, and administrative aspects of the sport as a whole. When the men’s regulating body combined with the women’s regulating body, the men ended up dominating both categories of the sport. Through this, men have come to dominate male and female rowing. Evidence for this, as discussed in the article can be seen in the fact that originally women’s races were half the distance of men’s races. Because the starting platform would need to be moved further down the course women’s races were held a week earlier then men’s. This acted as a way to “further de-emphasi[se] the importance of the event and established them as a sideshow to the men’s regatta” (Schweinbenz, 16).

The second part of this article that will be useful in my argument, is the amateurism discussion. Amateurism in rowing, was originally used to make the sport exclusive. In order to be eligible to compete (considered an amateur) rowers must not hold a job which required much physical exertion or any action that could give them a physical advantage or training advantage over other rowers. This made it nearly impossible for anyone in the working class to be allowed to compete. It is this exclusivity that was fostered in the 18th and 19th centuries that explain many of the ideologies that exist in rowing today.

“Learning Masculinity Through Japanese University Rowing”

This article discusses the hierarchy and masculine culture that is fostered in a university rowing club in Japan. The research takes place over the course of eight years. The author rows with the program, then ends up coaching and ultimately as an alumni of the program. Although this program is run differently in some aspects from westernized rowing clubs, the hierarchy and gender divides discussed in this article serve as an important discourse to my research question. The masculinity that this article describes resonates directly with the masculinity in rowing everywhere. Specifically, the concept of the salary-man which illustrates the elite culture that the original amateur rules continue to influence. The salary man is defined as “the devoted, white-collar employee”(McDonald, 425). Although in this article this is described in terms of ancient Japanese culture, it is important to extend this argument to all aspects of the rowing culture. Rowing is predominately a sport that is only accessible to those of the “white collar” class. This divide exists within men and women’s rowing programs.

“You don’t need oars in the water to go out for crew”

This article in The Wall Street Journal serves as an illustration of the more recent affects of Title IV on women’s rowing. In my research project, I intend to bring in Title IV and some of its affects on collegiate sports as a whole to illustrate some of the issues discussed in this article. The article mainly brings about the point that women were beginning (in 1999) to be recruited for rowing even if they had never touched an oar in their lives. It is this recruiting process, that still in ways that I have yet to find the answer to, continues to foster this elitist culture that makes rowing so exclusive. The article also discusses a few points of few that men have about the amount of financial support that women’s programs get  compared to them.


Schweinbenz, Amanda N. Paddling against the Current : A History of       Women’s Competitive International Rowing between 1954 and       2003.” Diss. The University of British Columbia. Web. 26 Feb.   2014

McDonald, Brent D. “Learning Masculinity Through Japanese      University Rowing.” Sociology of Sport Journal 26 (2009): 425-       42.

Carton, Barbara. “You Don’t Need Oars in the Water To Go Out for    Crew — Colleges Have Plenty of Money For Tall, Muscular    Women; `No Experience Necessary’” The Wall Street Journal 14      May 1999: n. pag. The Wall Street Journal. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/398655180?accountid=14524&gt;

This entry was posted in Research and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Women’s crew and its role in the hegemonic masculinity that dominates rowing

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Nice job finding a dissertation on this subject! They can be great resources for these topics. Your last source brings up some interesting issues about the role rowing is playing in terms of gender equity in college sports post Title IX. It would be great to follow up on this with another, more in-depth source. The Wall Street Journal is a great newspaper, but not peer-reviewed. I appreciate your attention to amateurism as a way to approach the class issues of the sport. Excited to see the project continue!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s