Define a Real Sport

Throughout my research, I noticed a recurring debate on numerous articles on whether or not Rhythmic Gymnastics was a sport. The arguments against Rhythmic Gymnastics focused on the flashy wardrobe, “simple” dance moves, and the gender of the rhythmic gymnasts. After watching numerous videos, researching on the sport, and learning the sport through trial, I strongly believe that rhythmic gymnastics is a legitimate sport. In order to prove that my claim is true, I will answer the following research question: In what ways do the social, political, and economic factors within our society affect the ways individuals perceive Rhythmic Gymnastics as an illegitimate sport?

In Patricia Penny’s “Dancing at the Interface of the Social and the Theatrical: Focus on the Participatory Patterns of Contemporary Competition Ballroom Dancers in Britain,” she highlights the social and economic factors that affect the different genders in both social ballroom dancing as well as competitive ballroom dancing. Penny also discusses the possible reasonings as to why some ballroom dancers decide to remain in the social leisure of the sport while others strive to reach different titles within the competitive sport. Her analysis of the age, gender, and class of different dancers in ballroom dancing, both the competitive and social, helps individuals understand the ways in which ballroom dancing is a sport that can function to be both social and competitive.

Penny’s analysis of ballroom dancing goes well with the arguments that I am trying to make to defend rhythmic gymnastics. Rhythmic gymnastics and ballroom dancing are both sports that are both competitive and done for leisure. Because of the criticisms that rhythmic gymnastics faces in being a sport that is “not an actual sport,” I believe that her strong reasonings for the rigor in competitive ballroom dancing will be beneficial to my research paper as well. Her chapter “The Competitive Infrastructure” dives into detail about the logistics of the sport. Rather than focusing on the wardrobe of the sport, Penny focuses on the competitiveness of the sport. The research proves that the sport can have a variety of participants not necessarily just women or students of a certain age. In my research, I will also compare and contrast the different characteristics found in rhythmic gymnastics and ballroom dancing.

In Robert E. Washington and David Karen’s “Sport and Society” they state that their “review of sport and society has focused on inequality by race/ethnicity, class, and gender as well as the changing social context of sports, especially as revealed by the expanded role of the media and globalization” (Washington 20). The reading focuses on the globalization of sports, the media coverage of sports, and the gender roles in sports. I will be referencing many quotes from several chapters found within the reading, but the section titled “gender and sport” has had great influence on my understanding of Title IX and the ideas of masculinity and femininity within several different sports. “Gender and Sport” discusses the association with violence to certain sports which are usually classified as masculine. The scholarly article highlights the discussions we have had in lecture about how certain violent acts and riots are associated with the Olympics and sports in general. The authors even argue that “the social construction of gender suggest that males and females are pressured to help maintain the appearances of “hegemonic masculinity” (Connell 1987)” (Washington 13).

Washington and Karen’s discussion on the media’s influence in constructing the image of certain sports correlates with the way we, as viewers, interpret rhythmic gymnastics. The positioning of the camera, the focus on certain body parts of gymnasts, and the underrepresentation of male rhythmic gymnasts can all attribute to the way individuals see and understand rhythmic gymnastics. I will further analyze the specific characteristics of masculinity and femininity that are associated with rhythmic gymnastics.

In Nancy Theberge’s “The Construction of Gender in Sport: Women, Coaching, and the Naturalization of Difference” the main focus is on women coaches and the difficulties that they face in coaching. Her analysis argues that women are still subject to displaying masculine qualities in fear that demonstrating feminine qualities shows a sign of weakness. She claims that “for men, sport has historically been a setting for the development and display of traits and abilities that signify masculine power and authority” (Theberge 301). Her analysis is interesting and useful because she clearly states out the power struggle between women and men in sports. While reading her analysis, I realized that femininity is also given its definition based off of masculinity. Masculinity having to do with power and authority as she stated before and femininity having to do with having lesser or weaker qualities.

Using the ideals that I have learned while reading Nancy’s analysis, I will be able to explain more clearly in my research paper specific feminine and masculine qualities that are both present in rhythmic gymnastics. I am not claiming that rhythmic gymnastics has only feminine qualities or that it only has masculine qualities. Instead, I will be going over the ways in which rhythmic gymnastics embodies both qualities and how does qualities validate rhythmic gymnastics as a legitimate sport.

Karen, David and Washington, Robert. “Sport and Society.” Annual Review of Sociology. Pennsylvania: Annual Reviews, 2001. 187-212. Print.


Penny, Patricia. Dancing at the Interface of the Social and the Theatrical: Focus on the Participatory Patterns of Contemporary Competition Ballroom Dancers in Britain. Edinburgh UP, 1999. Print.


Theberge, Nancy. The Construction of Gender in Sport: Women, Coaching, and the Naturalization of Difference. University of California Press, 1993. 301-313. Print.


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1 Response to Define a Real Sport

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Nice job finding sources related to your interests, even if they are not on the sport you chose. You had a tough task finding articles on rhythmic gymnastics, but you branched out to find articles that will allow you to speak about the role of gender in the determination of the legitimacy of sports. I can envision a solid analysis of the gendered aspects of your sport moving forward.

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