Sociologists’ Book Urges End of Sex Divisions in Sports

Spectators take in a middle-school football game in Wilcox County, Alabama. If Adrienne Milner has her way, these girls -- or at least more girls -- might be on the field instead of watching. Photo by Dan Carsen.

Spectators take in a middle-school football game in Wilcox County, Alabama. If Adrienne Milner has her way, these girls — or at least more girls — might be on the field instead of watching. Photo by Dan Carsen.

Can you imagine a world with no gender divisions in sports? University of Alabama at Birmingham sociologist Adrienne Milner can. Not only that — she wants to help make it happen. Along with University of Miami professor Dr. Jomills Henry Braddock II, she’s written a new book called “Sex Segregation in Sports: Why Separate Is Not Equal.” WBHM’s Dan Carsen caught up with her to ask what else she hopes to accomplish, and why.

Listen to the five-minute on-air version:

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Key interview excerpts and a web-only extended version are below. 

The Main Argument

University of Alabama sociologist Adrienne Milner. Photo courtesy of UAB.

University of Alabama sociologist Adrienne Milner. Photo courtesy of UAB.

“Similar to racial segregation, sex segregation denotes the inferiority of women. Until women are allowed to play in integrated contexts and reach their full potential as athletes and people, we will never have equality in sports and in the broader society.”

Like Race, Sex Isn’t “Real”

“We look at race as a social construction. It is not genetic, it is not biological, and we believe the same is [true] for sex … The male-female dichotomy doesn’t cover everyone, right? We have trans people, intersex people.”

You Can’t Actually Have Football in Your DNA

“There is no ‘football gene’ … And you don’t play football, you don’t play any sport with your genitalia. So there’s no reason to separate people, and we learned with Brown versus Board of Edthat separate can never be equal.”

A (Very Good) Example from the NBA

“Muscle [mass] is not the be-all-and-end-all of sports ability. Look at someone like [recent NBA MVP] Steph Curry, who is small for an NBA player …”MilnerBraddockBookCover

Even If…

“If women [were] always smaller than men, they could still have positions on football teams as kickers. And [in] other sports like diving, where we would maybe look at being smaller as being an advantage, women might excel.”

Why Is This Important?

“Sports show the main problems of other aspects of society … They’re also very beneficial in cutting down obesity, heart disease, [domestic] abuse, and eating disorders.”

Click below for the web-exclusive 17-minute interview, which includes thoughts on cheerleading, men competing on the balance beam (ouch), Milner’s own experiences as an athlete, and the book’s recommendations for making sports more equitable:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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