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Celia H Brackenridge. Routledge-Taylor and Francis Books Ltd, 2001, £19.99, paperback, pp 284. ISBN 0419257802
The book is targeted at everyone involved in sport: coaches, doctors, scientists, administrators, parents, and participants.
Celia Brackenridge is internationally acclaimed for her work in uncovering the story of sexual exploitation in sport and offering explanations about why it occurs. She is uniquely qualified by her professional expertise as a scholar in the sociology of sport and by her own experience as coach and athlete at elite level in the sport of lacrosse. It is very brave to pursue a line of research that almost always creates immediate resistance from the audience (“ . . .that can't be happening in our sport/profession”). It is also personally harrowing to investigate this issue with the victims and to find support to cope with what is heard. The production of this book is therefore a culmination of several years of difficult research. It is clear to me that all of us involved in sport must read this book and be aware of the issues. Those of us in higher education must also put this book on the reading list for “ethical issues” topics in curricula for all sport related degrees.
The title is great. Sport should be fun and run within a set of rules that are clear to all. But sexual exploitation within sport is a breach of rules and most certainly will spoil sport (and lives) for many (and who knows how many) individuals. The first two parts of the book provide evidence for the complex issue of sexual exploitation in sport and reasoning about why it may occur. If anyone reads this and continues to think that sexual exploitation cannot be happening in their sport or profession because there are no specific examples, then they must think again. Evidence suggests that exploitation will be happening in all areas of sport, and Brackenridge challenges us to become aware of that and then to take steps to prevent it. The third and fourth parts of the book offer a challenge to change the way sport is managed and how researchers can assist in this change in order that sexual exploitation is dealt with. This book is a brilliant example of “building bridges between theory and practice” (page 236) and utilises the feminist perspective of “praxis”. (A definition of feminist praxis is “ . . .the coming together of theory and practice in action, and in the reflecting upon these processes to generate new ideas and ways of working”. 1) The major message is that gender/power relations need to be examined in sport, and an empowerment based approach to sports leadership promoted.