Feminism, Intersectionality and the Problem of Whiteness in Leisure and Sport Practices and Scholarship

  • Mary G. McDonald
  • Renee Shelby


This chapter draws upon black feminism and intersectional theory to challenge assumptions of whiteness that frequently travel within British and North American leisure, sport and gender scholarship. To achieve this goal, we critically situate and apply an intersectional framework to explore two highly mediated cases: the controversies surrounding Don Imus and the Rutgers University women’s basketball team and the SlutWalk protest movement. This chapter makes clear the persistent need to challenge the primacy of gender as always and already the most important social relation, as some feminists infer. Such a conceptualization is problematic as it reifies the power of whiteness within feminist sport and leisure scholarship and popular narratives, as well as within feminist organizing and activism more broadly.


  1. Ahmed, S. (2007). A phenomenology of whiteness. Feminist Theory, 8(2), 149–168.Google Scholar
  2. Attwood, F. (2007). Slut and riot grrrls: Female identity and sexual agency. Journal of Gender Studies, 16(3), 233–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Black Women’s Blueprint. (2011). An open letter from black women to the slutwalk. Black Women’s Blueprint, 23. Google Scholar
  4. Bosse, J. (2007). Whiteness and the performance of race in ballroom dance. Journal of American Folklore, 120(475), 19–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brah, A. & Phoenix, A. (2004). Ain’t I a woman? Revisiting intersectionality. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 5(3), 75–86.Google Scholar
  6. Carr, J. L. (2013). The SlutWalk movement: A study in transnational feminist activism. Journal of Feminist Scholarship, 4, 24–38.Google Scholar
  7. Chiachiere, R. (2007). Imus called women’s basketball team ‘nappy-headed hos.’ Media Matters for America. Retrieved September 24, 2017 from
  8. Cho, S., Crenshaw, K. W. & McCall, L. (2013). Toward a field of intersectionality studies: Theory, application and praxis. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 785–810.Google Scholar
  9. Collins, P. H. (1986). Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of black feminist thought. Social Problems, 33(6), S14–S32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Collins, P. H. (1999). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Collins, P. H. (2009). Another kind of public education: Race, schools, the media, and democratic possibilities. Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cooky, C., Wachs, F. L., Messner, M., & Dworkin, S. L. (2010). It’s not about the game: Imus, race, class, gender and sexuality in contemporary media. Sociology of Sport Journal, 27, 139–159.Google Scholar
  14. Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1(8), 139–167.Google Scholar
  15. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.Google Scholar
  16. Douglas, D. D. & Jamieson, K. M. (2006). A farewell to remember: Interrogating the Nancy Lopez farewell tour. Sociology of Sport Journal, 23(2), 117–141.Google Scholar
  17. Dyson, M. E. (2007). Know what I mean? Reflections on Hip Hop. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Horn, J., & Gold, M. (2007, April 11). Radio host skated close to the edge, and plenty went along. Los Angeles Times, p. A11.Google Scholar
  19. Kwan, R. (2011, February 16). Don’t dress like a slut: Toronto cop. The Excalibur. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from
  20. Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. R. (1994). Rape myths: In review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 133–164.Google Scholar
  21. Maronese, N. (2011a). Cop’s ‘slut’ comment draws backlash from guerilla activists. Excalibur: York University’s Community Newspaper. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from’s-‘slut’-comment-draws-backlash-from-guerilla-activists/
  22. Maronese, N. (2011b). SlutWalk toronto: April 3, 2011. Excalibur: York University’s Community Newspaper. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  23. McDonald, M. G. (2014). Mapping whiteness and intersectionality: Troubling gender and sexuality in sport studies. In H. Jennifer & A. Eric (Eds.), Routledge handbook of sport, gender and sexuality (pp. 151–160). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. McDonald, M. G., & Thomas, C. (2011). The Rutger’s women’s basketball team talks back: Intersectionality, resistance, and media power. In S. S. Prettyman & B. Lampman (Eds.), Learning culture through sport: Perspectives on society and organized sport (pp. 78–91). Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Mendes, K. (2015). SlutWalk, feminism, and news. In K. Mendes & K. Silva (Eds.), Feminist Erasures (pp. 219–234). London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.Google Scholar
  26. Mills, J. (1991). Womanwords: A vocabulary of culture and patriarchal society. London: Virago.Google Scholar
  27. Murtha, T. (2013). SlutWalk philly changes protest name to ‘a march to end rape culture.’ RH Reality Check. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  28. Park, M. K. (2015). Race, hegemonic masculinity and the ‘Linpossible’: An analysis of media representations of Jeremy Lin. Communication and Sport, 3(4), 367–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Payne, D., Lonsway, K., & Fitzgerald, F. (1994). Rape myth acceptance: Exploration of its structure and its measurement using the Illinois Rape Myth Awareness Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 27–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Press Conference Transcribe. (2007, April 10). Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  31. Rand, E. J. (2014). Reclaiming queer. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ratna, A. (2011). Who wants to make aloo gobi when you can bend it like Beckham? British Asian females and their racialized experiences of gender and identity in women’s football. Soccer in Society, 11, 382–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reagon, B. J. (1983). Coalition politics: Turning the century. In B. Smith (Ed.), Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (pp343–356). New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color.Google Scholar
  34. Reger, J. (2015). The story of a slut walk. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 44(1), 84–112.Google Scholar
  35. Romo, V. (2011). Hundreds march against sexual assault in ‘slutwalk.’ NPR. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  36. Rutgers’ Coach, Players Accept Imus’ Apology. (2007, April 16). Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  37. Sandoval, C. (2000). Methodology of the oppressed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  38. Simmons, A. S. (2011). Woman is the ‘n’ of the world? AfroLez®femcentric Perspectives. Retrieved December 1, 2015 from
  39. SlutWalk Toronto. (2015). SlutWalk toronto frequently asked questions. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from
  40. Soloman, A. (2011a). Is the slutwalk movement relevant for a black feminist. Colorlines. Retrieved December 11, 2015 from
  41. Soloman, A. (2011b). More thoughts on slutwalk: No attention is better than bad attention. Colorlines. Retrieved December 11, 2015 from
  42. Steinkellner, K. (2015). The evolution of the word ‘slut’ and the problems with reclaiming it. Retrieved December 10, 2015 from
  43. Tanenbaum, L. (2000). Slut!: Growing up female with a bad reputation. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  44. Thompson, C. (2006). Back to nature? Resurrecting ecofeminism after poststructuralist and third-wave feminisms. Isis, 97(3), 505–512.Google Scholar
  45. Watson, B., & Scraton, S. J. (2013). Leisure studies and intersectionality. Leisure Studies, 32(1), 35–47.Google Scholar
  46. Welter, B. (1966). The cult of true womanhood: 1820–1860. American Quarterly, 18(2), 151.Google Scholar
  47. Wolfe, D. A., & Chiodo, D. (2008). Sexual harassment and related behaviors reported among youth from grade 9 to grade 11. CAMH Centre for Prevention Science. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary G. McDonald
    • 1
  • Renee Shelby
    • 1
  1. 1.Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations