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Sports Literature: Lesbian  
page: 1  2  3  4  

Zan is single-minded in her sporting endeavors and scathing in her assessment of girls who have no interest in the rough and tumble of sports. The characterization in Zanbanger (1977) of the overweight female coach as a "giant, red-faced dimwit" borders on cruel.

Knudson juxtaposes the philosophy of the female physical education teacher, who is more intent on promoting "ladylike" play than athletic skills, with Zan's and Rinehart's emphasis on "serious" training, aggressive play, and winning at all costs.

Knudson has been criticized for her books' liberal agenda. The overall message is that women must act like men, play men's sports, and gain male approval in order to be taken seriously. The male world of sports thus remains unchanged, and only a few exceptional girls and women can enter it. However, had she been writing in a later era, Knudson may have had more safety and freedom both to develop openly lesbian characters and to challenge the dominant sports ethos.

Athleticism in Contemporary Lesbian Pulp Fiction

Lady Lobo (1993), by Kristen Garrett, represents a new wave of lesbian sports fiction, which might be termed contemporary lesbian "pulp," where the main character spends all of her time either on the basketball court or in bed. Most of the book's action is conveyed through "in-your-face" vernacular, making it fast-paced but often superficial.

However, the novel presents a realistic view of the brutal world of American college basketball. For example, the players' love-hate relationship with the coach (a straight woman) speaks for itself. Using the senior players as informants and disciplinarians, the coach polices every aspect of the young women's lives: what they eat and drink, whom they date, whether they meet the curfew. In women's competitive sports, as this novel portrays, the goal is to win, no matter what the cost.

Casey, the main lesbian character, is a young woman recruited from high school for a college team. Her two loves are basketball and sex, and her high profile on the college team produces endless opportunities for the latter.

Casual sex is Casey's style; serious relationships might interfere with her basketball career. In both basketball and sex, Casey is used to being in control, and her relationship with Sharika, an older black woman who is a former professional tennis player, challenges her on many levels.

In light of the central place of softball in the North American lesbian communities, it has a surprisingly low profile in lesbian sports fiction. Yvonne Zipter's entertaining history of lesbian softball, Diamonds Are a Dyke's Best Friend (1988), should inspire future authors to use softball in sports fiction.

As Zipter points out, softball has for decades served as an unofficial but widely recognized meeting place for lesbians, both players and spectators. It also provides an appropriate context for feminist challenges to highly competitive sport, as leagues experiment with more woman-friendly rules and organizing structures.


Women's sports has provided a home for many lesbians--not always a totally safe place, but an appropriate context for the celebration of women's strength, physicality, and friendships. It remains largely untapped as a topic or setting in lesbian literature.

But recent novels and the publication of Susan Fox Rogers' anthology Sportsdykes: Stories from on and off the Field (1994), which features both fiction and nonfiction, are signs of a new sophistication and thoughtfulness in approaching the role of sports in lesbian lives.

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj

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Auchmuty, Rosemary. "You're a dyke, Angela! Elsie J. Oxenham and the Rise and Fall of the Schoolgirl Story." Not a Passing Phase: Reclaiming Lesbians in History, 1840-1985. Lesbian History Group, ed. London: Women's Press, 1989.

Cahn, Susan K. Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women's Sport. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Foster, Jeannette. Sex Variant Women in Literature. Tallahassee, Fla.: Naiad Press, 1985.

Griffin, Patricia. "R. R. Knudson's Sport Fiction: A Feminist Critique." Arete 3.1 (1985): 3-10.

Lesnkyj, Helen. Out of Bounds: Women, Sport and Sexuality. Toronto: Women's Press, 1986.

Rogers, Susan Fox. Sportsdykes: Stories from on and off the Field. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Zipter, Yvonne. Diamonds Are a Dyke's Best Friend. Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand, 1988.


    Citation Information
    Author: Lenskyj, Helen Jefferson  
    Entry Title: Sports Literature: Lesbian  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 23, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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