Sex Segregation in Elite Sport: What’s the Problem?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Sex segregation in elite sport is typically upheld by policies that assert the physical superiority of male athletes and the need to preserve an even playing field. In the process, policy makers have struggled over how to reconcile gender diverse athletes within a system that insists upon two mutually exclusive sex categories. Carol Bacchi’s (2009) ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ methodology offers valuable insight into the ways that governing bodies—specifically the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations (now World Athletics)—problematize intersex and trans athletes in women’s sport. That is, the organizations’ policies, regulations, and consensus statements represent gender diverse athletes as the ‘problem’ that must be addressed, rather than a sport system that will not accommodate them. This representation elicits two significant effects. First, it suggests the physical inferiority of female athletes, which justifies and sustains their subordinate status in sport. Second, it stigmatizes and ultimately erases non-binary sport participation, which can have devastating consequences for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender Diversity and Sport
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781000575453
ISBN (Print)9780367506292
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • General Social Sciences


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