Book Chapter Review: LGBT Athletes in the Sports Media

Typical academic practice is not to review your own work, but this is my blog! And I am going to review a book chapter I recently co-authored.

Bullingham, Rachael and Verity Postlethwaite (2019) Chapter 3 “Lesbian Athletes in the Sports Media: Ambivalence, Scrutiny and Invisibility” in Rory Magrath (Ed.) LGBT Athletes in the Sports Media. Palgrave Macmillan. 

I am not going to simply review the content. Nor, I am going to claim that it is great and you should buy the book (at £89.99) or buy the chapter (at £23.94). [Saving another blog post to discuss the high cost of academic books…]

Instead, I am going to use this blog post to counter the opinion that academic book chapters and collaborating are not valuable uses of time. A school of thought has developed that journal articles, funding bids, authored monographs etc. are more valuable academic outputs. I agree with some of the points around this, especially, that book chapters/edited collections can vary enormously in quality and relevance. However, the edited book that Rory Magrath has put together and the chapter I have written with Rachael highlight some worthwhile review points. I contemplate such points briefly below…

The chapter has relevant content

What is the chapter about? Rachael and I undertook a print media analysis of two prominent lesbian football players in the UK and USA – Casey Stoney and Megan Rapinoe – to understand how lesbian athletes navigate the current sports media landscape. More specifically, if there are dominant representation trends in print media around lesbian athletes.

Our chapter shows that UK and USA print media representations of lesbian athletes do not follow the same patterns of representation around heterosexual female athletes or gay male athletes. The two cases of Stoney and Rapinoe, also, demonstrate that there are nuances in how individual lesbian athletes are portrayed. Media representation trends should not be reduced to one narrative, in the chapter we briefly developed discussion points around ambivalence, scrutiny and invisibility around lesbian athletes.

Process of contributing to an edited book

The value of producing the chapter at my career stage (doctoral student) is to experience the nitty gritty of academic publishing, for example, proof of concept, oodles of drafts, copy editing, and the sheer time it takes to bring together an edited collection. A number of people may see this as chasing outputs and beefing out my CV. However, beyond a line on my CV I can now confidently state in a future application or interview that I understand the detail of producing an edited collection, academic publishing and contributing book chapters.

Experience of collaborating

A further value, personally, is developing the art of collaborating. Again, it is personal preference within the social sciences of academia to collaborate or write solo, but I prefer to work with people. I have previously written with mentors and supervisors, whereas, this chapter was the first piece I had written with a peer. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about my style/habits, plus about Rachael’s. I am sure we will develop this further in the future, and the book chapter was a great way to start a collaborative partnership.

Outputs to outcomes…

Finally, outputs to outcomes… this chapter represents a pebble in the thoughts and data Rachael and I discussed. Plus, as I am a doctoral student, I needed to be mindful that this does not directly relate to my doctoral thesis. Consequently, for me, this was more of a development of my Masters work and adding to my CV/experience.

For Rachael, as this is her area of expertise, it has contributed to further outcomes for her and the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Worcester. Such as, conference presentations, attending national policy events and further research collaboration. Rachael is currently working on projects around: elite athletes, homosexuality and team sport; examining homophobia in educational settings; and the role of televised media – commentators / pundits – in representations of females and sexuality.

Finally, writing this blog reminds me that the book chapter was FUN to produce. Sometimes you can see a book chapter in print and skim over all of the time, effort and energy put into making it. This book chapter was really fun to write, especially, as we managed to sneak in a reference to Callie and Arizona from Grey’s Anatomy (if you know, you know).


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