Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Jennifer Egan

Gloria Deraney 

A History of Female Inequality in Basketball and Soccer

Jennifer Egan: Society’s Influence on Female Self-Image

In Jennifer Egan’s novels, the female protagonists fight against society and the control it has on their own perceptions of their image. In Look at Me, Egan depicts protagonist Charlotte as lonely and needing a man in her life in order to fulfill her own happiness because society has taught her to think this way. As a former model, Charlotte struggles with the pressures of patriarchal society following a car accident that leaves her disfigured and prevents her from loving her physical appearance and image. As influential characters in her life, such as her modeling agent, push her to rely on her image, she realizes the importance of maintaining her individuality in the face of societal norms, particularly regarding her physical appearance. Instead of continuing to be objectified by society as a model, she decides to broaden her identity by leaving this behind and focusing on her true self. Female characters in Egan’s novels hold an image of themselves dictated by societal norms, but as time progresses, they learn to defy society and the control it has over their choices.

Similar to the characters in Egan’s novels, American female athletes struggled to earn equal respect and pay in the athletic arena. Women’s basketball and soccer have come a long way since professional programs began, but society continues to dictate women’s place in the professional sports world. Title IX, passed in 1972, is a law that was created to ensure equality between men and women, but it has become ineffective as authorities continue to ignore blatant disparities between male and female professional sports. Although inclusiveness is not an issue, as women have been allowed to play in athletic programs since the 1960s, men receive more praise and acceptance than women in equivalent positions. While women have made tremendous strides in athletic professions, female athletes still face discrimination as a result of gender norms and male-dominated sports associations and organizations. Despite the overall growth in women’s rights, the idea of equality in sports jeopardizes the long understood and accepted masculinity of athletic professions.

Major Works Consulted:

Egan, Jennifer. Look at Me. New York: Random, 2001.
---. A Visit from the Goon Squad. New York: Random, 2010.
Hellerman, Steven L. and Andrei S. Markovits. “Women’s Soccer in the United States: Yet Another American ‘Exceptionalism.’” Soccer & Society. Accessed February 17, 2017.
Linden-Ward, Blanche, and Carol Hurd Green. American Women in the 1960s: Changing the Future. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
Photo Credit: "Jennifer Egan." BookFans. N.p., 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. jennifer-egan/.