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In this review, we examine literature from leisure sciences, sociology, marketing, and history to demonstrate how Firat’s (1994) modern significations of gender categories can be used as an effective lens for showing the lingering effects of modernism. In the process, we provide evidence in a sport and leisure context of what is associated with men and masculinity is valued over what is associated with women and femininity.
In the postmodern era, which many Western cultures are now beginning to experience, the categories of sex and gender are beginning to collapse and multiple categories of gender are arising. This transformation, according to Firat, will enable people to experience consumption with fewer constraints and boundaries. Firat notes, as do we, that postmodern freedom is still affected by modern categories, which aid in establishing norms of conduct. We use these categories as well as several of Firat’s other modern significations of gender dichotomies (including home versus workplace, passive versus active, emotional versus rational, submissive versus assertive, worthless versus valuable, and product versus person) to demonstrate that the many forms of masculinity and femininity have not blurred enough to prevent most people from valuing masculinity more than femininity.
Our review shows evidence that while gender significations are less limiting in some ways than they were in the past, for the most part gender still matters. In the final section we report evidence of postmodern freedom from strict distinctions between masculinity and femininity in sports and leisure. Some blurring of the meanings of masculinity and femininity are transforming the activities of men and women; however, we show that this new kind of freedom appears to occur ambivalently or in a confused manner. While appearing to liberate, the new freedom still uses, in some ways, principles from the modern era that reestablishes or reinforces modernism. For example, while the successful Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) tries to empower and invigorate women, it takes a step back in postmodern freedom by reinforcing images of heterosexuality, portraying players as wives and mothers (McDonald 2000).