Gender and Sexuality

Professor Van Rheenen received UC Berkeley's Dissertation of the Year award for his doctoral research on hopscotch and its complex relationship with gender and sexuality. Dr. Van Rheenen's Cultural Studies of Sport in Education M.A. encourages its participants to consider the role of sport in reproducing or challenging social norms, and Dr. Van Rheenen continues to study folklore and children's games as one area of cultural studies. His current work in the growing field of sport tourism was influenced by the Sochi Olympics and the potential for sporting events to serve as sites of cultural and political struggle.  

A Skunk at the Garden Party: the Sochi Olympics, State-Sponsored Homophobia and Prospects for Human Rights Through Mega Sporting Events

Abstract: Mega sporting events, such as the Olympics, are sites of political struggle. Situating mega sporting events within the context of critical social theory, this article examines the potential of modern sport to serve as a vehicle for foreign policy and the promotion of international human rights. This article examines the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in light of Russian legislation that bans ‘propaganda of non-traditional relations’, resulting in what many have described as state-sponsored homophobia. Highlighting the international community’s response to this legislation, such as threatened boycotts, political statements and symbolic gestures of protest, the implications of the Sochi case study reveal the potential of mega sporting events to advance human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in Russia and perhaps elsewhere. As human rights are historically and culturally contested, this article discusses the role of identity politics and liberal internationalism within the realm of global sport diplomacy. Finally, the Sochi case study contributes to future discussions concerning   efforts at balancing hosting rights, human rights and the social responsibilities associated with mega sporting events. Specific recommendations are provided.


Van Rheenen, D. (2014). A skunk at the garden party: the Sochi Olympics, state-sponsored homophobia and prospects for human rights through mega sporting events. Journal of Sport and Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/14775085.2014.949287


A Century of Historical Change in the Game Preferences of American Children

Abstract: This paper chronicles the game preferences of American children during the twentieth century, documenting the results from four studies between 1898 and 1998. These studies are used to compare the popularity of particular activities (e.g., hopscotch, baseball) and types of activities (e.g., board games, games of individual skill) by gender over a one-hundred-year period. With this longitudinal, multi-study comparison, it is revealed that the game preferences of boys and girls have become markedly more similar. This pattern of increased play preference convergence throughout the twentieth century suggests an erosion of gender-determined institutionalized norms related to games. The dominance of electronic games and organized sport in the most recent of the four surveys not only reflects the technological advances of American society; it also indicates an increased desire for games that demand greater skill and promote roles specialization.

Boys Who Play Hopscotch: The Historical Divide of a Gendered Space.
In Children’s Folklore Review and reprinted in  Play and Culture Studies: Theory in Context and Out

Excerpt: Children experience themselves as belonging to distinct and dichotomous gender identities. These gender identities are based upon
cultural systems of belief which generalize, and in turn naturalize, the appearance, behaviors, and thoughts of each sex. Children's play is but one
of several interrelated activities which informs the cultural production of gender. By addressing the informal play of children, it is possible to witness
the ways in which these active agents of culture participate in their own construction of gender.

Van Rheenen, D. (2001). Boys Who Play Hopscotch: The Historical Divide of a Gendered Space. In Children’s Folklore Review (1998): 22: 5-31. Reprinted in Play and Culture Studies: Theory in Context and Out (2001): 3: 111-130. [not available online)