Boston Marathon: A Thematic Analysis

1372 Words6 Pages
It was 1967 and 2 miles into the 26.2 mile competition, Boston Marathon officials attempted to pull Kathrine Switzer from the course right in front of the press. The young athlete had trained for months and ran with her track coach and boyfriend who tried to block the officials, as Kathrine continued her race. The profuse sexism and discrimination that this photo shows and represents, illustrates how far women’s rights and combatting stigma has come since the late sixties. Astoundingly, at that time woman were still generally regarded as too “fragile” to compete in long distance running at all, and until 1984 the women’s marathon was not an Olympic event. The sexist views, historical gender roles and social impact that surround this image,…show more content…
It depicts a strong female character defying societal rules and pushing past discrimination to pave the way for equality. All of the sociological Schools of Thought can connect in some way to this photo; Feminist Sociology clearly addresses gender in society, Structural Functionism often denies issues like sexism, Symbolic Interactionism is represented through the media role and the legacy of ‘261’ in sports, and Conflict Theory describes feminists fight for power in a patriarchal society. Moreover, Conflict Theory suggests that society structures itself on the imbalance of groups competing for power. This connects to the fight for gender equality that had occurred between men and women, especially in North America, during the 60’s. Inversely, socialization is apparent through gender roles determined by not only culture, but societal influences and social development, and the “acceptable behaviour” that results from this process of learning through influence. Agents of socialization, like gender and the media, both prominent in this photo, teach children how to act. Gender roles are one part of many rules in society that children internalize as they grow up, but breaking these caused different reactions throughout society, notably those of sexist prejudice. Harold Garfunkel’s breaching experiments examined the public’s reactions of breaking social norms, however sociology also tries to explain the cause of discriminatory reactions with the Learned, Competition, Frustration-Aggression, and Ignorance Theories. In the 1967 Boston Marathon, ignorance and fear of an unfamiliar situation may have been the cause for officials and onlookers reactions, or it could have resulted from the learnt intolerance that was not uncommon for the time. Regardless, Kathrine confronted the structure of sexism in society. She wrote, “In 1967, few would have
Open Document