Skip to main content

Extreme Sports: A Manifestation of the 'Crisis' of White Masculinity?

So says a sociology professor at Virginia Tech.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

So writes Anthony Kwame Harrison, a sociology professor at Virginia Tech:

[Kyle] Kusz (2004) situates the emergence of extreme sports in America within 1990s anxieties over White manhood’s loss of authority. This perceived crisis, he argues, should be viewed within the context of post-1960s global shifts in the industrial economy, national demographic changes, and post-Civil Rights Movement racial politics (Kusz, 2004). The mainstreaming of extreme sports, then, nostalgically looks back to a lost era of American manhood defined by rugged individuals and personal responsibility for social progress. This modified version of manifest destiny reimagines the conquest of nature, women, and non-White peoples in the project of American nation-building. In the most celebrated contemporary skiing practices—where extreme skill and risk-taking lead to the greatest skiing prestige—Whiteness continues to operate as the unspoken norm (Kusz, 2004). It should come as little surprise, then, that Black skiers—with their wildland aversions and parallel integration sensibilities and sociabilities—are largely excluded from these privileged spaces. In fact, a history of recreational leisure scholarship suggests that Black people prefer developed recreational settings with formal landscape designs (Elmendorf et al., 2005; Johnson et al., 1997). Along the skiing sportscape, this places Black skiers, along with women, within the resort confines.

As a former employee of Outside magazine, I recuse myself from any further comment. —Ryan O'Hanlon