Dr. Kat Williams will present a paper on September 8 at annual meeting of The British Society of Sports History at The University of Glasgow. In her talk, Sport: A Useful Category of Analysis: Isabel “Lefty” Alvarez: The Rascal of El Cerro, Dr. Williams shows how an analysis of Alvarez’s story, and that of any woman athlete, must extend move beyond the sport to better understand sport and its significance in the lives of women. In a technique Dr. Williams calls sport-identity, she shows how Alvarez’s life story allows for a better understanding of her life, how and why she made the decisions she did, and the ways in which she relied on that identity to survive a difficult life. For many women, sport becomes the dominate element of their identity as it provides a way to hide the things that make them feel inferior. As such, sports become a refuge from the physical and emotional difficulties of school or family become the location where self-esteem, motivation and confidence flourish. As Dr. Williams demonstrates, Alvarez is more than baseball player. The intersection of Lefty’s baseball experience, her nationality, gender and class and sexuality represents for Lefty, the sum of her identity. She is not only female, working class, Cuban-American or a former baseball player rather she is the sum of all those parts. No one, regardless of their athletic ability or their connection to sports is defined one dimensionally of course. But for women who are sport-identified, and particularly lesbians, sport is not just a profession or a hobby, it does not simply make us more physically fit or more self-confident, it is also the place, the intersection, where all other identity markers, race, class, sexuality converge to create gender identity.
The British Society of Sports History is an international organization that promotes the study of the history of sport. In addition, it organizes an annual conference and publishes the journal, Sport in History.
Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor of History and a member of the Women’s Studies program.