Date of Award
Master of Arts in Communication Studies
First Reader/Committee Chair
Corrigan F. Thomas
Much attention has been paid to Black male athlete activism both historically and in the contemporary movement for black lives. Black female athletes have also made historic contributions as activists, and they continue to do so. However, Black female athlete activism has not always been acknowledged or heard. This is a problem, as Black women in American sports and society face overlapping racial and gender inequities and injustices that distinctly marginalize and oppress them. However, some Black female athlete activists (BFAAs) have begun using social media to challenge media narratives about themselves, to redefine what it means to be a female athlete, and to call attention to racial and gender injustices in both sports and society.
This thesis examines two cases of a Black female athlete using social media for activism. Specifically, this study looks at U.S. hammer-thrower, Gwen Berry’s unplanned protests at the 2019 Pan American (Pan Am) Games and the 2021 Olympic Trials, the backlash Berry received for those actions, and her responses on social media. It synthesizes those two cases in a rich and descriptive narrative. And it interprets the events and data using theories of intersectionality and cyberfeminism.
Like BFAAs before her, Berry used her body and clothing to silently protest at the medal stand against the injustice she and other Black people face, and she received extensive backlash for doing so. Comparing her experience to white and male athlete activists illustrates the challenges Black female athletes face in protesting injustice. But unlike previous BFAAs, Berry used social media to respond to her critics, tell her own story of how and why she protested, and establish her identity as a Black athlete activist in the process. By looking at Berry’s 2019 and 2021 protests we also see how the changing context of American political life – particularly the murder of George Floyd – significantly impacts the activism of Black female athletes.
Newell, Ariel, "BLACK FEMALE ATHLETES’ USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR ACTIVISM: AN INTERSECTIONAL AND CYBERFEMINIST ANALYSIS OF U.S. HAMMER-THROWER, GWEN BERRY'S 2019 AND 2021 PODIUM PROTESTS" (2022). Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 1584.
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