Culture & Politics






Whether it was the concussive injuries to athletes due to the exploitation of violence in sport, sexual abuse by coaches, the profound corruption of Olympic and major sports associations, sport’s ambiguous part in racism, its many-sided contributions to sexism, or the deep role big-time sport culture has played in nurturing authoritarian and anti-democratic values – that is, in shaping political culture – Varda Burstyn saw it all and wrote about it beginning in the late 1980s. Her predictions have come true and her analysis of the impact and consequence of the commercial drivers of sport on society are highly relevant today, which is why her book, The Rites of Men: Men, Politics and the Culture of Sport continues to be used in university studies around the world, and drawn on by progressive and reform-minded athletes as they work to improve their own worlds, for athletes and for society.




The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics and the Culture of Sport. Scholarly work. University of Toronto Press. Toronto 1999. Book of the Year Award (2000) North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (USA). [For more about Rites, click here.]



’Sport as a Secular Sacrament,’ excerpted from The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics and the Culture of Sport in Sport in Contemporary Society: An Anthology. Stanley Eitzen, ed. Paradigm Publishers, Boulder Colorado. 2005.


Women, Sport and Politics. Encyclopaedia of Women and Sport, Vol 2, p.g. 882-889. Berkshire Reference Works. Berkshire Massachusetts 1999.


Some Political Reflections on Globalization, Ideology, Gender and Olympic Sport. Problematizing the Olympic Games. Kevin B. Wamsley ed. International Centre for Olympic Studies University of Western Ontario. London (ON) 1998.


The Sporting Life. Taking Sport Seriously: Social Issues in Canadian Sport. Peter Donnelly ed. Thompson Educational Publications. Toronto 1997.


Journals & Magazines


Inside the Olympic IndustryPower, Politics, and Activism. Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, foreword by Varda Burstyn. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY. 2000.



Sport, Gender and Politics: Moving Beyond the O.J. Saga. The Socialist Register 1996. Leo Panitch ed. London (UK) 1996.



The Sporting Life. First published in Saturday Night, March 1990. A political history of steroid use in Olympic sport.


CBC Radio Documentary Series


Play, Performance and Power. Three hour-long documentaries on sport and society, on men’s sport, women’s sport and the Olympic Games. IDEAS CBC Radio 1986.


Politics of Sex, Pornography & Censorship


Early in the 1980s, a huge wave of mobilization over pornography swept society. From the “Moral Majority” (the first regroupment of the “New Right”) to the women’s movement, many analyses and strategies constituted points of difference for public policy platforms and moral stances. Issues of gender were pivotal, though in different ways, for these different actors. Varda Burstyn, serving in 1981 on the board of a progressive film festival that was busted and censored for showing explicit (though critical) films began to address the complex issues both in understanding and in taking action on sexual imagery, and continued to write about these issues as social concern grew throughout the decade. She wrote and spoke widely in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. Her commissioned anthology Women Against Censorship was the first collection of Canadian and American feminist writers expressing a feminist analysis of pornography while taking a non-censorious strategic stance. The debates that were had at that historical moment when highly capitalized film and video were moving sexual imagery into a new level of realism and pervasiveness are important and educational backdrops to urgent debates we are having today, which is why this book is still seen as a benchmark by scholars and activists in these times.




Who’s on Top? The Politics of Heterosexuality. Howard Buchbinder, Varda Burstyn, Dinah Forbes, Mercedes Steadman. “The Left and the Porn Wars,” Varda Burstyn. Garamond Press, Toronto. 1987.


Women Against Censorship (ed.) Douglas and MacIntyre. Toronto 1985. Nominated for H.L. Mencken Award for excellence in writing related to civil liberties (USA).




“Art and Censorship.” Sightlines: Reading Contemporary Canadian Art, Jessica Bradley and Lesley Johnstone, eds. Artextes editions. Montreal, 1994.


“Who Are ‘We’?” Good Girls, Bad Girls: Sex Trade Workers and Feminists Face to Face. Laurie Bell, ed. Women’s Press. Toronto 1987.


Journals & Magazines


Porn Again: Feeling the Heat of Censorship. Fuse No. 45. Spring 1987.


The Heat is On! Conference Notes on Women’s Sexuality in Art. Canadian Art. Spring 1986.


State Censorship, Pornography and Sexuality. Atkinson Review of Canadian Studies, Vol.1, No. 2. Spring 1984.York University. Toronto 1984.


Anatomy of a Moral Panic. Fuse, Vol. 8, Nos. 1 & 2. Summer 1984. Art and Censorship. Fuse. Sep/Oct 1984.


Art and Censorship. Fuse. Fall 1983.


CBC Radio Documentary Series


The War Between the Sexes. Consultant, feature documentary special by Mary O’Connell for Valentine’s Day. Sunday Morning. CBC Radio. February 1993.


Public Sex: Four hour-long documentaries on the pornography debates, on the sexualization of advertising and commodities, the censorship of sexually explicit art and the wider spread of sexual issues in public discourse, including thorny issues of representation and censorship. IDEAS, CBC radio, 1983.




Doing the Bunny Hop the American Way: Varda Burstyn Reads Playboy. Writer and presenter, Paper Tiger Television media literacy series. New York 1984.





Women, Class, Family and the State. Garamond Press, Toronto, 1985Reprinted from the Socialist Register, 1983. One of two monographs in this volume, the other by Dorothy Smith.


Journals & Anthologies


The Dystopia of Our Times: Genetic Technology and Other Afflictions. The Socialist Register 2000. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, eds. Merlin. London (UK), 2000.



Masculine Dominance and the State. The Socialist Register, Ralph Milliband and John Savile, eds. Merlin. London (UK) 1983.


Economy, Sexuality, Politics: Engels and the Sexual Division of Labour. Socialist Studies Annual 1 (1), University of Manitoba Press. Winnipeg 1983.




CBC Radio Documentary Series






Journals & Magazines


Toronto…Ontario, USA: Hollywood Tanks Roll into Canada. Mother Jones. Jan 1987.


Cries and Whispers Reconsidered. Cineaction, Nos. 3/4. Toronto Winter 1988.


Masculinity, Profit and Violence in the Hollywood Cinema. Canadian Woman Studies. Fall 1983.


Of Movies and Models: Girls in Hollywood. Canadian Woman Studies. Toronto/York University. Vol. 4. No. 1. 1982.


The Seductive Illusion: Sex and Class in the Hollywood Cinema. Canadian Woman Studies. Toronto/York University. Vol. 3, No. 2 1981.


Mangled in the Hollywood Dream Machine. Sojourner. Boston Fall 1980.


Documentary Film


Wisecracks. Consultant. Directed by Gail Singer, produced by Signe Johansson. National Film Board of Canada/Alliance co-production. 1989. Award-winning film about women stand-up comics.


Fine Art


Defending the Dinner Party. Fireweed. Toronto. Winter 1982.



back to top