Imagine a rodeo rider atop a bucking bronco, hat in hand, straining to remain astride. Is the rider in your mind's eye white? Is the person male? Popular imaginings and high level, televised, professional rodeo circuits have created a stereotyped image of who rodeo is by and for, but it is far too limited an image, and one that does not reflect reality.
In Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion: Race, Gender, and Identity in the American Rodeo (University Press of Kansas, 2020), Dr. Elyssa Ford, an associate professor of history at Northwest Missouri State University, paints a very different image of rodeo than what Western myth would have one believe. Ford argues that rodeo has, from its creation, both a vehicle for rebellion and a place of refuge for groups of people told they didn't belong in the American West, let alone in Western rodeo. From Hawaiian ranching culture to Black and gay rodeo, men and women have used professional riding as a powerful expression of self in a nation that has often tried to deny their very personhood.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
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