Gender Identity & Expression in “Women’s Sports” at the University Level



Géza, LuLu
Kelemon, Candice

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The goal of the thesis is to examine the gendered experiences of participants in women’s sports at the university level. This thesis explores the gendered relationships between women’s sports participants and themselves, their peers, and the broader academic institution. I apply the dual lenses of feminist and queer theory to data collected via an online survey and semi-structured interviews. Sixty-six individuals completed the survey and fourteen individuals were interviewed. These samples primarily consisted of white, heterosexual, and female-identified club athletes. The most respondents reported playing a club sport (43) or an intramural sport (31), with only a few (3) NCAA athletes, and most of the surveyed women’s sports participants identified strongly as athletes. A primary theme in this study has been the idea that interactions between individuals about bodies, clothing, and sexuality are indicative of enduring cultural ideas about what it means to be a woman. Many interviewees demonstrated this point when they talked about intentionally thinking about and making decisions about what to wear or how to act, the effect their sport participation would have on their relationships, and how sports were something they grew up being encouraged to do. While the participants in my study did not openly eschew lesbianism, they found it necessary to differentiate themselves from masculinity or lesbianism in many cases. At the same time, the interviewees also devalued qualities they deemed to be feminine, like discussing (anything but especially) feelings and any sort of drama between players/coaches as part of being an athlete. Women’s sports participants must, in this particular social context, walk a fine line between the demands of femininity and the demands of being an athlete, an identity claim that has been gendered as masculine, in the different moments and spaces of their lives.



Women's sports, Gender studies, Sexuality, University, Athletics, Interview data