This thesis examines the construction of young girls' gender identity and the
influence participation in football can have on this process. Increasing
numbers of girls are now participating in football, a sport which has
traditionally been connected with extreme forms of masculinity. The thesis
examines the influence participation in football by girls can have on altering
dominant and traditional gender assumptions and breaking down the
construction of football as a masculine sport.
The thesis utilises a feminist post-structural theoretical positioning to enable
an understanding of girls' identities as diverse and multiple. The literature
reviewed firstly provides an examination of identity theory, girl culture and the
influence on global discourses and local mechanisms on girls' gender identity
construction. The second phase of the review examines the relevance of sport
to the dominant gender order, girls' participation in sport and the potential of
sport and football to offer a space in which girls and women can engage in
alternative discourses to contest dominant gender values. The methodological
approach draws on feminism and the sociology of childhood. A six-month
ethnographic study was undertaken in a single school site with thirteen 10 and
11 year old girls. A multi- method, child friendly approach was used to
encourage full and direct communication for the girls involved.
The study illustrated the diversity and complexity of young girls' gender
identities. Global discourses influenced their belief and assumptions
surrounding their visual identities, while their friends provided key sources of
information about how these should be interpreted in their everyday lives.
Football fitted into the girls' feminine gender identities fairly smoothly.
Although some of the girls used football to construct `alternative' identities,
their participation had little impact on altering either dominant belief
surrounding football or reshaping restrictive elements of feminine identities.
Despite this the girls' experiences of football were positive, allowing them an
open space where contestation of their own negative views about themselves
occurs and extend the scripts regarding their own sports abilities and the
meaning of football to them. Even when appearing to contest the masculine
construction of sport though, the girls' experiences remained highly
constrained by gender discourses.
Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.