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“I’m not brilliant, but I’m pretty smart”: Compromises and apologies in female college athletes’ constructions of ‘self’

  • Author(s): Pilver, Lindsey
  • et al.
Abstract

With its long history as an exclusively male domain, competitive sports stands as a key site for exploration of the gender constructs and hegemonic structures that persist within athletics, reflecting the conditions and arrangements of society in general. Women have gradually integrated this space, simultaneously upsetting and renegotiating the traditional social arrangements found within it. This integration is an ongoing process, impeded or smoothed by the cultural ideologies of specific historical moments. In this ongoing study, the authors explore how women position themselves within the gendered space of sport. As they construct and establish identities as women, as students, as athletes, and as female athletes, do they encounter competing and contradictory expectations of woman and athlete? To what extent are conflicting identities present, if at all? What discursive practices do these women employ to situate themselves and the identities they construct within the athletic space and the larger social space which they occupy? In a series of interviews with college aged female athletes conducted at an elite, single-sex, liberal arts college in the northeast United States, the author explores the various identities these women negotiate in varied settings such as on the field, in the classroom, and in the dorm. Using a poststructuralist approach to discourse analysis, interviews were analyzed with a focus on the self-positions that the subjects adopt and the conflicting discourses they utilize to reveal the multiple subjectivities the women take up in order to make sense of themselves and their lives.

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