Challenging “a man’s game”: women’s interruption of the habitus in football

2013-02-18T16:18:48Z (GMT) by Joanne L. Hill
This research investigates the ways in which women football players construct their body experiences and negotiate discourses within a traditionally male-dominated sport. It presents qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews with women active in recreational football in the south-east UK. Football remains constructed around such physical attributes as strength, aggressive behaviour, and forceful actions, associated with the social construction of masculinity. In this paper, Bourdieu’s (1990, 1993) notion of the habitus is used to theorise women’s embodiment in the context of football and to reconceptualise the ways that women (re)construct their body experiences while making sense of conventional gendered practices. Two major themes were identified in the data analysis. Firstly, the participants challenged social constructions of football and made sense of the game in alternative ways. Secondly, football can be an empowering location for women to challenge conventional femininity, gender divisions, and to disrupt the gendered habitus. Crucially, the contexts or environments where the participants played football were experienced as inclusive and positive spaces for expressing fluid and non-constraining identities. The potential for the notion of inclusive spaces and interrupting the gendered habitus in physical education contexts can thus be explored.