An investigation into how female football players construct and negotiate their identities in an elite university environment
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This study aimed to explore the identity construction and negotiation of female footballers in an elite university environment. An ethnographic approach was utilized, and data was collected through focus groups, semi-structured interviews observational field notes and reflective narrative passages. A thematic analysis of the data generated three key themes: presentation of self and identity management, an outdated representation of lesbian identities, and muscularity and the empowerment of female footballers. Previous literature including Goffman’s (1959) theory of regions and performances, and Griffin’s (1998) identity management strategies, were used throughout the study and provided a useful theoretical lens when interpreting the results. This study revealed that Griffin’s (1998) identity management strategies are not as prominent within the accepting environment of university, but do remain relevant outside of the subculture. Team spaces henceforth emerged as comfortable for players of all sexual orientations, encompassing decreased standards of femininity, and facilitating the existence of both lesbian identities and identities that reproduce a masculinized version of femininity. Additional findings allude to a broader continuum of lesbian identities, consequently suggesting that the ‘butch lesbian’ label is outdated and gives an inaccurate representation of the women within this study. Future research should investigate how the management strategies employed by female footballer’s change when they leave the accepting university subculture, and how the comforting team climate could be seen to promote intra-team relationships.
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