Although sport access for females has greatly improved, certain behaviors continue to be considered more or less appropriate for females depending upon how compatible they are with biologically or socially constructed female characteristics. However, young women who have grown up playing sports and continue participation at the college level have constructed meanings about being a young woman and an athlete. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed to investigate how seven gymnasts and seven softball players competing in NCAA Division I athletics view and contend with a “female/athlete paradox.” These women recognized preferred femininity and at times constructed images based on this notion. However, they also embraced their athleticism and felt at ease choosing not to perform femininity in some contexts.
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What does it take to be an athlete at this level?
What is feminine?
What is not feminine?
Do you think there are some stereotypes about what is feminine?
What are they?
Do you think it is important to be feminine?
How do you feel about being a woman who is physically strong and muscular?
How physically strong are you?
Have you ever been treated differently because you were a girl who played sports?
What adjectives do you use to describe yourself now?
How feminine are you compared to:
other women athletes?
women college students?
Have you ever felt pressure to be more stereotypically feminine?
When do you feel most feminine?
What do you do to make yourself feel this way?
Do you do anything to emphasize your femininity:
outside of practice and competition?
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Ross, S.R., Shinew, K.J. Perspectives of Women College Athletes on Sport and Gender. Sex Roles 58, 40–57 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9275-4
- Women athletes