Boys in Rhythmic Gymnastics: Gymnasts’, Parents’ and Coaches’ Perspectives from Southern Spain

  • Joaquín PiedraEmail author
  • Daniel Gallardo
  • George Jennings


Patriarchal dominance in many Western societies, in different degrees and ways, has historically not only oppressed women but also isolated many men who have not complied with orthodox masculinity patterns (Anderson, Inclusive masculinity: The changing nature of masculinities. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009). The aim of this study is to know and analyse the experiences of a group of boys, parents and trainers, who practise rhythmic gymnastics in seven different competitive clubs from cities and rural areas in the South of Spain. Within this interpretative paradigm, 17 interviews were conducted (four in pairs) with: male gymnasts who practise rhythmic gymnastics (9); parents (7), and trainers (4). The boys, families and trainers express the support that they have had (or given) when boys decide to practise a traditionally “feminine appropriate” sport (Hargreaves, Sporting females: Critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sports. London: Routledge, 1994). However, many gymnasts have been insulted or mocked by other boys, even their own relatives. Parents especially point out bad experiences that their kids are/were living. Therefore, it is important to work with families in order to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices in the male division of this discipline in the future. Similarly, rhythmic gymnastics should be promoted among boys, since a higher presence of boys in clubs would ease their reception among girls.


  1. Adams, M. L. (2007). The manly history of a ‘girls’ sport’: Gender, class and the development of nineteenth-century figure skating. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 24(7), 872–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, M. L. (2010). From mixed-sex sport to sport for girls: The feminization of figure skating. Sport in History, 30(2), 218–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. (2002). Openly gay athletes: Contesting hegemonic masculinity in a homophobic environment. Gender and Society, 16(6), 860–877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, E. (2005). In the game: Gay athletes and the cult of masculinity. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, E. (2008). “Being masculine is not about who you sleep with…:” Heterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality. Sex Roles, 58(1–2), 104–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Anderson, E. (2009). Inclusive masculinity: The changing nature of masculinities. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Anderson, E., Magrath, R., & Bullingham, R. (2016). Out in sport. The experiences of openly gay and lesbian athletes in competitive sport. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Anderson, E., & McCormack, M. (2016). Inclusive masculinity theory: Overview, reflection and refinement. Journal of Gender Studies, Online First, 1–15.Google Scholar
  9. Atencio, M., & Koca, C. (2011). Gendered communities of practice and the construction of masculinities in Turkish physical education. Gender and Education, 23(1), 59–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barbero, J. I. (2003). La educación física y el deporte como dispositivos normalizadores de la heterosexualidad. [Physical education and sports as normalizing mechanisms of heterosexuality]. In O. Guasch & O. Viñuales (Eds.), Sexualidades: diversidad y control social (pp. 355–377). Barcelona: Bellaterra.Google Scholar
  11. Barker-Ruchti, N., Grahn, K., & Lindgren, E. C. (2016). Shifting, crossing and transforming gender boundaries in physical cultures. Sport in Society, 19(5), 615–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bemiller, M. (2005). Men who cheer. Sociological Focus, 38(3), 205–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (2000). La dominación masculina [Masculine Dominance]. Barcelona: Anagrama.Google Scholar
  14. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burstyn, V. (1999). The rites of men: Manhood, politics, and the culture of sport. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chiat, J. F., & Ying, L. F. (2012). Importance of music learning and musicality in rhythmic gymnastics. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 3202–3208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chimot, C., & Louveau, C. (2010). Becoming a man while playing a female sport: The construction of masculine identity in boys doing rhythmic gymnastics. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 45(4), 436–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Connell, R. W. (1990). An iron man: The body and some contradictions of hegemonic masculinity. In M. Messner & D. Sabo (Eds.), Sport, men and the gender order (pp. 83–95). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books.Google Scholar
  19. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  20. Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19, 829–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Côté, J. (1999). The influence of the family in the development of talent in sport. The Sport Psychologist, 13(4), 395–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Demers, G. (2010). Homophobia in sport: Fact of life, taboo subject. In S. Robertson (Ed.), Taking the lead: Strategies and solutions from female coaches (pp. 73–98). Edmonton, CA: University of Alberta Press.Google Scholar
  23. Dietz, G. (2004). Frontier hybridisation or culture clash? Transnational migrant communities and sub-national identity politics in Andalusia, Spain. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30(6), 1087–1112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dupper, D. R. (2013). School bullying: New perspectives on a growing problem. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gómez-García, P. (1982). Cuestiones sobre la identidad cultural de Andalucía. [Questions about the cultural identity of Andalusia]. Gazeta de Antropología, 1, 1–10.Google Scholar
  26. González-Anleo, J. (2006). Jóvenes y religiosidad [Youngsters and religiousness]. In P. González-Blasco, J. González-Anleo, & J. Elzo (Eds.), Jóvenes Españoles 2005 (pp. 1–15). Madrid: Fundación Santa María.Google Scholar
  27. Griera, M. (2015). Politics, religion and sociology in Spain: The history of a discipline. In A. Blasi & G. Giordan (Eds.), Sociologies of Religion (pp. 268–293). Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  28. Hargreaves, J. (1994). Sporting females: Critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sports. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Hewitt, J. P., & Shulman, D. (2011). Self and society: A symbolic interactionist social psychology (11th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  30. Hickey, C. (2008). Physical education, sport and hyper-masculinity in schools. Sport, Education and Society, 13(2), 147–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kian, E. M., & Anderson, E. (2009). John Amaechi: Changing the way sports reporters examine gay athletes. Journal of Homosexuality, 56(7), 799–818. Scholar
  32. Koivula, N. (2001). Perceived characteristics of sports categorized as gender-neutral, feminine and masculine. Journal of Sport Behavior, 24(4), 377–394.Google Scholar
  33. Krane, V. (2001). We can be athletic and feminine, but do we want to? Challenging hegemonic femininity in women’s sport. Quest, 53, 115–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krane, V., Choi, P., Baird, S. M., Aimar, C. M., & Kauer, K. J. (2004). Living the paradox: Female athletes negotiate femininity and muscularity. Sex Roles, 50(5–6), 315–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lamont, M., & Molnár, V. (2002). The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 167–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Law, M. P., Côté, J., & Ericsson, A. (2007). Characteristics of expert development in rhythmic gymnastics: A retrospective study. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 5(1), 82–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. MacArthur, P. J., Angelini, J. R., Billings, A. C., & Smith, L. R. (2017). The thin line between masculinity and skate: Primetime narratives of male figure skaters on the CBC and NBC 2014 Winter Olympic broadcasts. Sociology of Sport Journal, 34(1), 46–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mendizábal, S. (2001). Fundamentos de la Gimnasia Rítmica [Basics of Rhythmic Gymnastics]. Madrid: Gymnos.Google Scholar
  39. Messner, M. A. (1992). Power at play: Sports and the problem of masculinity. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  40. Messner, M. A., & Sabo, D. F. (1990). Sport, men and the gender order: Critical feminist perspectives. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Press.Google Scholar
  41. Moreno, I. (1993). Andalucía, identidad y cultura: estudio de antropología andaluza. [Andalusia, identity and culture: Study of Andalusian anthropology]. Granada: Librería Ágora.Google Scholar
  42. Morrow, R. G., & Gill, D. L. (2003). Perceptions of homophobia and heterosexism in physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 74(2), 205–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Palmer, H. C. (2003). Teaching rhythmic gymnastics: A developmentally appropriate approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  44. Parker, M. B., & Curtner-Smith, M. D. (2012). Sport education: A panacea for hegemonic masculinity in physical education or more of the same? Sport, Education and Society, 17(4), 479–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Peterson, G. T., & Anderson, E. (2012). The performance of softer masculinities on the university dance floor. Journal of Men’s Studies, 20, 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Piedra, J. (2015). Gays y lesbianas en el deporte: discurso de jóvenes universitarios españoles en torno a su aceptación. [Gays and lesbians in sport: University students’ speech about their acceptance]. Movimento, 21(4), 1067–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Piedra, J. (2017). Masculinity and rhythmic gymnastics. An exploration on the transgression of gender order in sport. Masculinities and Social Change, 6(3), 288–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Piedra, J., García-Pérez, R., & Channon, A. (2017). Between homohysteria and inclusivity: Tolerance towards sexual diversity in sport. Sexuality & Culture, 21(4), 1018–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Plummer, D. (1999). One of the boys: Masculinity, homophobia, and modern manhood. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Priyadharshini, E., & Pressland, A. (2016). Doing femininities and masculinities in a ‘feminized’ sporting arena: The case of mixed-sex cheerleading. Sport in Society, 19, 1234–1248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pronger, B. (1990). The arena of masculinity. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  52. Renold, E. (1997). ‘All they’ve got on their brains is football.’ Sport, masculinity and the gendered practices of playground relations. Sport, Education and Society, 2(1), 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Silva, P. (2013). Construyendo el puzle de la masculinidad en la educación física portuguesa [Building the puzzles of masculinities in Portuguese PE]. In J. Piedra (Ed.), Géneros, masculinidades y diversidad (pp. 133–159). Barcelona: Octaedro.Google Scholar
  54. Silva, P., Botelho-Gomes, P., & Goellner, S. V. (2012). Masculinities and sport: The emphasis on hegemonic masculinity in Portuguese physical education classes. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 25(3), 269–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Southall, R., Nagel, M., Anderson, E., Polite, F., & Southall, C. (2009). An investigation of male college athletes’ attitudes toward sexual orientation. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, Special Issue, 62–77.Google Scholar
  56. Sparkes, A., & Smith, B. (2014). Qualitative research methods in sport, exercise and health. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Sparkes, A. C. (2002). Telling tales in sport and physical activity: A qualitative journey. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  58. Steinfeldt, J. A., Miller, I. K., & David, J. L. (2016). Masculinities in sport: Incorporating heterogeneity into hegemony. In Y. J. Wong & S. R. Wester (Eds.), APA handbook of men and masculinities (pp. 659–681). Washington, DC: APA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tischler, A., & McCaughtry, N. (2011). PE is not for me: When boys’ masculinities are threatened. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82(1), 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vázquez-Pardal, R. (2014). Participación masculina en deportes tradicionalmente femeninos [male participation in traditionally female sports]. In M. J. Mosquera (Ed.), IV Ciclo de Conferencias: Xénero, Actividade Física e Deporte (pp. 29–36). Coruña: Universidad da Coruña Press.Google Scholar
  61. Vilanova, A., Soler, S., & Anderson, E. (2018). Examining the Experiences of the First Openly Gay Team Sport Athlete in Spain. Male Athlete in Spain. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Online First.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joaquín Piedra
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel Gallardo
    • 1
  • George Jennings
    • 2
  1. 1.Universidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  2. 2.Cardiff Metropolitan UniversityCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations