Picturing footballing bodies: gender, homosociality and sportscapes

2017-02-28T04:53:01Z (GMT) by Sanders, Kellie Janine
Australian Rules football is one of Australia’s most popular sports for both spectators and participants. For women who play in this team, the sport offers a unique outlet within which to engage in a women-only space, in a physical, full-contact pursuit, and in what ostensibly remains a ‘male’ sport. When women in this team play Australian Rules football they interact in ways that other social spaces neither demand nor offer. As a domain largely defined by female same-sex sociality, women’s Australian Rules football is a social and cultural space that offers a unique set of circumstances within which to explore women’s same-sex bonds. I use this sport to explore the homosocial dynamics that take place amongst women in such a space, drawing on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Sharon Marcus, Henriette Gunkel and Nancy Finley to build on the theoretical discourses of ‘homosociality’ and ‘intragender relations’. Further, I use Brian Pronger’s work to explore the sportscape of a women’s Australian Rules football team. In drawing on these theoretical frameworks, I analyse the intersections of embodiment, physicality, gender and space for women who play in this Australian Rules football team, pointing to the implications of women’s same-sex sociality more broadly. Using a visual methodology and drawing on the work of Gerry Bloustein and Gillian Rose, I investigate what we might ‘picture’- both literally and metaphorically, when we draw on visual imagery in sports and gender research. Specifically I use what I term ‘photo projects’ and photo elicitation interviews and, through analysis of photographs created by eight women in one Australian Rules football team, I engage in an in-depth analysis of what this social, physical, gendered, sexualised space means for women who play. Building on homosociality as a framework for theorising women’s same sex bonds that may be applied not only in this field but to female homosocial spaces more generally, I question what this women’s Australian Rules football team tells us about gender, embodiment and physicality. What does it mean for gender when women engage in a sport so deeply entrenched in masculinity and maleness and how do the women in this team negotiate this experience? Exploring what a visual methodology has to offer gender and sports sociology research I question what we might see through a visual methodology that non-visual methods do not have the scope to elucidate. Further I contribute to research on visual methodologies through the development of complimentary research methods, including photo projects and a staged training session, both mechanisms for engaging subjects in generating visual data for the study. Through research into this sportscape I demonstrate how space is constructed as physical as well as imaginary. In doing so I build on Pronger’s work, exploring the mobility and transience of the sportscape and the resonance of such for women who play football. Lastly, through engaging with this sportscape and women’s experiences of this sportscape I look at how women are impacted by and simultaneously impact on the sportscape. Research into this women’s Australian Rules football team illuminates this sportscape as a useful sociological field for engaging with the intersections of gender, embodiment and physicality. Further, by demonstrating the different ways that female homosocial bonds manifest, this thesis contributes new ways of thinking about intragender relations in sport sociology.