Spectators' Attitudes toward Basketball: An Application of Multifactorial Gender Identity

Article excerpt

One of the most common ways to examine gender within the context of team sports has been to compare differences between men and women based on biological sex alone. Unfortunately, studies that treat gender as a dichotomous variable (biological sex) do not consider the important contributions of both psychological gender traits and gender-role attitudes in explaining spectators' relationships with team sports. The current study, grounded in multifactorial gender identity theory, shows that gender identity traits, as well as gender-role attitudes, extend our understanding of gender and attitudes toward men's and women's college basketball. In addition, biological sex was found to moderate the relationship between instrumental traits and spectators' attitudes toward men's basketball. Sex also moderates the link between gender-role attitudes and attitudes toward women's basketball. To date, the current study is the first scholarly inquiry to apply the tenets of multifactorial gender identity theory within this context.

The sports psychology and consumption literature abounds with evidence suggesting that although gender significations may be less limiting in some ways than they were in the past, gender is still relevant (McGinnis, Chun, & McQuillan, 2003; Wann & Waddill, 2003; Wann, Waddill, & Dunham 2004). The most frequently used means for exploring gender within the sports context has been to treat gender as a dichotomous variable synonymous with biological sex (e.g., Fink, Trail, & Anderson, 2002; James, 2002). While these studies provide evidence of general similarities and differences between the sexes, they do not reflect our increasingly sophisticated understanding of gender theory, which recognizes the contributions of additional gender-related variables such as psychological gender traits and gender-role attitudes.

In order to capture the relationships associated with gender and spectators' attitudes toward men's and women's basketball, this study is grounded in multifactorial gender identity theory (Spence, 1993). While a complete discussion on the theoretical history and background of gender identity goes beyond the scope of this paper, a brief summary of issues relevant to this study is provided. Gender schema theory and multifactorial gender identity theory posit that regardless of one's biological sex, individuals possess varying degrees of instrumental and expressive traits (Bem, 1981; Spence, 1993). Beyond this tenet, the two competing gender identity theories propose different theoretical implications with respect to the conceptualization of gender identity (Palan, 2001).

Bem's (1981) gender schema theory maintains that the measurement of masculine and feminine personality traits is all that is needed to predict additional gender-related concepts, attitudes and behaviors. On the other hand, Spence's (1993) gender identity theory proposes that gender phenomena are multifactorial and deeply embedded in social contexts. In addition to one's biological sex, instrumental and expressive psychological traits, and other gender-related factors, are relevant to gendered contexts such as competitive sports (Edwards & Spence, 1987; Spence, 1993; Spence & Helmreich, 1978).

The main purpose of this study is to apply multifactorial gender identity theory in order to determine the effects of biological sex, psychological gender, and gender-role attitudes on spectators' attitudes toward men's and women's basketball.

Sports: a gendered context. Throughout the world competitive sports have been sanctioned as a masculine domain and are considered one of the most important arenas for the production and expression of gender (Theberge, 1997; Wiley, Shaw, & Havitz, 2000). Even with the increased participation of girls and women in competitive sports as athletes and spectators, the view that the world of competitive sports is defined and socialized by the male experience remains strong (Basow, 2004; Wann & Waddill, 2003). …