Sporting Masculinity on the Gridiron: Construction, Characteristics and Consequences/MASCULINITÉ DE SPORT SUR LE TERRAIN DE FOOTBALL: CONSTRUCTION, CARACTÉRISTIQUES ET CONSÉQUENCES

Article excerpt


This paper draws on interviews with 81 Canadian football players and administrators across junior, university, and professional football, as well as 20 published autobiographies of football players, to examine the development and consequences of sporting masculinity. In this paper, the concept of sporting masculinity is further developed and contrasted with other masculinities, particularly hegemonic masculinity. Various aspects of sporting masculinity in Canadian football are examined such as: the development of a male space, sentiments of superiority both on and off the field, body image issues, playing through pain and injury, analogies of war, and football as a total institution. This paper concludes with a discussion of the dangerous and harmful consequences of sporting masculinity to football players, as well the larger social issues that arise from this identity and the characteristics it can entail.

Key words: Sport; Masculinity; Violence; Qualitative Research

Resume: Cet article s'appuie sur des entretiens avec 81 joueurs et administrateurs de football canathens, dans le foot junior, universitaire et professionnel, ainsi que 20 autobiographies publiées par des joueurs de football, pour examiner l'évolution et les conséquences de la masculinité sportive. Dans cet article, le concept de masculinité sportive est développée par contraste avec d'autres formes de masculinité, en particulier la masculinité hégémonique. De divers aspects de la masculinité sportive dans le football canathen sont examinés, tels que le développement d'un espace masculin, les sentiments de supériorité à la fois sur et hors du terrain, les problèmes d'image corporelle, l'épreuve de douleur et de blessures, les analogies de la guerre, et le football comme une institution totale. Cet article se termine par une discussion sur les conséquences dangereuses et néfastes de la masculinité sportive vis-à-vis des joueurs de football, ainsi que de grandes questions sociales qui découlent de cette identité et les caractéristiques qu'elle peut comporter.

Mots clés: Sport; Masculinité; La violence; La recherche qualitative

"We have surrendered our identities to some stereotyped stallion gone mad. And the more this horse seems to be disappearing from our culture, the more fervidly we cling to the saddle. The new institutional representation and spokesman for this horse has become sport, especially football." (Gary Shaw, 1972, p. 221)


Numerous researchers have explored the central role of sport in creating and maintaining dominant forms of masculinity (Hall, 1985; Messner, 1992; Pronger, 1990; Sabo, 1985; Woodward, 2006). These researchers have argued that in sport, a particular form of masculine identity is developed through the legitimation of violence, various myths of heroism, and the exclusion of women. Sport allows men to display physical dominance and superiority; to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than others on the field. The vast majority of literature pertaining to masculinity in sport examines sport in general, rather than the intricacies of masculine identity formation within specific sporting contexts. The aim of this paper is to explore various aspects of sporting masculinity in Canadian gridiron football including how it is constructed, what it is characterized by, and its often harmful consequences.

This study draws on 81 semi-directed qualitative interviews with junior, university, and professional football players and administrators across Canada, as well as the published autobiographies of 20 football players. The study began as an exploration of the legal issue of consent but the centrality of masculinity to the rules of interaction and behaviour in Canadian football became immediately clear during the research.

This paper opens with a brief discussion of the descriptive concept of sporting masculinity, as it is used in this study. Several aspects of sporting masculinity are then explored including: the separating out of men, sentiments of superiority both on and off the field, body image, playing with pain, paying the price for glory, analogies of war, and football as a total institution. …


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