From Alpha Athlete to Regretful Spectator: The Gendered and Heteronormative Story of My Sporting Experience
Freeman, Keri Ann
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Much research has demonstrated the positive impact sport plays in individuals’ lives; however, there are gendered rates of participation. In particular, adolescent girls participate in sport at a lower rate than their male peers. The withdrawal from sport for adolescent girls has been linked to gender and heteronormativity but the current literature does not adequately explain the attrition rate. Therefore, utilizing autoethnography, this research studied the gendered and heteronormative sporting context, specifically the recreational sport inside and outside the school, of adolescent girls. My own memories, sport memorabilia, conversations with my parents, and present-day experiences have informed the creation of my narrative. The findings from my autoethnography support the notion that gender intensifies during adolescence and presses femininity and heterosexuality onto adolescent girls. Coupled together, gender ideology and heteronormativity influence the negotiation of sport participation through peers and perceived peer appraisals, and lead to specific behaviour to demonstrate appropriate gender and sexual orientation. Heterosexual adolescent girls and athletes are not guarded against the lesbian label, a prevalent and powerful description of female athletes as a result of the femininity/athleticism conflict. Described in this research were my motivations to avoid the label, as well as, the ways in which I did so. Given that gender intensifies during adolescence, these negotiations are occurring when identity formation processes are taking place, which has implications for impending adulthood and sport participation. As such, the withdrawal of adolescent girls from sport has implications for Canadian sport and policy provisions to create a positive and gender inclusive space for adolescent girls.