17th Annual ECSS-Congress, Bruges 2012

Abstract details

Abstract-ID: 588
Session: [OP-SH25] Sociology (Sport and gender)
Lecture room: Live 10
Date & time: 27.06.2015 / -
Title of the paper: Transcending Gender Hierarchies? Young People and Floorball in Swedish School Sport
Authors: Larneby, M.
Institution: Malmo University
Department: Sport science
Country: Sweden
Abstract text In Swedish organized team sport boys and girls mainly train and compete separately. As Messner (2002) argues, this often reproduces traditional gender hierarchies within sport, in which boys are favored and girls undervalued. However, as a relatively new sport, floorball has “good opportunities to be depicted in a more equal way” (Ljunggren 2013:10). In contrast to floorball practiced during leisure time, in school sport it is often performed in mixed-sex groups. The aim of this study is to explore and discuss young people’s construction and displaying of gender in a mixed-sex floorball group, and in what way gendered power relations are exercised within this group. Methodology and theory An ethnographic approach was used to access voices, attitudes and actions on and off the floorball pitch (Ennis & Chen 2012). Young teenagers attending floorball lessons at a sport school from 7th to 9th grade were observed and interviewed. Lorber’s (1994) theory of gender as a social institution was used to analyze and interpret their expressions and actions, attitudes and notions of sport. Results The mixed-sex sport setting seems to actualize an unspoken and unquestioned need to dichotomize and construct distinct groups of boys and girls (cf. Lorber 1994). In the studied group, the teenagers talk of themselves as “we” vs the “boys/girls”. The girls seem to emphasize that they empower themselves by improving their athletic skills together with boys, and that their strength and ambitions are appreciated. Yet, they are also patronized in various ways by their male peers. The boys reproduce an orthodox masculinity as they perceive that the girls threaten the boys’ position in sport. This is complex, as they similarly challenge this masculinity by appreciating the girls as skilled training peers. Conclusion When boys and girls attend a sport school it may be the first time they play floorball with representatives of the other sex, as training during leisure time is usually gender separated. Although the boys and girls constantly emphasize differences due to gender, they strive towards a uniform level of skills and ideal way of play too. Gender seems to lose significance in this common strive for similarity. Despite this, gendered power relations set an agenda based in a notion underlining that “boys’ way to play floorball” is the ideal. Thus, a traditional gender hierarchy is rather reproduced than transcended. References Ennis, C. and S. Chen. 2012. Interviews and focus groups. In Research methods in physical education and youth sport. Edited by: K. Armour and D. Macdonald. New York: Routledge. Ljunggren, J. 2013. The history of the Swedish floorball miracle. Svensk idrottsforskning. 4: 8-12. Lorber, J. 1994. Paradoxes of gender. New York: Yale university press. Messner, M. 2002. Taking the field: women and men in sports. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Topic: Sociology
Keyword I: Gender hierarchy
Keyword II: Floorball
Keyword III: Mixed-sex group