WINNING ARTICLE 1986 ALPHA KAPPA DELTA UNDERGRADUATE PAPER COMPETITION

Women Atheletes and Athletic Women: The Dilemmas and Contradictions of Managing Incongruent Identities*

Authors


  • *

    I am indebted to Donileen Loseke and Spencer Cahill. They are my mentors, my friends, my sociological parents. They have given me their knowledge, encouragement, support and love. But best of all, they have given me something to believe in: myself. I am eternally grateful to both of them.

Abstract

Using the example of “woman athletes,” or more specifically, women basketball players, this is a case study in the management of contradictory essential and relational identities. Two types of data are used. Survey data demonstrates member understanding of the social identity of “female athlete”; observational data illustrates the management of incongruent identities on three stages: the woman athlete on the basketball court, the athletic woman attending a formal dinner, and the metamorphosis of identities in the locker room. The results indicate that even though the identity of female athlete is, by definition, deviant, it offers a positive alternative to the deviant identity of woman. However, this study demonstrates that in order for an actor to achieve this identity of female athlete she must be willing and able to consistently manage the dilemmas and contradictions inherent in the role itself. That is, this study demonstrates how female athletes must simultaneously uphold loyalty to both the essential identity of female as well as to the relational identity of athlete.

Ancillary