Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Joy T. DeSensi

Committee Members

Lars Dzikus, Leslee A. Fisher, Trena M. Paulus

Abstract

Based on existing literature relatively little is known about the female football fan in America. Previous research has acknowledged that these women exist, often in startling proportions. It has also identified some of the reasons why they attend the game and some of the perceived benefits of their participation as fans (Clark, Apostolopoulou, & Gladden, 2009; Dietz-Uhler, Harrick, End, & Jacquemotte, 2000). Yet we do not know the value they place on their fan identities, nor how they manage to negotiate being both women and fans in a sport environment that both subtly and not-so-subtly continues to reinforce the model of hegemonic masculinity. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to explore how the identities of female fans of the National Football League (NFL) were constructed and negotiated through the language used to describe their experiences. To that end, 35 blog posts from OnHerGame a website dedicated to female sports fans, during the 2012-2013 NFL season were collected and five women who self-identify as National Football League (NFL) fans and currently write for the site were interviewed for this study; in addition, my own bracketing interview (Pollio, Henley, & Thompson, 1997) was also included. The resulting data were analyzed using feminist poststructural discourse analysis (FPDA), revealing three major patterns of discourse: a) reproduction, b) resistance, and c) reinscription. Reproductive discourse included language that reinforced hegemonic ideas about football as male space (e.g., women as less knowledgeable and primarily heterosexually interested in the men who play), while resistant discourse was often employed in an effort to defy these stereotyped subject positions (e.g., portraying female fans as competent, knowledgeable and authentic). Though women largely produced these two forms in their online posts, interviews with participants revealed a third pattern whereby female fans reinscribed reproductive discourse practices in an effort to differentiate themselves from other women (e.g., assuming other women do not know, are not interested).

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