Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leslee Fisher


Traditional definitions of manhood-strength, aggressiveness, power, speed-collapse almost completely into traditional definitions of sports (Kane & Parks, 1992); to be masculine is to be athletic, and vice versa. Within this ideology, the female athlete presents an incongruous blend of traits; the historically defined qualities of femininity (passivity, dependence, weakness) are exclusive to those of "traditional athletes." When combining aspects of the self that are culturally in conflict ( as in, "I am a female" and "I am an athlete"), the negotiation of identity is influenced by hegemonic discourse (Hall, 1997). That is, there are certain preferred methods and vocabularies used when discussing both gender and sports that have gained power and potentially limit the ways female athletes are thought of and described. Postmodern theories ( ex., Butler, 1997) make the claim that gender positions (and, therefore, identities) are fluid and dynamic, with multiple subjectivities continuously taking the fore. Within this framework, there is no space for a "core" identity (Layton, 1998), yet media images and casual conversation suggest a strong desire for one. The present study is designed to develop a theory about how female athletes who receive national media coverage negotiate self-identities and media images. Eight professional/Olympic female athletes who receive national media coverage were interviewed with a semi-structured protocol to provide information about negotiation of identities. Qualitative, inductive analysis revealed two emergent categories: 1) Intending to "Be Like Mike," and 2) Competing in a Business Arena. These categories, and their supporting actions are presented and explored. Also presented is an integrated identity theory that suggests female athletes who receive media coverage employ several different strategies (often unconsciously) in negotiating the athlete self, the sexed self, stereotypical females, and mediated images as self-identities are dynamically created and recreated. Conclusions and applications for sport psychology professionals, as well as implications for future research are discussed.

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