A rapidly growing body of literature reveals that sport is a significant site for the perpetuation of hegemonic masculine ideology. However, there has been remarkably little research investigating masculinities within female-dominated sports such as netball. In order to help fill such a gap in the literature, this project provides an ethnographic account of élite male netball players in southern New Zealand.
The project investigated the ways that men’s netball players reconciled participation in a stereotypically ‘feminine’ sport with rigid local definitions of masculinity. Of specific interest were the ways in which players challenged and/or reproduced (a) hegemonic masculinity, (b) stereotypes of sport as an inherently ‘masculine’ activity, and (c) netball’s reputation as a ‘feminine’ sport. The thesis also considered how players reconciled stereotypes of men’s netball with their own experiences.
In the first part of the thesis, academic literature, popular literature and media conceptions of masculinities in sport are reviewed in order to formally identify themes of hegemonic masculinity and constructions of ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ sports participation. In the second part, which was based on participant-observation, an understanding of the grounded ‘ways of being’ a male netball player and their inherent social contradictions are presented using a phenomenological existentialist perspective. The final part provides a series of in-depth, open-ended interviews with élite men’s netball players. Anchored in the hermeneutic tradition, the participants’ lay language is provided as the most accurate reflection of their ways of seeing and relating to both their sporting subculture and society in general.
Through the combination of these methods and theories derived from critical feminism, radical feminism, and post-modern feminism, the ways in which hegemonic discourses envision men’s netball players are explained and a reflexive understanding of how individual players construct, negotiate, and resist dominant conceptions of masculinity is developed.