Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Women's Studies

First Advisor

Elisabeth O. Burgess - Chair

Second Advisor

Denise A. Donnelly

Third Advisor

Wendy S. Simonds


Despite significant improvements in the last thirty years, the sporting world remains a masculine domain. Women athletes continue to face inequalities and criticism for crossing traditional gender lines. This study, which was grounded in Foucauldian, postmodern and social constructionist theories and a third wave feminist perspective, examines how women athletes understand gender and how gender, athleticism and body image intersect for them. Eleven women in various stages of their athletic careers participated in in-depth interviews. Women and girls are influenced to participate in sport by family and friends, have local role models, and value the social aspect of sport. They perceive a mismatch between gender norms and their own gender identities, however this mismatch did not create conflict. The women were satisfied with their body image, and their instrumental athletic goals and their physical accomplishments helped them to build positive body image. Finally, sport empowers these athletes, who use sport as a site for resisting and transforming gender norms.