Research Question #2: How does Gender Validation affect female athletes who serve as females athletes in traditionally, athletically, male roles?
Gender Validation and Lack of Female Space
There were 193 total excerpts recorded involving gender validation and thoughts of self. As Oysermans points out, the environment can have a very strong influence on the identity we see for our possible selves. “I feel like that’s … really important to feel it yourself rather than hear it from somebody else you don’t need a guy to tell you that you are strong—you know that you are strong” (SPHS017) The interviewees emulated ideas such as this where they expressed awareness of the environment and how it is majoritarily male thought; yet they were completely comfortable reporting that they had agency in their thoughts and did not need male validation.
“I want to...show them that I can do certain things and it's not like “oh you can't do that” its like yeah I can watch me” (NHS 013)
“When somebody tells me that I... I correct them because I don’t think that it’s—I don’t think that it should be I am strong for a girl I think it should like—I think what they think is they think of the stereotypical girl with skirts and dresses and their nails done and I usually don’t read too much into it I just correct them and I say I am stronger—I am strong for a stereotypical girl because that’s what they are thinking in their head” (SPHS011)
These were two of the most common co-existing data points as 29/63 of the interviewees reported feeling they had incidences of gender invalidation and also a feeling of lack of female space. One interviewee reported “not all guys—but some of the guys seem—they think like “oh girls can't really go that far you know there's not really Olympic teams for girls” and stuff like that like there's more for guys so they kinda like...just cause we are girls they kinda say shit sometimes so that’s kind sucks...us girls have to show them what's up and show that we are capable of it”
Other participants reported how they have to constantly and consistently fight for their spot on the mat. The interviewees were predisposed to male hierarchies where they had no place to speak up, they were held to one small corner of the mat, or were even put on display in front of male teammates to serve as the example. These habitual practices are detrimental to the successful development of the athletes, and creates a clear male pressure among the team, and especially against the females. The following example serves as one of these reported experiences where the females felt they were being judged based on gender bias. The interviewer asked...“Do you believe that male pressure exists? And do you feel male pressure from your coaches or your male teammates?” The response was as follows: “I feel like there definitely is the male pressure just in general since we don’t have any male coaches or teammates none of that but kind of just like prove yourself constantly like even male referees that like ref male matches you kind of have to prove that you are equal or better than the boys wrestling or boys male dominated sports in general. So I can see where the male pressure for that is because you don’t want to make yourself seem less than in a male sport” (NHS 015). This was a mature response from an athlete who has already seen the disadvantage that women are faced with not only from teammates, but also coaches and even from the officials. This is a systematic injustice of inequitable practices, and a violation of title IX compliance.
The systematic push out of these female athletes is a common occurrence in the spaces I visited throughout my study. Some of the participants reported not feeling welcome, displayed feelings of inadequacy and also demonstrated a clear understanding that the females are being discriminated against. “I feel like especially soccer because soccer is such a popular sport I feel like the guys get a lot more how you call it like attention or a lot more of like yeah the public attention like they’ll be in the newspaper all the time like and then the girls it’s like once in a while—you know the guys I think they have got a new locker room and there’s like a huge fight about how the girls should get a new locker room if the boys are getting one too and then I don’t know if that ever happened but yeah I haven’t been into the girls locker room yet but yeah you know they definitely put more—more money into guy sports especially things like football and basketball soccer”(SPHS017-25163-25834)—This is a policy violation and needs to be addressed as female athletes must have the same amenities as their male counterparts in the same sport.