Doing femininities and masculinities in a ‘feminized’ sporting arena: the case of mixed-sex cheerleading

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This paper examines arguments that have been espoused for the educative and transformative potential of mixed-sex sports, and explores whether such promise can be attained and what the obstacles may be, in the context of the UK university-level, competitive cheerleading. Drawing on critical and feminist literature on the functioning of hegemonic masculinities, hyper-femininities and alternative, more inclusive gender performances, the paper analyses the narratives of three participants in what is often recognized as the ‘feminized’ activity of cheerleading. It suggests that: a) having experience of mixed-sex team membership can have a progressive influence on the gender narratives and performances of both male and female participants; b) mixed-sex teams, however, are not a panacea to rectify gender stereotypes and inequalities and c) if the implicit transformative potential of mixed-sex cheerleading is to be fully realized, then explicit organizational, promotional and structural changes to the sport itself will be needed. The paper concludes with suggestions for a new research agenda that focuses on the terms and conditions under which gender is ‘learnt’ and performed in a range of mixed-sex sporting contexts, and how these contexts serve to shape the ‘gender pedagogies’ of sports in particular ways. Such an approach will open significant new directions for research, policy and practice in the interconnected fields of gender, sport and education.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1248
JournalSport in Society
Issue number8-9
Early online date30 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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