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Girl Fight: Apologetic Behaviors among Female Mixed Martial Arts Fighters as a Reaction to Social Stigmatization, Stereotyping, and Labeling of Sports Participation Janet Martin Department of Sociology

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Girl Fight: Apologetic Behaviors among Female Mixed Martial Arts Fighters as a Reaction to Social Stigmatization, Stereotyping, and Labeling of Sports Participation

Janet Martin

Department of Sociology

Presented as a Requirement for Bachelors of Arts Degree in Sociology

Warren Wilson College

Dr. Laura Vance

Directed Research Faculty Supervisor

May 8, 2011

Table of Contents:

Statement of Research Problem
Literature Review
Purpose of Research
Data Analysis
Findings and Discussion
Limitations and Delimitations
Significance of the Study
Appendix A:

Informed Consent for Questionnaire Instrument

Appendix B:

Questionnaire Instrument

Appendix C:

Script for Entrance into Public Events

Script for Informal Interviews at Public Events




List of Figures:

Figure 1:

Engagement in Apologetic Behavior related to Sport Performance and Competition

Figure 2:

Engagement in Apologetic Behavior related to

Public/Intimate Interactions
Figure 3:

Engagement in New Apologetic Behavior




List of Tables:

Table 1:

Years of Experience and Overall Engagement in Apologetic Behavior Cross-Tabulation

Table 2:

Years of Experience and Engagement in Apologetic Behavior Related to Sport Performance and Competition Cross-Tabulation

Table 3:

Age and the Acknowledgement that Men are better at Sport New Apologetic Behavior Cross-Tabulation

Table 4:

Age and Downplaying My Athletic Ability when asked by Women New Apologetic Behavior Cross-Tabulation

Table 5:

Sexual Orientation

Table 6:

Sexual Orientation and Physical Appearance Related to Apologetic Behavior Cross-Tabulation

Table 7:

Sexual Orientation and Wearing Revealing Clothing Related to Apologetic Behavior








Girl Fight: Apologetic Behavior of Female Mixed Martial Arts Fighters as a

Reaction to Social Stigmatization, Stereotyping, and Labeling of Sports Participation


As early as the 1970s, sports scholars have suggested that female athletes rely on apologetic behaviors in response to the belief that female athletes reside outside of the parameters of hegemonic femininity, particularly those who participate in ‘male-type’ sports or appear to resist compulsory heterosexuality. This research employs a mixed-methods approach to examine the incidence, types, and contexts of apologetic behaviors of female Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. Mixed Martial Arts fighting is viewed as a hyper-masculine sport and as such contradicts hegemonic femininity and heteronormativity. Quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data indicate that female MMA fighters do engage in apologetic behaviors as a reaction to social stigmatization, stereotyping, and labeling of sports participation. Further, quantitative data indicate statistically significant differences in use of apologetic behavior by years of experience in MMA and sexuality of the respondents. Data indicate a need for additional research on use of apologetic behaviors by female athletes to negotiate feminine gender performance while countering masculine attributes, social stigmatization, and stereotyping associated with participation in traditionally masculine sports such as MMA.


Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a newly-emerging genre of combat sport that integrates various forms of martial art with sports such as boxing, kickboxing, judo and jiu-jitsu. Early MMA competitions matched male fighters of different martial art styles to see what form of martial art was superior. Formally known as no-holds-barred elimination tournaments, martial artists waged bloody battles by punching, kicking, elbowing, and kneeing each other, or forcing their opponent into physical submission through joint manipulation pressure or choke holds. There were very few rules aside from prohibitions on eye gouging, fish hooking, and biting. Victory was achieved in one of the following two ways: (1) a fighter was rendered unconscious due to blows, or (2) a fighter tapped out by submitting to his opponent by tapping multiple times to signal that he was defeated.

On November 12, 1993 the first Ultimate Fighting Championship was televised in over 80,000 homes in the United States via pay-per-view television. The first match of the event pitted a kick boxer and karate practitioner against a sumo-style wrestler. Squaring off in an octagon-shaped ring surrounded by cage-style fencing, the match lasted only 26 seconds in the wake of no-holds-barred; the referee stopped the match as a stunned fighter lay on the mat, a tooth missing from a kick to the face. Presented as a spectacle of the ultimate test of strength and martial arts style, ultimate fighting soon secured a place for itself in the international and national circuit of full-contact martial arts.

As MMA contests developed, practitioners and fans came to recognize that the elements of certain martial art styles were susceptible to the strength of other styles and vice versa. Instead of remaining tethered to their styles, martial artists began to train in various competing styles. As competitors became more versatile in a range of martial arts, less emphasis was placed on pitting one type of martial artist against another (Gentry, 2005; Krauss, 2004). In the late 1990s, focus shifted from emphasis on martial arts styles to a focus on individual fighters. With a shift in focus MMA become a sport rather than a contest to determine which martial art was superior (Gentry, 2005; Krauss, 2004).

The vast majority of MMA participants are men and MMA is commonly perceived as a masculine sport due to its requirements of muscular strength, body-to-body contact, combative aggression, and physical violence. Many sports journalists agree; men’s MMA is the fastest growing sport in the United States. According to a CBS news report, more young men watched a televised men’s MMA event than the National Basketball Association 2010 playoff game broadcast at the same time. Historically, not only does female participation in MMA lag behind men’s participation, but also the acceptance of female MMA athletes is lacking. The hundreds to thousands of women who compete in the MMA tournament circuit not only face off against a female adversary in the cage; these female fighters also battle sexism in sport. Ideals of gender and sexuality in sport serve as obstructions to female participation despite legislated equality of access to sport and physical activity.

Culturally, sport has been an arena in which gender differences were established, celebrated, and perpetuated. MMA is an extension of the masculine arena of sport through aggressive-confrontational physical contact. The vast majority of activities defined as sport are challenges of physical strength and endurance. Metheny concludes that masculine sport types are generally aggressive and competitive, and involve a high degree of face-to-face and bodily contact (1965). Whitson notes “bodily contact sports are one of the few areas of public life in which force and intimidation are still allowed to triumph, where men who love to hit can still enjoy doing so, and others will celebrate their toughness and willingness to pay the price” (1994:359). Metheny categorizes sport types involving forcibly controlling an opponent by bodily contact and face-to-face competition in which some bodily contact may occur as ‘not appropriate’ for females (1965). Female participation in MMA challenges Metheny’s classification of appropriate sports for women, but even today sport remains highly coupled with the masculine elements of our culture. A female in sport is still considered a ‘woman in male territory.’ As an interloper in the competitive world of MMA, a female fighter may experience conflicting gender roles and may be expected to exhibit feminine behaviors while participating in an activity labeled masculine. Scholars of sport suggest that female athletes rely on apologetic behaviors to reconcile the socially perpetuated belief that female athletes reside outside the parameters of hegemonic femininity, particularly those who participate in ‘male-type’ sport or appear to resist compulsory heterosexuality. This research examines the apologetic behaviors of female Mixed Martial Arts fighters.

Statement of Research Problem

Inside the masculine domain of sport, female athletes are expected to perform femininity while contradicting the masculinities of sport. Negotiating feminine performance while negating masculine behaviors may be problematic for the female athlete who participates in full-body contact, combative sports. Contemporary research on women’s participation in sport supports the notion that female athletes learn what feminine and heterosexual behaviors are socially permitted in sport, and engage in apologetic behaviors to mitigate negative perceptions of their participation in sport. Apologetic behaviors of females include a variety of actions that emphasize femininity and heterosexuality. Evidence illustrates that in the context of social and gender relations, many female athletes believe that their sport participation is viewed as deviant to the extent that their participation is paired with masculinity and/or lesbianism, both of which are stigmatized. Reacting to this stigma, and stereotypes and sanctions imposed by others, appears to be the driving force behind apologetic behaviors of female athletes. Apologetic behaviors such as participating in feminine labeled sport, emphasizing feminine appearance, downplaying athleticism, excluding women who do not fit heterosexual or normative beauty ideals, stereotyping certain females as lesbians, and reinforcing hegemonic femininity and heterosexism perpetuate the domination of women, sexism, homophobia and personal alienation from a female’s athletic and personal identities.

Literature Review

Despite the great variety of contemporary gender constructions, the participation of women in the male domain of sport requires them to transcend traditional gender boundaries. Gender refers to male or female in a social sense; “gender represents a powerful normative system that both evaluates and controls behavior of men and women” (Blinde and Taub, 1992a:153). Gender roles are what a person is expected to perform as a result of being male or female in a particular society. Gender role theory is used to examine the association between sport participation and the development of masculine and feminine gender-role identity. Women who engage in competitive sport are often perceived as acting outside of their prescribed gender role (Messner and Sabo, 1994). Sport has been traditionally viewed as a domain where men are encouraged to pursue masculine gender-role identity (Czima, Witting, and Schur, 1988; Miller and Levy, 1996; Nixon and Fry, 1996). This is not only due to the fact that historically male sport remains male dominated, but also because the structure of sport is defined by specific requirements attached to traditionally-male stereotypes, such as toughness and aggressiveness, strength and endurance, competitiveness, and the willingness to take risks. Aggressive behavior and attitude are closely linked to the public’s perception of physical competition, which is defined as a male domain.

Sport as a male-dominated social institution, which reconstructs hegemonic masculinity through symbolic presentation, has been the focus of gender research since the early 1980s (Birrell, 1983; Bryson, 1983; Connell, 1990; Hargreaves, 1985, 1986; Messner and Sabo, 1990). However, in the 1990s, profound changes in the international sport scene caused social scientists to consider the phenomenon of women in historically-male sport. During this time, many sports like—weight lifting, wrestling, boxing, ice hockey, and rugby, which had been exclusively male—were made accessible for women both at the recreational and professional levels. Simultaneously, women’s participation in traditionally male sports (e.g. basketball, soccer, and competitive running) that had already been open, since the passage of the Title IX Education Amendments in 1972, increased dramatically.

Despite these changes, “sport remains highly associated with the so-called ‘masculine’ elements of our culture, and the female in sport is still considered a woman in man’s territory” (Birrell, 1983:49). Dunning notes that sport has historically been considered an exemplar of culturally-defined masculinity: “sport is traditionally one of the major male preserves and hence of potential significance for the functioning of patriarchal structures” ( Sisjord and Kristiansen, 164:2009). Theberge calls “competitive sport one of the most important arenas for the production and expression of gender” (1997:69). Citing Connell, Theberge argues that images of ideal masculinity are constructed and promoted most systematically through competitive sport, “in which the combination of skill and focus in the athletic experience becomes a defining feature of masculine identity” (1997:69). Sport is often perceived as masculine because competition, aggression, and other characteristics are associated with the masculine identity and male gender role. For example, the “idealized sporting body—strong, aggressive, and muscular—has been a popular symbol of masculinity, against which women, characterized as relatively powerless and inferior, have been measured” (Hargreaves, 1994:145).

According to these ideologies, traditional femininity and sport do not seem to complement each other. Mennesson and Clement expand upon this idea, indicating that the triad association of ‘athlete-masculinity-heterosexuality’ does not cause any doubt for men, but the triad association of ‘athlete-femininity-heterosexuality’ is generally presented in an explicit interrogative fashion for women (2003). Modern sport has been characterized as a primarily male domain. Cox and Thompson, drawing from Messner, assert that “women’s participation in sports particularly those that have traditionally been all-male, is ‘contested ideological terrain’” (2000:5). Aggressive behavior and attitude are closely linked to the public’s perception of physical competition, a male domain. Aggressiveness in males who play sport is encouraged at many levels; this is not the case for females who play sport (Gill, 1994). Thus aggressiveness is a socially-produced characteristic and is more encouraged in males than females. Female athletes violate existing gender norms and come into conflict with the socially-dominate image of women (Bryson, 1994; Hargreaves, 1986, 1997).

This becomes particularly apparent in negative judgment of female athletes by the public. Women’s entry into a male domain challenges the domain itself and threatens clearly defined areas and situations for the social formation of masculinity (Connell, 1994). Researchers conclude stigmatization and stereotyping are mechanisms of social exclusion and defense of sport. Female athletes who engage in sporting activities that have only recently been opened for women are often confronted with a host of defense strategies which are implemented by organization officials, associations of sport, and male athletes. Such exclusionary and discriminatory tactics emphasize that sport still plays a key role in the production and reproduction of hierarchical gender differences and their expression (Bryson, 1994; Hargreaves, 1986, 1997; Sisjord, 1997). Sisjord points to the strong opposition and sanction a woman faces participating in men’s sports such as boxing, wrestling, rugby, and football, and explains how these might be problematic for women within the male hegemony of sport (1997).

Hegemonic masculinity is a “practice that contributes to the gendered division of labor and is associated with heterosexuality, authority, strength, and physical toughness” (Sisjord and Kristiansen, 209:232). The theory of hegemonic masculinity refers to the existence of a culturally normative ideal of male behavior that is accepted as a social construct of gender. Connell describes hegemonic masculinity as the socially-dominant masculinity of a culture at a particular time in history (1990). He explains that in contemporary America, “hegemonic masculinity is defined by physical strength and bravado, exclusive heterosexuality, and authority over women” (Connell, 1990:85). Female competitive sport participation has often been regarded as inappropriate because sport is connected to aspects of hegemonic masculinity. Women who participate in competitive sport are often characterized as deviant and are labeled in negative terms. Labels such as ‘dyke,’ ‘manly,’ and ‘lesbian’ are commonly used to stereotype female athletes as homosexual and make reference to the masculinizing effects of participation in competitive sport (Brady, Trafimow, Eisler, and Southard, 1996; Colley, Robers, and Chipps, 1985; Harris, 1997; Murphy, 1988).

Krane et al. state that “to comprehend the sporting experiences of female athletes it is important to consider the cultural influences that can potentially alter their experiences, behaviors, and psychological states” (2004:315). Cultural and social practices construct gender and gender differences. Similar to hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic femininity is constructed. Hegemonic femininity has a strong emphasis on physical appearance and a strong association with heterosexuality. Throughout Western culture, “the dominant notion of an ideal feminine body and heterosexual hegemonic femininity” are reinforced and reproduced (Krane et al., 2004:316).

Performative theories of gender assert that many women in sport strive to portray this socially-desirable female-appropriate image (Bordo, 1993; Butler, 1990; Ussher, 1997). Within the masculine domain of sport, female athletes are expected to perform hegemonic femininity while separating themselves from behavior that is viewed as masculine (Choi, 2000; Krane, 2001a). Krane, et al. discuss hegemonic femininity as a performance; “gender performance is not entirely voluntary because there are social retributions for not performing one’s gender ‘correctly’; a woman’s choice to be feminine is not wholly a choice if the only women privileged are those who conform to ideal femininity, and a woman wants to garner social acceptance, then the only choice seems to be conformity to the ideal” (2004:316). For some female athletes, negotiating the performance of hegemonic femininity while avoiding the masculinities of sport becomes problematic within society. Female athletes are presented with unique obstacles while navigating between their femininity, societal expectations of being feminine, and socially-constructed masculine behaviors. Female athletes may also have to embody and attempt to replicate biological masculine features such as muscularity to succeed at sport.

Females who participate in non-traditional gender behaviors are subjected to various forms of social stigmatization (Schur, 1984). Anderson suggests that women are stigmatized and labeled as deviant when their behaviors challenge traditional gender norms (1988). Blinde and Taub expound upon Schur’s idea of stigmatization: “Stigmatization thus represents a means of social control as it preserves the traditional gender system and the fear of being labeled deviant keeps women ‘in their place’ and reduces challenges to prevailing gender norms” (1992b:522). Blinde and Taub support Schur’s concept of deviant labeling: “Some women occupy and engage in behaviors that make them ever more susceptible to deviant labeling and labeling is particularly indicative of women who violate multiple categories of gender norms” (1992b:522).

Female athletes are judged to violate many categories of gender norms and are subjected to forms of deviant labeling and stigmatization. Female athletes are readily perceived to smear the boundaries of hegemonic femininity (Therberge, 1985; Willis, 1982). In a society that couples athleticism with masculinity, female athletes are often viewed as masculine, unladylike, or manly (Willis, 1982). These stereotypes imply that female athletes violate presentation of self and gender norms (Schur, 1984). Blinde and Taube summarize consequences of the assumed conflict between athleticism and femininity—“this presumed incompatibility, along with equating sport and masculinity, results in a belief system linking women athletes with lesbianism” (1992b:522). Blinde and Taub further discuss the linkage between female athletes and lesbianism, the “lesbian label, representing a violation of sexuality norms, is based on the idea that women who challenge traditional gender-role behavior cannot be ‘real’ women” (1992b:522). The lesbian label, as applied to female athletes, is particularly significant given the assumed threat of lesbianism to prevailing gender system (Goodman, 1977; Lenskyj, 1991; Schur, 1984). Stigmatization of lesbians is common, as ‘heterosexual privilege’ ensures that lesbians realize they are indeed norm violators and deviants (Schur, 1984; Wolfe, 1988). This stigmatization emulates scorn for those who push the boundaries of socially defined gender roles.

The conduct of female athletes is often constructed to challenge gender norms, which may result in various forms of stigmatization. Although athleticism represents the initial discrediting attribute of female participation in sport, its linkage with lesbianism amplifies the stigmatization associated with female athletes. Goffman theorizes that stigmas signify discrediting attributes that reflect a discrepancy between the individuals’ virtual (assumed) and actual (real) social identities (1963). These attributes are outside the range of what is considered socially acceptable and generally “spoil” the social identity of the stigma possessor. Goffman further explains that when the stigma taints and discredits the individual, attempts are made to control and manage the discrediting attribute (1963). Sport participation is often considered outside the range of hegemonic femininity; moreover, given the widespread labeling of women athletes as lesbian, and corresponding stigmatization, female athletes must manage these discrediting attributes. The particular strategy utilized to manage stigma largely depends on the degree to which the attributes are visible or perceivable to others. The degree to which others can identify females as athletes varies. Female athletes thus utilize a variety of stigma management techniques to control and manage information about their athleticism.

Some scholars use other terms to refer to stigma management such as compensatory acts (Crosset, 1995), identity/impression management (Halbert, 1997), and apologetic behavior (Felshin, 1974). As early as the 1970s, scholars of sport have suggested that female athletes rely on apologetic behaviors to reconcile the socially-perpetuated belief that female athletes reside outside the parameters of hegemonic femininity, particularly those who participate in ‘male-type’ sport or who appear to resist compulsory heterosexuality. Davis-Delono et al. summarize the wide range of apologetic behaviors identified by researchers in the field including:

Participation in feminine sport, downplaying athleticism, highlighting participation in feminine activities, emphasizing femininity in appearance, wearing sexy clothing, minimizing muscular development or display, emphasizing small size and fitness, moving in feminine ways, including players who are heterosexual and fit feminine beauty ideals while excluding women who do not fit in these criteria, avoiding association with lesbian or masculine females, putting down masculine or lesbian females, concealing lesbianism/bisexuality, associating with boyfriends, arranging to be seen with men, avoiding being seen with women in public, avoiding physical contact with women in public, and avoiding talk about lesbianism (2009:132).

Krane et al. also point to the use of apologetic behaviors by female athletes: “female athletes learn what behaviors and appearances are privileged and femininity is ‘performed’ to gain social acceptance and status” (2004:316). Research indicates apologetic behaviors are common among female athletes; especially those participating in ‘masculine’ sport often report that they purposefully emphasize their femininity when not engaged in sport (Halbert, 1997; Kolnes, 1995; Krane, 2001; Theberge, 2000; Young, 1997).

Blinde and Taub find that collegiate athletes utilize a variety of apologetic behaviors to avoid being stereotyped as lesbians (1992a). Such “behaviors [include] feminine body adornment, concealing or downplaying of athleticism, arranging to be seen with men or [a] boyfriend, avoiding being seen with or touching other women, and putting down more masculine or lesbian female athletes” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:132). Crossett determined in the study of professional women golfers that “conscious feminine adornment and emphasized heterosexuality were keys to acceptance” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:132). Examining the social construction of identity among female boxers, Mennesson discusses how female boxers occupy a dual social status, challenging the gender order while reinforcing the hegemonic status quo by displaying traditional modes of femininity (2000). Halbert’s study of professional female boxers in the United States reveals behaviors females employ in order to manage their identities in an attempt to stay marketable in the professional boxing industry, based on the awareness of the need for balance of a public persona that appears neither too masculine nor too feminine (1997).

Halbert’s findings support Festle’s argument that apologetic behavior among female athletes is situational; a “female athlete employs more apologetic behavior when she feels most ‘at risk’ (for example being interviewed by an unsympathetic journalist), while there are other times when a female athlete feels ‘very comfortable’ like when socializing just with athletes” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:133). Contemporary researchers present evidence that many female athletes believe that “others view their sport participation negatively when others associate their participation with masculinity and lesbianism” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:133).

The evidence supports the idea that female athletes may engage in apologetic behaviors simply to gain greater acceptance and avoid prejudice and discrimination by others (Adams et al., 2005; Berlage, 1987; Crosset, 1995; Ezzell, 2009; Fallon and Jome, 2007; George, 2005; Halbert, 1997; Lowe, 1998). Davis-Delono et al. cite examples in contemporary research. Among female soccer players, George establishes that “dominant beauty ideals, expressed via a generalized other and specific reference groups, compelled some female soccer players to diminish their masculinity due to their fear of being labeled gender deviants by others” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:134). Lowe’s research of women’s bodybuilding recognizes that “gatekeepers (e.g. judges) are the driving force behind apologetic behaviors” (Davis-Delono et al., 2009:134). Pressure from coaches, teammates, parents, friends, male athletes, and boyfriends contributes to female athletes engaging in feminizing practices that emphasized femininity and heterosexuality (Adams et al., 2005; Ezzell, 2009). Contemporary researchers of apologetic behaviors among female athletes generally suggest that apologetic behavior should be viewed as a set of strategies sometimes employed by some females in a wider context of gender relations.

The female athlete’s penetration into the male domain of sport has been carefully regulated by claims that the athletic female body is, in fact, a gender-deviant, freakish body (Cahn, 1994). Society seems to be troubled by the athletic, muscular, make-up free, jewelry-free, sweaty female body. Female athletes navigate an athletic territory that requires them to be ‘heterosexy’ athletes (Griffin, 1992). Adams et al., in their research on the female sporting body, discuss new apologetic behaviors among female athletes (2005). The “reformed apologetic defense suggests that [female athletes] can indeed revel in their athleticism and publicly display it, as long as they continue to exude traditional notions of femininity, particularly their heterosexuality” (Adams et al., 2005:4). Davis-Delono et al also include “advocating conservative gender ideas” and “emphasizing the superiority of male athletes” as contemporary apologetic behaviors (2009:132).

Ezzell analyzes other recent apologetic behaviors among female athletes in his research of a collegiate women’s rugby team (2009). Ezzell states that the female rugby team in his research, by way of their participation in rugby as women, were exposed to sexist and homophobic stigma from outsiders (2009). He observes that “in response to the conditions under which they interacted, the players worked to create a seemingly contradictory [to hegemonic femininity] (collective) identity that was simultaneously tough, fit, feminine, and heterosexual” (2009:112). Ezzell labels that identity as “heterosexy-fit” (2009:112) and argues that the heterosexy-fit identity of female rugby players in his study represents an updated version of emphasized femininity “that combines toughness, assertiveness, and hard-body athleticism along with more conventional feminine qualities” (2009:113). In his analysis of identity management of the female ruggers, Ezzell states that the new apologetic behaviors include the strategies of defensive othering, identifying with dominants, engaging in normative identification, and propping up dominants (2009).

Ezzell reports that as a reaction to the stigmatization of others as ‘butch lesbians’ the female rugby players “turned to defensive othering, casting themselves as the exception to the stereotype, and thereby unintentionally reinforcing the dominant heterosexist ideology” (2009:124). He explains that the female ruggers used their status as athletic, successful rugby players to elevate themselves above women in general and “in doing so the players identified with the dominants, claiming a heightened status relative to other members of their subordinated group (women) through closer identification with the behavior and traits associated with members of the dominant class (men)” (Ezzell, 2009:116).

Ezzell discusses the identity dilemma created by the female rugby players “who made successful claims to an essential toughness in comparison to women in general, as well as other female athletes” (2009:118), which made them susceptible to being stereotyped as masculine and lesbian. In their engagement in normative identification, the female rugby players aligned themselves with the norms and values prescribed by the dominants (men) “by emphasizing their conformity to traditional notions of white, middle class, heterosexual femininity” (Ezzell, 2009:118). Ezzell describes another apologetic behavior, propping up dominants, as a way to negotiate ruggers’ heterosexy-fit identity: Ezzell asserts ruggers “position themselves above the other women by virtue of their toughness, but still below men. The players maintained the boundary between men and women by putting men forward as essentially superior athletes, (re)asserting the superiority of the dominant group members” (2009:123). From his observations Ezzell concludes that the female rugby players challenge “conventional notions of passive femininity through tough play, yet encountered sexist and homophobic stigma from outsiders; rather than resisting or rejecting the power of stigma” (2009:111).

Broad’s research of female rugby players contradicts some of the existing notions about the use of apologetic behavior by female athletes. Broad examines gendered queer resistance strategies in female sport (2001). Utilizing aspects of queer resistance theory, Broad,s in her research of female rugby players, poses the idea that female rugby players are unapologetic for their participation in a hyper-masculine sport. Broad defines queer resistance as the disruption of “stable sexual and gender identities through individualized acts of gender/sexual transgressions and promotions of direct confrontations to regimes of sexual normativity” (2001:187-188). She challenges the assumption that “[female] athletes are apologizing for their shamefully ‘masculine’ pursuit of sport” (Broad, 2001:188), and concludes that the female rugby players she observed were “doing queer resistance because they performed gender transgression, asserted sexual fluidity, and enacted ‘in your face’ presentations of a stigmatized self” (Broad, 2001:198). Broad explains the implications of her research: “By identifying the fact that some women in sport resist gender and sexuality domination by enacting an ‘unapologetic’ stance, my research shows how the social institution of sport can be understood as a confrontational political terrain,” she adds “my research shows that we also have ‘boundary-strippers’ who unapologetically complicate the category of womanhood and attendant heterosexuality” (2001:198). Broad asserts that, “understanding that resistance takes the form of an ‘unapologetic’ as well as an ‘apologetic’ highlights that ‘old stand-off between confrontation and assimilation,’ only this time in the context of sport” (2001:199).

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