Women at the wicket: elite female cricketers experiences of entering a male preserve

Por: Dominic Malcolm e Philippa Cook.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

Despite the fact women have been playing cricket since 1745, there has been a lack of sociological research into the development of the game and the experiences of the women who play. Cricket has traditionally been a ‘male preserve’, and female cricketers have remained ‘outsiders’ in the sport. However the merging of the Women’s Cricket Association into the English Cricket Board represents a shift in power relations in which the male governing body actively recognises and supposedly promotes and supports the female game. Other research analysing female experiences in traditional male sports such as Ice Hockey and Football (Theberge, 2000 and Scraton et al, 1999), have noted that prevailing ideologies about the suitability of male sport for women still exist, and entry into male sports for women is a process of negotiation. Yet, what makes cricket a particularly revealing case of gender relations is the fact that male and female cricketers are increasingly competing alongside each and against each other. The purpose of this study was to understand how women negotiated their entry into the male preserve of cricket and their experiences of playing a sport that is traditionally associated with masculinity.

Methods

Interviews with eight elite female cricketers took place at the 2002 county championships. A snowball sampling technique was utilised and semi structured interviews were conducted. The interviews were then transcribed and analysed in accordance to reoccurring themes.

Results/Discussion

Interviews showed that significant males such as fathers, brothers and male teachers introduced female cricketers to the game. This was partly due to the fact that girls cricket is poorly organised and partly because the girls needed male approval to enter the ‘male preserve’ of cricket. This supports Scraton et al (1999) findings that girls were introduced to football through male peers and that schools did not allow girls to develop their football skills. Likewise none of the women interviewed had access to cricket facilities in schools. The girls therefore played in boys’ teams and did not enter women’s cricket until they were in their teens. The girl’s experience of playing with boys’ team was generally positive. This was because they were the only girl on the team and could be dismissed as ‘exceptions’ to the hegemonic ideology that women are weak, rather than the norm. Furthermore, despite being accepted by their own teams when playing in competitions, the girls experienced extreme prejudice from boys and fathers alike.

References

[1]. Scraton, S. et al (1999) International Review for Sociology of Sport, 34,99-111
[2]. Theberge,T, (2000) Higher Goals Women’s Ice Hockey and Politics of Gender, New York Press.

 

 

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