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Out of Bounds: College Women's Ultimate Frisbee and the Practice of Gendered Identities


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1 OUT OF BOUNDS: COLLEGE WOMENS ULTI MATE FRISBEE AND THE PRACTICE OF GENDERED IDENTITIES By JOANNA WINN NEVILLE A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Joanna Winn Neville

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3 To my teammates, past, present and future

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First, I would like to thank my family for their support and encouragement. I would also like to thank my supervisory committee chair (Florence Babb) and members (K.L. Broad and Heather Gibson) for their knowledge, patience, and encouragement. In addition, I thank the faculty and staff from the Center for Womens Studies and Gender Research, especially Paula Ambroso, for their support. I could not have accomp lished this task without the participation and support from my Ultimate Frisbee teammates. They continue to help me on and off the field. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my partner, Matthew Tennant, for all of his support, encouragement, and love.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... .8 Project Objectives and Methodology........................................................................................8 History of Ultimate Frisbee....................................................................................................12 Playing Ultimate............................................................................................................... ......14 A Typical Tournament........................................................................................................... .15 2 REVIEW OF GENDER AND SPORT LITERATURE.........................................................19 3 PLAYING WITH GENDER IN ULTIMATE FRISBEE......................................................29 Ultimate Bodies: Physicality in a Non-Contact Sport............................................................31 Talking Tough: Language Use in Ultimate Frisbee...............................................................37 Skirts or Shorts: What to Wear for Ultimate..........................................................................41 4 ULTIMATE FRISBEE: A SPACE FOR FEMALE ATHLETES?........................................47 The Ultimate Bond: Relationshi ps in Ultimate Frisbee..........................................................49 Erotic Play: Expressing Sexuality in College Womens Ultimate Frisbee.............................55 The Ultimate Athlete: Expressions of Female Athleticism in Ultimate Frisbee....................60 5 CONCLUSIONS....................................................................................................................67 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..74 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................77

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6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts OUT OF BOUNDS: COLLEGE WOMENS ULTI MATE FRISBEE AND THE PRACTICE OF GENDERED IDENTITIES By Joanna Winn Neville May 2007 Chair: Florence Babb Major: Womens Studies My research examines what happens when an emerging sport, such as Ultimate Frisbee, does not reinforce stereotypical gendered identiti es and gendered practic es. There are two areas of my research on womens Ultimate Frisbee. The first area examines the individual gendered practices of players such as attir e, language, and physic ality. I argue th at these individual players manipulate and negotiate masculine identity practices, making them their own and thereby creating a distinct space. The second area of my research examines the space that college women Ultimate players create. My observations suggest th at these players feel comfortable in an allfemale space and can freely express their sexual ity among themselves. The data for this project come from my ethnographic res earch, group interviews, and one -on-one interviews that I conducted while participating on a college wome ns Ultimate Frisbee team. During the spring season, I attended practices, tournaments, and ot her social events off the frisbee field. My project builds on important gender and sport scholarship. For my research, I use the concept of formulating gender as a social institution wherein people practice or do gender but are also part of a larger so cial structure. By conceptualizi ng gender as a social institution, I am able to analyze the specific practices of ge nder in Ultimate Frisbee while also noting that there are other important struct ural components to gender. My research builds on important

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7 existing sport scholarship. Several sport scholars address the construction of gender identity, specifically hegemonic masculinity, within the culture of sport. The concept of hegemonic masculinity is important when discussing gender identities in sport because it is the primary identity formed. College womens Ultimate Frisbee may challenge structural levels of the institution of sport and gender. At the individual level, wo men Ultimate players sometimes perform their gender outside of their acceptable gendered iden tities. However, this is acceptable because it exists in a culture where college womens Ultimate players incorporate aspects of both categorical and individual gendered identitie s in order to destabilize these oppositional categories. These actors in the space transform and change perceived masculine gendered identities in order to create a culture without a distinct hierar chy. In this space, college women Ultimate players transform masculine gender meani ngs and thereby feel a level of comfort and camaraderie with their fellow players. Thr ough my observations, I have found that college womens Ultimate Frisbee allows women to cult ivate relationships with one another and may sometimes allow for playful erotic expressi on. These exchanges may signal an adoption of hegemonic masculinity, heterosexuality, or male se xuality, but they may also indicate that these women feel at ease in this space and can expre ss themselves sexually and playfully among other women on their teams. I argue that college women s Ultimate Frisbee challenges the institution of sport by creating a location for female athletes that is outside the center of mainstream sport culture. This location may disrupt the overall cu lture of mainstream sport by challenging ideas on gender and sport.

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8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Gender is a critical and core category of analysis when unders tanding the culture of sport, but how does gender function in a sport unmediated by the ideologies of ma instream sports? This work will critically analyze how gender functions in the emerging sport of Ultimate Frisbee. Often female athletes must fit into a culture of sport designed for men (Theberge 2000:10). I will show how college womens Ultimate Fris bee players negotiate and reshape current mainstream sport ideologies in order to create a space for themselves as women and as athletes. This space provides a site for an alternativ e sport community that focuses on womens relationships. Women in this sp ace may often feel comfortable freely expressing their sexuality and camaraderie with each other. Based on curren t scholarship on gender a nd sport as well as my own research, I formulate conclusions about the relationship between gender and Ultimate Frisbee. Project Objectives and Methodology The data for this project come from my ethnographic research, gr oup interviews, and oneon-one interviews. During spring 2006, I conducted ethnographic research while participating on a college womens Ultimate Frisbee team called Discs.1 This research was approved by the institutional review board and each participant wa s aware of my project. Discs is a sports club under the division of recreational sports at a la rge southeastern university. During the spring season, I attended practices, tournaments, and other social events off the frisbee field. While at these events, I observed language use, mannerisms, dress, and other behavi ors closely associated with gender. When I made an observation while playing, I remembered what I had seen and as 1 The names of players and the team name were changed for privacy.

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9 soon as I came off the field I recorded it in my notebook. I took my notebook to social events, tournaments, and practices and recorded my observations. My one-on-one interviews and group interviews allowed participants time to discuss how they consciously perform gender and how this rela tes to their behavior and physical appearance as well as their mental state. Most interviews were informal and lasted for approximately one hour. During the interviews, I used a tape recorder and also took notes in my journal. I used the same notebook for interviews that I used for my ethnographic notes. Mo st of my ethnographic data came from the spring season and most of my interviews were conducted during the fall season. During these periods I would highlight interviews or observat ions that were particularly important for my work. At the end of the fall season I highlighted sec tions of my ethnographic work, as well as sections of my interviews. This step helped me to organize my data so when I began to write I could eas ily interpret my work. Participants came from established Ultimate Frisbee programs where the average player had played Ultimate Frisbee for approximately three years. My research sample consisted of women who were predominantly white and fr om a middle-class background. A degree of diversity existed within the sample insofar as some participants came from Hispanic and AsianAmerican backgrounds. I interviewed 27 women and the average age of these participants was 21, most of them undergraduate students. A majority of players had played a sport before they began Ultimate. The sports that they played varied from team sports such as soccer, basketball, softball, and crew to individual sports such as track and cross-country. Th ese varied experiences in sports may have influenced the players participation in Ultimate. As a researcher and an Ultimate player, I have a distinct advantage in understanding the culture of Ultimate Frisbee and in noticing patterns in the sport that others might not see.

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10 However, my position could also create potenti al problems in my research. As Gelya Frank notes, there is often a conflict of interest and emotion betwee n the ethnographer as authentic, related person (i.e., partic ipant) and the ethnographer as explo iting researcher (i.e., observer) (Frank 2000:15). At times I found myself cheering for college womens Ultimate and the line between self and other became a blur. In a collection of essays compiled by Ruth Behar and Deborah Gordon, feminist ethnographer Lila Abu-Lughod (1993) writes about t raveling past the impasse of the fixed self/other or subject/object divide when desc ribing her experiences wi th pregnancy in United States and Egypt. Abu-Lughod (1993) notes how her feelings and fr iendships with the women in Egypt led her to explore more complex ways to represent and make more apparent the complexities of their lives and individual experiences. I also noticed my feelings on how to represent the complexities of the female at hletes in the Ultimate community. Abu-Lughod recognizes that the personal experiences of th e researcher may be shaped by the knowledge and lives of the women she comes to know (AbuLughod 1993). When I acknowledged that the lives and experiences of the community around me shaped my knowledge, I began to interpret the data more readily. For my research, I conceptualize gender as a so cial institution wherein people practice or do gender but are also part of a larger social structure. This concept stems from Patricia Yancey Martins (2004) sociologic al work in gender scholarshi p. Martin argues that we must frame gender as an institution be cause it underscores genders sociality; directs attention to practices, practicing, and interact ion; requires attention to power ; reinstates the material body; acknowledges disjuncture, c onflicts and change; and chal lenges micro macro dualisms (Martin 2004:1261). By conceptualizing gender as a social institution, I am able to analyze the

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11 specific practices of gender in Ultimate Frisbee wh ile also noting that there are other important structural components to gender. My research builds on important existing spor t scholarship, including Shelia Scraton and Ann Flintoffs (2002) edit ed collection of essays, Gender and Sport, and Susan Birrell and Cheryl Coles (1994) collection, Women, Sport and Culture Several sport sc holars address the construction of gender identity, specifically hegemonic mascu linity (Connell 1987), within the culture of sport. As Messner not es, in contrast with rational or professional masculinity constructed in schools, the institu tion of sport histori cally constructs hege monic masculinity as bodily superiority over femininity and over non-athl etic masculinities (Messner 2002: 20). The concept of hegemonic masculinity is important when discussing gender identities in sport because it is the primary identity formed. Like organized institutional sports, some emerging sports may construct gender in ways that rein force notions of gender difference and masculine hegemony (Anderson 1999:22). My project examines what happens when an emerging sport, such as Ultimate Frisbee, does not reinforce the usual notions of stereotypi cal gendered identities and gendered practices. I argue that in college womens Ultimate Frisbee, players use masculine practices and language found in sport culture because they have no othe r way of expressing themselves as competitive athletes. Although they use masculine language a nd practices, they do not use them in a way that reinforces gender inequality. Women Ultimat e Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and language in to their own, thereby creating a di stinct space. In this space, these players reshape masculine practices and identities, challenging th e hierarchy and power that hegemonic masculinity often creates. I will argue that insofar as the ideology of Ultimate Frisbee exists outside the culture of mainstream sport, the majority of these female athletes

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12 create a safe space, without a marked ge nder hierarchy, to nurture female bonds and relationships. My research suggests that in college women s Ultimate Frisbee, womens sexuality does not exist solely in opposition to male sexuality or simply reinforce heterosexuality. Often in the culture of sport, sexuality is solely hetero sexual and created in oppos ition to homosexuality (Messner 2002:35). My observations suggest that college womens Ultimate Frisbee provides a space that cultivates womens relationships with each other and may sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. This suggests th at these players feel comforta ble in an all-female space and can freely express their se xuality among themselves. College womens Ultimate Frisbee challenges the culture of mainstream sport by creating a subculture. My critical analysis contributes to the fi eld of womens studies and to gender and sport studies because it offers Ultimate Frisbee as a possible model for greater equality in the culture of sport. In addition, my research high lights gender inequality in mainstream sport and describes how some female athlet es work against it. Therefore, to some degree, college womens Ultimate Frisbee may serve to destabilize mens institutionalized sport and challenge dominant ideas on gender. History of Ultimate Frisbee Ultimate Frisbee college teams travel all ar ound the country competi ng in highly organized and highly competitive tournaments.3 The sport has come a long way since its humble beginnings in Maplewood, New Jersey in 1967. Th e game known today as Ultimate Frisbee began at Columbia High School when a student, Jo el Silverman, presented the idea of Ultimate to his student council. Within the year, the firs t recorded game was played between the student 3 The information on the history of Ultimate is from World Flying Disc Federation at: http://www.wfdf.org/index.ph p?page=history/ultimate.htm

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13 council and the newspaper staff. Today, games are pl ayed out on the best fi elds, lined with chalk, and set off by cones. However, in the early year s boundary markers were such things as railroad tracks and telephone lines. Players do not need expensive equipment but only a 175-gram Frisbee (also know as a flying disc) which costs approximately ten to tw elve dollars. The Frisbee became a trademark item in 1958 by the Wham-O Company; Wham-O still exists today and produces many discs used in flying disc sports. Before to the Wham-O company, the name Frisbee came from the Frisbie Pie Company, a small company in Conn ecticut. The Frisbie Pie Company made their individual pies in metal tins and one day the co mpany discovered that th ese tins could fly a short distance if thrown into the air. The company soon started calling thes e flying contraptions, discs. Students at Yale University, located in close proximity to the pie company, started to toss the disc as a way to pass time. In 1948, Fred Morrison recreated the metal disc using light durable plastic. The new form flew much better and the tossing of the disc became increasingly popular. In 1954 the first recorded game using a disc started at Dartmouth University and was nicknamed, Guts. As Silverman began developing the rules for the game of Ultimate, ten years after the creation of the Frisbee, disc sports grew in popularity. Over the next few years, games between the student council and newspaper became structur ed with the new guidelines. Soon Columbia High School students grew tired of playing each other and approached Milburn High School about interscholastic ga mes. Columbia High School won the first interscholas tic game in 1970 against Milburn High with a score of 43-10. As st udents began to graduate and go on to college, they took the game of Ultimate with them. As students formed teams, the game of Ultimate began to spread to more campuses. On November 6, 1972, Rutgers University defeated Princeton

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14 University in a competitive Ultimate Frisbee game with a score of 29-27. Three years later Yale University held the first Ultimate Frisbee co llege tournament. Eight teams attended the tournament and Rutgers University pulled out th e overall win. That su mmer at the Second World Frisbee Championship, Ultimate made its first p ublic appearance. Since the Championship was held at the Rose Bowl, many on the west coast go t their first glimpse of Ultimate and the game spread quickly. In 1979, the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) became the governing body for Ultimate Frisbee and one of the first flying disc sport organizations. Today the UPA is a playerrun, not-forprofit organization based in Colo rado with over 24,000 dues-paying members. The UPA establishes and publishes all rules and re gulations, and oversees the three championship series (Club, College, and Youth) of Ultimate Frisbee. Although Ultimate may have diverse players, most players come from a middle-class background. During the 2006 year, the Ultimate Pl ayers Association had 22, 079 members. Fifty percent of those members were college player s, 33 percent were re gular players and the remainder played youth Ultimate. Seventy percent were female and thirty percent were male. Eighteen percent of the regular club memb ers had a household income over $100,000 and 55 percent earned over $50,000 (http://www3.upa.org/files/06_About _the_UPA_factsheet_low.pdf ). Playing Ultimate At their 2001 Strategic Planning meeting, the UPA Board of Directors formed a definition of Ultimate: Player defined and controlled non-cont act team sport played with a flying disc on a playing surface with end zones in which all ac tions are governed by the Spirit of the Game" (http://www.upa.org/ultimate ). The current game of Ultimate Frisbee incorporat es skills and athleticism similar to sports like soccer, basketball, and footba ll. The playing field proper, or the field where you are in

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15 play, is seventy yards long and forty yards across At each end of the field are end zones, which are twenty-five yards long and forty yards across (http://www.upa.org/files/11th_ed_Finl_1_25_07.pdf ). Games typically take two hours to play to a score set by the tournament director (e.g., 15 po ints). Players start the games by lining up seven players at each end zone. When th e defense pulls, or kicks off, to the offense, the point begins and does not end until the offense scores a goal worth one point. A player cannot move after catching the disc, or else a tra vel is called. The defense may m ark the person with disc for ten seconds; this forces the thrower to throw in a specific direction. There are two basic throws in Ultimate: a b ackhand and a flick. There are variations of these throws: long, short, inside-out (the trajecto ry of the disc goes from the inside to the outside), outside-in flick (the tr ajectory of a disc goes from outs ide to inside) low, high, or around the mark. The offense and defense may us e strategic offensive plays or deceptive defensive zones. When a disc is up in the air, it may change po ssession if the defense catch es it or if the disc falls to the ground. There is no in tentional physical contact betw een players and if this does occur, the player calls a foul. If a defensive player encounter s an obstruction (from a teammate or other player) and cannot play defense, she may ca ll a pick and play stop s so that the defense may catch up with the offense. The Spirit of the Game, meaning there are no referees, governs Ultimate Frisbee and it is up to each player to en force the rules to the best of her ability. Some believe that the Spirit of the Game is Ultimate Frisbee's most defining and important characteristic. A Typical Tournament After playing Ultimate Frisbee for five years, I have noticed a pattern when preparing for a tournament. In the following two chapters, I draw on my ethnographic material to discuss

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16 specific moments from the culture of college womens Ultimate Frisbee. In this section, I describe the events of a typical tournament so the reader ma y fully understand those moments. These events typically occur when Discs prepares for a tournament. Ultimate Frisbee tournaments typically start on Saturday morn ing and end Sunday afternoon. Tournaments are usually held on fields at a unive rsity or soccer complexes and are hosted by a college team. The tournament director chooses a format to use du ring tournament play. The format usually begins with pool play on Saturday, followed by an e limination bracket on Sunday. Teams must pay a tournament fee to attend; the fee covers wate r, minimal food, field space, and any additional costs paid by the host team. The Monday before a tournament, the team begins to prepare for the upcoming weekend by trying to drink, eat, and sleep well. Tuesday, they make sure to go over their skills and plays during practice and decide how they will travel to the tournament. Generally, on Wednesday and Thursday the team rests or has a very easy and light practice. Last minute emails go out on the listserv to remind the team of wh at to bring, what car they will be traveling in, directions, tournament schedules, and other relevant informa tion. Most cars leave at the same time but there is nearly always a late car which arrives at the tournament hotel late waking the players trying to sleep. The late comers must step over sleepin g, snoring bodies in sleeping bags. The team has reserved two rooms at the tournament hotel and tr ies to cram eight to ten people into each room. At the end of the first day, the small hotel room begins to mix the smells of sweat and dirty cleats from all those crowded in the room. The t eam is usually tired from the trip and does not stay up late. The next morning the team awakes early to cell phone alarms and clock buzzers. Everybody goes downstairs for the free continen tal breakfast and tries to load up on carbohydrates for the long day. Saturday pool pl ay typically begins at 9am and ends around

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17 5pm. During pool play, teams will usually have a round off. Discs and most other teams arrive on the fields an hour before play to warm-up and prepare for the day. Tournament directors will usually provide water, bananas, and bagels for the teams. Many member s bring extra food items in their field bag. For example, I bring soups an d apple sauce because these items are easier for me to digest. At the end of the first day, Discs goes back to the hotel and team members take turns showering. Discs usually calls a team dinner to regain team cohesion and discuss the events of the day. After dinner, they begin to prepare for the tournament party, usually held at a local bar. At the party there are various t ypical party events, including the boat race. The team selects seven players to line up across seven players from another team with half full beers in their hands. The boat race is a relay race; the first person must finish their beer before the next person goes. After the boat race the team continues to drink and danc e. Depending on the level of competitiveness of tournament play, the Discs t eam will sometimes stay until the end and try and win the party. If your team has the most repres entatives left at the end of the party then your team wins. Sunday morning begins early and team member s must be ready to play their first game. These rounds start early because teams must trav el long distances home. The team may have one game or three depending on whether they win ga mes and continue to advance to the finals. Whether the team wins or loses, the ride hom e is always long and full of talk on the frisbee events of the weekend. Sometimes team members ch ange clothes before th e ride so they do not have to sit in their dirty and sweaty clothes. The Discs team arrives at their respective homes tired and ready to shower and go to bed. Some ha ve homework or papers to finish, but most are

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18 exhausted and make a decision to go to bed and get up early to work. They return to practice on Tuesday and get ready for the next tournament.

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19 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF GENDER AND SPORT LITERATURE Current sport scholarship frequently discusse s the relationship between gender and sport and the formation and consequences of masculinity in sport. At the core of this literature is R.W. Connells concept of hegemonic ma sculinity and emphasized femini nity as introduced in his 1987 work, Gender and Power Connell (1987) states that he gemonic masculinity does not always correspond to the actual experience of masculinity by men in society. In fact, the winning of hegemony or cultur al hegemonic masculinity invol ves the creation of idealistic, exemplar, and fantasy heroes, such as star athletes and their heroic bodies (Connell 1987). In reality, at the local le vel most men and boys do not live up to this model of masculinity. This hegemony of masculinity functions through th e production of these cultural symbols of masculinity. How does the development of athletic male bodies and careers based on specific notions of success serve in the creati on of specific masculine identities? In his work on sport, Michael Messner ( 1992) extends Connells c oncept by noting that athletic success is based on physical power, strength, discipline and willingness to take, ignore, or deaden pain inclined men to experience th eir own bodies as machines, as instruments of power and dominationand to see other peopl es' bodies as objects of their power and domination (Messner 1992:151). C onnell (1987) states that all fo rms of femininity in this society are constructed in the c ontext of the overall s ubordination of women to men; for this reason there is no femininity that holds among women the position held by hegemonic masculinity among men. The option of compliance, according to Connell, is central to the pattern of femininity, which is given the most cultur al and ideological suppor t at present, called emphasized femininity.

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20 In a more recent work, Connell revises hi s previous concept with scholar James Messerschmidt by discussing and an alyzing the four major critique s of hegemonic masculinity. Here Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) suggest a review and reformulation of the concept. Specifically, they reformulate the framew ork surrounding the locations of hegemonic masculinity. They list three levels of analys is: local, regional and gl obal. In emerging or alternative sports the emphasis is on the local le vel because of the sports reliance on a sense of community. At the local level hegemonic masculin ity is constructed in the arenas of face-toface interactions of families, organizati ons and immediate communities (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005:849). At the regional level, hegemonic masculinity is constructed at the cultural level or at the level of the nation-state. Finally, at the global le vel it is constructed in arenas such as world politics, tr ansnational business and media. Th ese levels relate to each other to constantly reproduce and reformulate concep tualizations of hegemonic masculinity (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005:849). Hegemonic masculinity, at the regional leve l, manifests itself symbolically through the actions of specific loca l practices with regiona l significance, such as those practices constructed by such images as professional sporti ng athletes (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). Sport thus provides the he roes that hegemonic masculinity needs for survival; the body of the sporting hero exhibits th e physical signs of strength, speed and agility (Connell 1990). There are numerous empirical research studies that inves tigate the relationship between gendered identities and sport. For example, there is empirical research on the sport of bodybuilding which calls for conceptualizations of gender, sexuality, and the body, arguing for the collapse of gender as an unambiguous prin ciple. Camilla Obel (1996) suggests there are different readings of identity in the sport of bodybuilding. This work suggests that there are far

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21 more contradictions and ambiguities experienced by women than men in the sport. There is the potential for women bodybuilders to both support with and resist dominant notions of gender and also to expand definitions of emphasized fe mininity (Obel 1996:192). However, their agency is still contained by structures a nd ideology of female bodybuilding. Timothy Curry (1991) notes how hegem onic masculinity and male privilege is reinforced through sexist locker room talk. Th rough participating in s port, young men learn how to adhere to a dominant masculinity that de nigrates women and marg inalizes men who are perceived as different. Mens talk reveals how masculine identity is affirmed through conversations about women, competition and hetero sexuality. Sport provides an arena for male bonding and the constructions of hegemonic masc ulinity (Curry 1991). Kristen Anderson (1999) found in her research on snowboarding that ther e are different ways of constructing gender within the institution of sport, resulting in many sport masculinities. Anderson (1999) found that sport is often depicted as an institution that creates and maintains male dominance, but the construction of gender differs greatly in the vari ous activities that constitute sport. Snowboarding is developing in a different soci al and historical context from th at of organized mens sports, and these contextual differences are salient to the pa rticular ways in which it becomes gendered. Like organized sports, some emerging sports are constr ucted in ways that rein force notions of gender difference and masculine hegemony (Anderson 1999). Using Connells framework of hegemonic masc ulinity, the sporting body is an important part of maintaining hegemonic ma sculinities. Sport thus provid es the images and standards that hegemonic masculinity needs to continue; the athl etic body exhibits the physical signs of strength, speed, and agility (C onnell 1990:83). Although current im ages of female athletes seemingly represent a greater definition of feminin ity, there are still societ al expectations of the

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22 femininity of female athletes that includes expressions of hete rosexuality and a non-threatening feminine body image. Sport scholar Pat Griffin (1992) notes that this need to pres ent a heterosexual body is one of the six manifestations of homophobia in womens sport, also known as the promotion of a heterosexual image. The other five categories of homophobia Griffin (1992) defines are silence, denial, apology, attacks on lesbians, and preference for male coaches. The lesbian label is used to define acceptable boundaries for women in patriarchal society, and women in sport are outside of these boundaries (Griffin 1992). When pl aced within the context of Judith Butlers heterosexual matrix, all female athletes are per ceived to feel pressure to present a heterosexual feminine body. Butler (1993) describes the h eterosexual matrix as the way in which heterosexuality encodes and structures everyd ay life. In their 2000 case study using the multiple bodies model, Cox and Thompson (2000) note how the presentation of a heterosexual body, even in cases where the female athlete is not heterosexual, exists in order to combat suspicion and shift focus to the athletic ability of the athlete. By using this model, Cox and Thompson advance a theoretical perspective that understands the complexity of the constituting human bodies in sport. Cox and Thompson st ate, They [conformed to standards of heterosexuality and femininity] to gain accepta nce as team mates, to overcome prejudices associated with negative stereotypi cal images of lesbians and to help preserve their own and the teams credibility in the broader spor ting realm (Cox and Thompson 2000:8). Sport sociologist Nancy Theberge (2000) adva nces research on gender and sport as she analyzes the relationship between bodies, physicality, force, and pow er in sport. Theberge (2000) discusses how there is no body checking in women s ice hockey and how this constructs ideas of gender in the masculine sport of ice hockey. Women s ice hockey is often seen as inferior to

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23 the real game of mens ice hockey, which is full of bodily contact, force, and power (Theberge 2000:133). Connell notes, images of ideal mascu linity are constructed and promoted most systemically through competitive sport, where th e combination of skill and force in athletic experience becomes a defining f eature of masculine identity (Connell 1987:85). Based on this aspect of competitive sport, Theberge argues that physicality, bodies, and force as represented in competitiveness help to create and sust ain hegemonic masculinity in sport. Is hegemonic masculinity the only way to con ceptualize masculinity in sport? Judith Halberstam (1998) introduces the concept of female mascu linity in her discussion of butch/femme roles within lesbian communities. Ha lberstam (1998) tries to disrupt the connection between masculinity and the male body by providi ng an alternative masculinity in a female body. Halberstam asks, [if] female born people have been making convincing and powerful assaults on the coherence of male masculinity for well over a hundred years, what prevents these assaults from taking hold and accomplishing the diminution of the bonds between masculinity and men (Halberstam 1998:15). Halberstams (1998) insight into masculinity offers a greater perspective on gendered practices, identities, and power. Sh e is careful not to catalog female masculinity into a concrete definition. She notes that there ar e several types of masculinities and not all are born to male bodied men. At times, Halberstam says, these ne w masculinities are produced as new renditions of male masculinities and sometimes they ar e produced as original forms of a growing subculture (Halberstam 1998:277) Halberstam very briefly addresses the need for the reformation of the gender binary within the co ntext of sports. She builds on Susan Cahns (1994) work on gender and sexuality in twentieth-century womens sport. Halberstam builds on this work in order to show how if women want to be competitive then need to build traits that are

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24 associated with masculinity and the male-born body. Cahn argues that these traits should not be associated with gender but should be human tr aits. Halberstam acknowledges that society is not moving toward the elimination of gender and ar gues that these traits should extend to women as female masculinity, a masculinity not associated with male-bodied individuals. Messner (2002) discusses the ro le of subculture sport or alternative, extreme sports outside of institutionalized organized mens sport (Messner 2002). Located outside in the margins, extreme sports hold the ability to ch allenge the dominant model of sport. Belinda Wheaton (1998) utilizes the emerging sport of windsurfing to analyze how these new subculture sports challenge the center of spor t. Messner asks, Who were these alternative athletes who seemed to revel in doing sports differently and autonomously, in the relative obscurity of sports extreme margins? (Me ssner 2002:81). Current rese arch indicates that these alternative athletes are males who te nd to come from white middle-class backgrounds, where they have access to models of such ex treme athletes as skateboarder Tony Hawk. However, if the current status of institutional sport already benefits white middle-class males, then why are they moving away from the center into the margins? Messner suggests that these young white male middle-class athletes are attracted to extreme marginal sports not because they are rejecting or re belling against organized mens sport, but because they see the center of sport (basketball, track and fiel d, and football) as thoroughly raci alized as black sports and therefore fear this perceived racial center. Messn er writes, this fear is based, in part, on a contemporary myth of black physical superiority (and natural orientations toward physical violence), played out most publicly in mens sports (Messner 2002: 82). Empirical research by Sarah Banet-Weiser (199 9) on the intersection of race and gender in the sport of basketball in dicates that there are specific repres entations of athletes. Banet-Weiser

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25 examined the depiction of gender and race in the WNBA. She found that there exist gendered and racialized meanings that surround both male and female professional basketball players. The WNBA women, the promotional hype promises, offe r fans a return to the purity of the game, this purity was positioned against the backdrop of the image of the rich, spoiled, violent, highly sexualized and very black bad boys of the NBA (Banet-Weiser 1999:405). In short, the WNBA were coded as women, the athletes of the NBA are coded as black (Banet-Weiser 1999). Research by Ben Carrington (1998) offers an alternative focus on race and sport. Through ethnographic research in a Northern England cricket club, he develops an account of the meanings associated with sport in relation to black masculinity and the use of sport as a form of cultural resistance to white racism. Carrington id entifies three themes in his work. The first theme is the sport of cricket and its role in the contestation of racial and gendered identities. The second theme he identifies is the construction of black sports institut ions as black spaces (Carrington 1998: 289). Last, he shows the use of an African American Cricket Club as the symbolic marker of community identity. The st udy conveys how sport can provide an arena for some black men to assert a masculine identity in or der to restore a unified se nse of racial identity (Carrington 1998). One more empirical research study explores the connections between ethnic and gender identities and identifies how femininity is c onstructed and experienced for these women through racialized power relations that regulate ethnic identity. Specifically, Sharon Wray (2002) uses participant observation, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with wome n between the ages of 36 to 56 years of age and primarily identified th emselves as Muslim Pakistani women. Here she illustrates the connections between gender, et hnicity, and physicality. The study showed how women participated in athletic activities in order to benefit their health rather than adjust the

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26 appearance of their bodies because they did not wish for their bodies to conform to western ideals of femininity and feminine bodies. Instead they wished to improve their health and constructed their feminine bodies that were circumscribed by ethnic and religious identities (Wray 2002). Other empirical studies indicate that there ar e more differences within the categories of women and men than there is between them. Messner note s that, in terms of physical abilities, there are some identifiable averag e differences between women and men but these differences are never categoric al. And it is social practices ...that produce ideologies of categorical difference between the sexes (M essner 2002:171). However, according to Candace West and Don Zimmermans (1987) innovative work on gender, doing gender involves a complex of socially guided per ceptual, interactional, and mi cropolitical activit ies that cast particular pursuits as expressions of masculin e and feminine natures (West and Zimmerman 1987: 126). They propose an ethnomethodologically informed and therefore sociological understanding of gender as routine, methodical and recurring accomplishment. The key reason of why we adhere to our gendere d identities, according to West and Zimmerman, is that we are held accountable to them. These authors write that doing gender requires acknowledgement in any given situation that our act s are gender appropriate or as in cases where they are gender inappropriate, then it is held accountable (W est and Zimmerman 1987). Often female athletes do gender outside of their in stitutional gendered identity and therefore suffer negative consequences. While it is individu als who enact gender, it is in teractional and institutional in character, for accountability is a feature of social relationships. One critique of the work by West and Zimmerm an (1987) is that it does not recognize the structural meanings surrounding individual ac tions. Why or how does society consider

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27 something gendered? More recen t gender scholarship focuses on the power and agency of the social actors within structures. In her work, Patricia Yancey Martin (2004) states that gender is a social institution. Martin incorporates West and Zimmermans idea of enacting gender at the individual level into an analysis of social structure. In addition to placing ag ency with the social agents, Martin also uses her concept of linking theo ry with empirical work. She outlines the definition of a social institution and proceeds to illustrate how gender is an institution. Moreover, she clearly describes the utility of co nceptualizing gender as an institution. Martin notes that her concep t affirms genders sociality an d focuses on the practices of its social characters. Martin (2004) writes that reflexive an d non-reflexive practices need attention. Individuals may or may not intend to perform a gendered activity and may not know exactly what their gestures mean. Does putting on a feminine style of clothing or using masculine language require us to think about our gender? In addition, this concept may highlight power but may point toward disjuncture, conflict, and change. Institutions have a great ability to persist over time and hold a great deal of power. Indeed, to consider gender as an institution highlights genders ab ility to yield power by placing few in positions of power. By showing gender as a social institution, it also brings the focus back to those who embody it. People make up institutions. Most importantly, Martin challenge s the distinction between the individual level or micro level a nd the structural level or the m acro level. She shows that there are individual actors but that they are also cons trained by structural meanings. Certain behavioral practices are only given meaning wh en they are located in society because society structures the interpretation of gender and gende red practices. Martin calls for gender scholars to interpret how individual acts constitute one anothe r as well as the larger structure.

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28 In my research I build on current gender and sport scholarship in an effort to offer new insights on how to destabilize mens mainstream s port culture. In the next two chapters, I offer ethnographic research from the culture of college womens Ultimate Frisbee. In chapter three I focus on the language, attire, and physicality f ound in womens Ultimate. These three areas highlight the individuality of gender in sport. Chapter four focuses on the space that college womens Ultimate players create for themselves. In this supportive space they often feel able to openly acknowledge their own bodies, relationships, sexuality. In my conclu sion I illustrate how individual enactments of gender in Ultimate Frisbee combined with an overall structural analysis of sport, may offer insights into ways of challe nging the center of mainstream sport culture.

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29 CHAPTER 3 PLAYING WITH GENDER IN ULTIMATE FRISBEE Most people are unaware that Ultimate Frisbee is a sport. Most assume it is a leisure activity that involves throwing a frisbee with a dog. Ultimate is not soccer, it is not football, it is not basketball. It does incorporate aspects from these sports but in the end Ultimate is just Ultimate. For the players, Ultimate is not just a sport; it is a culture. In my experiences, I have found that Ultimate can find partners for people, it may raise children, it lets you borrow its car, it calls you when you are sick, and it chooses its people and stays with them forever. Ultimate takes over lives. Ultimate Frisbee has its own clothing, language, and uses bodies to work. College womens Ultimate is a subculture within the culture of Ultimate Frisbee, with its own bodies, clothing, language and people. Each player has a pre-game ritual or a good luck charm, and the necessary items in her field bag. My field bag has countless items and al ways includes a first-aid kit. Team members always ask me for that one item they forgot and most of the time I have it. Discs eat on the road and arrive at the tournament hot el the night before playing, some times late or sometimes early. At one spring tournament I awak e to see Sherrie leaving the cr owded hotel rooms in her team jersey to take advantage of the free continental buffet, fighting for the last scrap of packaged cereal. After I put on pants and my generic sweats hirt, so no other team can recognize my team name, I head downstairs to try and grab so me food. When I emerge, I notice Wendy heading straight for the coffee; she will rely on energy bars to nourish her body throughout the day. Sometimes players talk to each other and sometimes they know they will be in a heated competition later in the day and choose not to look at each other. Discs players arrive on their field an hour before game time for the same warmup jog, stretch, and drills. They bring the jam box or radio to dance along to and act silly. Some teams have long pre-game pump-up

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30 cheers, some have loud ones, and some dont cheer at all. On the Discs team some players that tall, some short, some wear dark colors, some wear long sleeves, some wear skirts, some wear shorts. But once they step onto the playing field th ey are all the same, they are Ultimate Frisbee players. Each player knows that for the next two hours she will have to tell her body to run, catch, and throw all along the seventy-yard fiel d that feels miles and miles long. Neither wind nor rain will stop the game and both conditions are just as tough to play in. I always check the weather forecast and if it does rain I take out my bright orange ra in coat to keep my body from soaking in water. If the forecast predicts windy conditions the Discs team must change its game plan because zone defense works better. In the wind, players cry when they see how it takes the disc to places they did not want it to go. Rain ruins the usually easy ca tch because there are no dry hands available. But some days are perfect wh en the sun is bright a nd cheerful, the air is crisp and clean and the green grass is soft. These days the disc begs to soar through the air and wishes to be caught. The players in college womens Ultimate Frisbee have diverse body types, attire, and personalities. The culture of Ultimate Frisbee exists outside the culture of mainstream sport. Media, money, or other aspects of mainstream s port heavily influence the dominant sport culture. In his work Messner describes the mainstream sport industry as a sport-media-commercial complex where economics, mass media, and commer cial industries work to endorse masculinity and male privilege in sport (Messner 2002:77). How does this influence the identities of at hletes, specifically college women Ultimate Frisbee players? What does their attire or language say about identity? I argue that these players incorporate masculine practices from mainstream sport into their identities as athletes but

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31 reshape and reformulate their meanings into their own. In owning th eir meanings, players challenge the detrimental effects of hegemoni c masculinity in mainstream sport culture. Ultimate Bodies: Physicalit y in a Non-Contact Sport Ultimate players know that they must score in the twenty-five by forty-yard section outside of the playing field known as the end zone. It is difficult to describe what goes through the mind of players as they run around on the field. They do know that the end zone is vital; they know they must catch the disc by any means possible. They also know getting th ere is the tough part; it is physically demanding on the body. There is no contact, no trav eling, no fouls, and no picks. The Spirit of the Game regulates the game, not re ferees. Each player is familiar with the rules. Throw a backhand, throw a flick, throw a hammer, throw a blade, throw inside-out, throw outside-in, throw it forty yards, or throw it ten. Cut to the open side cut to the break mark side, catch it behind, catch it laterally, or catch it in the end zone. These are some of the many decisions in the ten-second possession of the disc Discs player Karen feels pressure when she has possession of the disc saying, All I think about is who is the most open. If we are playing a tight game and I know that we need to move this di sc it can definitely be stressful. I usually freak out once I hear eight. (Karen/Interview) I do know from personal experience the exhilarati on when the disc advances into the air, its movement is clear, the arc of the disc, and its trajectory all come together. When this happens in a game, I sprint to the area where I think th e disc will finally settle and adrenaline pumps through my veins as blood hits my muscles. I sc ream at my muscles to work faster, but the defense wants the disc too. The disc drops back towards the ground and we bend our knees, push off from our toes, and launch into the air. I watch the disc m ove down in slow motion, and see the white plastic lip fading away as I stretch my fi ngers to grasp the edge. I struggle to grip it, knowing I must not drop it. The defense knows she has only one attempt at tapping it away from

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32 me. As we hit the ground, our elbow s bruise first and then our st omachs hit and finally the tops of our knees. But I do not feel the pain, not toda y anyway. I know that will come tomorrow. For now, I have the disc. In the distance, cheers fl oat in like a song, peopl e flood me. The defense acknowledges my effort with a slap of th e hand and I appreciate this gesture. The culture of sport and specifically the center of organized mainstream sport emphasizes the bodily manifestation of hegem onic masculinity as the heterosexualized, aggressive, violent, strong ma le athlete as well as emphasizing the heterosexualized, flirtatious, moderately muscled female athlet e (Dworkin and Messner 2002: 24). In Ultimate Frisbee there are no standards of what an Ultimate players body should look like; there are different types of bodies within the sport. Players cons idered superstars w ithin the sport have various body types. Outside of Ultimate, there ar e standards for feminine and athletic bodies, which are acceptable to the culture of sport. How do college women Ultimate Frisbee players incorporate their own ideas of the feminine body and physicality into ideas of what their athletic body should look like? How do they use their bodies in play? Ultimate Frisbee is a non-contact sport; however, it is still very physical. Using Connells framework of hegemonic masc ulinity, the sporting body is an important part of maintaining hegemonic ma sculinities. Sport thus provid es the images and standards that hegemonic masculinity needs to continue; the athl etic body exhibits the physical signs of strength, speed, and agility (C onnell 1990:83). Although current im ages of female athletes seemingly represent a greater definition of femini nity, there are still soci etal constraints on the femininity of female athletes. Fe male athletes still must exhibit an image of heterosexuality, as well as, a non-threatening feminine body image (Dworkin and Messner 2002:23). For example, Florence Griffith-Joyner was applauded for her muscular and sculpted body yet still

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33 competed in extremely feminine outfits and wo re long, feminine painte d fingernails (Dworkin and Messner 2002:24). How does the physicality of a sport affect th e body and mind of a female athlete? Sport sociologist Nancy Theberge analyzes the rela tionship between bodies, physicality, force, and power in sport. She discusses how in a sport like ice hockey, in which there is no body checking, ideas of gender are constructed. Although body checking is not allowed, many of the women athletes prefer the physicality of the sport and say it is part of the game (Theberge 2000:133). Many outsiders perceive womens ice hockey as inferior to the real game of mens ice hockey which is full of bodily contact, for ce, and power (Theberg e 2000:115). Connell notes, Images of ideal masculinity are constructe d and promoted most systemically through competitive sport, where the combination of skill and force in athletic experience becomes a defining feature of masculine identity (Conne ll 1987:85). Based on this aspect of competitive sport, Theberge argues that phys icality, bodies, and force help to create and sustain hegemonic masculinity in sport. Womens Ultimate Frisbee has the ability to expand traditional notions of femininity in Ultimate Frisbee and to challenge hegemonic masculinity. At times, some college women Ultimate players, despite stereotypes, still se e their bodies as feminine bodies. The following example comes from my observations at a very competitive national tournament: The coach referred to the body types of the ot her team, to make us feel we were better. They are just "fat, slow big girl s. The team accepted his comment by laughing. Does this remark suggest that as athletes, college women Ultimate players must adhere to a more feminine body type that is skinny and non-muscular? Or wa s this simply a tactic for motivation? Ultimate Frisbee has many different types of bodies, yet there are some body types

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34 that are celebrated more than ot hers. For example, tall women ha ve an advantage in catching the disc. However, if you can run faster, catch bette r, and throw farther it does not matter what body type you have. In Ultimate Frisbee, there is no intentional physical contact between players in both the women and mens games. If there is contact betw een players, the player calls a foul and both players decide if the call is indeed a foul. Spirit of the Ga me guides the interpretation and enforcement of the game. However, players can come in contact with the ground by laying out or going ho (i.e., horizontal). Players can also lay out on defense to interrupt the other teams possession of the disc or the offense can lay out to maintain that possessio n. The act of laying out often results in bruises and othe r injuries. In my observations hitting the ground can result in injuries ranging from bone br uises and broken collarbones, to dislocated fingers and broken wrists. Although I myself have injured myself from laying out, I still do it. In a Regional tournament a couple of years ago, I attempted to lay out on defense while my knee was bent and landed on my knee cap resulting in a very pain ful bone bruise. Currently, I wear a kneepad on my right knee. There is a build up of scar tissu e and swelling from the number of times I have landed on it. Nevertheless, laying ou t is a signal of intensity and a high level of play that often excites teams. One specific cheer by Discs illustrates the intensity of laying out: Call: What ? Response: Huck [throw long] that disc. Call: What ? Response: Catch that shit. Call: What ? Response: Lay out bitch, yeah

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35 Or Lay it out, Lay it out, Lay it out, Lay it out, Lay it out If you cant lay it out do the best that you can but You better have the mother fuckin disc in your hand Fellow players often shout out enthusiastically to those in the field of pl ay to lay out for an otherwise out-of-reach pass. For Ultimate player s it shows an intense wi llingness to catch the disc. Amy restates this point when she talks about laying out: I do feel like I am more competitive and its the competitive will that takes me to that level to hit the ground for the disc. I would cons ider it a serious disadvantage if a player didnt lay out when a disc is within reach a nd if you dont do it, you are less of a player. I couldnt idolize somebody who cant lay out. (Amy/Interview) Therefore, this may suggest that college women Ultimate players often promote aggressiveness, competitiveness, and intense physicality during play. Is this an incorporation of the ideology of mens sport and hegemonic masculinity or is it a form of resistance? I would argue it is a form of resistance despite the f act that college women U ltimate players accept the current core ideology of mens sport. Even though they perform aspects of hegemonic masculinity, they also reform and reshape it. These players use their bodies for physicality but also respect their bodies injuries and dont play through th e pain or see their bodies as machines (Messner 2002: 57, Theberge 2000:129). Theberge notes in her research that women ice hockey players saw injury and pain as symbols of weakness outside of hegemonic masculinity and therefore not traits of an at hlete (Theberge 1997:83). College women Ultimate players are challenging, at time s unknowingly, theories on bodies and physicality and their place between power and sport. They do not always s ee injury and pain as weaknesses. They use their bodies as powerful sites for athleticism but also places of empowerment and nurture. The

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36 act of laying out is not only a sign of competitiven ess, as Amy notes, but also a skill that a player can learn. Amy goes on to say I dont feel lik e Im magical at laying out. I taught myself. Sherrie, a newer player still trying to learn to lay out says its a particular skill. Im not afraid to hit the ground, I just cant figure how. In a recent collection of e ssays, Andrew Thornton (2004) comments on the act of laying out in Ultimate Frisbee. He examines the Ulti mate community and the construction of identity. Thornton states that even though Ultimate players (his research comes from coed teams in Canada and the UK) dislike the aggression, co mpetition, and physicality celebrated in the center of mens sport culture, they still cele brate it in the act of laying out. He writes: The fear of not being seen as a real spor t I argue is most profoundly expressed in the regulation of the boundaries of physical aggres sion Players do not want to be physically violent, but they still express a desire fo r physical dominance and experience pleasure through physical exertion. This identification is expressed by Ultimate players reservation of the highest praise for thos e who go ho (Thornton 2004: 192). Although I might agree with Thorntons assess ment of the whole community of Ultimate Frisbee, I disagree that this ha ppens in the specific space of college womens Ultimate Frisbee. Janice and Elsie, both veteran Discs players, do not ignore the body pains and injuries and note the following: I very much listen to my body and try and keep it happy. If its not happy I try to understand why and try to fi x it. (Elsie/Interview) I also listen to my body. It is important to listen to your in juries and take care of them quickly. (Janice/Interview) By paying attention to bodies and physicalit y, college women Ultimate players challenge hegemonic masculinity by also knowing their bodi es as loving, empathic, and nurturing. Often in the culture of sport, athletes are taught to se e their body as a machine that move through injury and pain. In his work Power in Play Messner (1992) shows that at hletes often give up their bodies to their sport because of the influence of external factors and the pressure to achieve a

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37 full masculine identity. The external influence of teammates, coaches, fans and media pressure athletes to play through the pain or he will be ne gatively judged. Messner also notes that athletes wish to embody a masculine identity, resulting in a separation from th eir feelings and making them more inclined to see their body as a machine or instrument (Messner 1992:79). Talking Tough: Language Use in Ultimate Frisbee Vocabulary in Ultimate is different from main stream sportall sports have quirks but Ultimate is more accessible. (Deidre/Interview) Ultimate has so much personality. Personally, I havent seen it in another sport. (Barbara/Interview) As in many sports, Ultimate has its own vocabul ary to refer to everything from plays and positions to incidents and acts. At one practice, I was on the offensive line getting ready for the pull and Lynn asked, what popper w ill get the pull and dish it to th e turn style or a handler and keep a chilly O? For those who do not play Ultimate this common phrase might seem like another language. The word popper refers to th e offensive position in a zone where the player moves between the areas covered by the opposing team in order to disrupt the defense. The pull is when the defense kicks off at the start of each point to the offense by throwing it to the end zone. A turn style and handler are both offensive positions and are experienced throwers who frequently receive the disc. Wh en a player says keep a chilly O, she is reminding the offense to stay steady and to make wise decisions. The terminology for Ultimate may suggest a culture, as Deidre says, different from mainstream sport. One of the veteran players, Casey, notes the difference: The whole spirit thing was new to me; I usua lly was involved in academic-geared activities like marching band. Ultimate has a different la nguage, environment, and vocabulary and at first I didnt understand it (Casey/Interview) This may suggest that Ultimate offers a more accessible environment and vocabulary than other sports and activities. New players may feel at ease w ithin Ultimate because its culture

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38 and terms create an atmosphere that is conduc ive to learning. Although the overall culture in college womens Ultimate Frisbee may be more accessible, players may still rely on mainstream sporting terms to describe specific acts of athleticism. My current research suggests that college women Ultimate Frisbee players define their athleticism in masculine terms; that emphasize aggression, competitiveness, and physicalit y. I argue that these players must use this masculine language because they have no othe r way of expressing themselves as competitive athletes. College women Ultimate players use m asculine language and practices; they do not use them in a way that reinforces gender inequality. Women Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and language into their own, thereby creating a distinct space. In an article on dialogue in male athletes locker rooms, Timothy Curry (1991) lists categories that emerge from his pro-feminist an alysis of the locker room talk. One category involves the dynamic of competition, status attain ment, and bonding among male athletes (Curry 1991:123). Curry (1991) states that competition beco mes an important part of the male athlete and his sense of identity. In college womens U ltimate, most do not use competition as a way to establish themselves as athletes, instead defini ng their identity through th e culture of Ultimate. At times when play becomes intense and heat ed, the language turns in creasingly vulgar. The vulgarity is often used by the player about hersel f rather than about others on her team. Ultimate players promote camaraderie and support among play ers with encouraging and supportive words. Veteran player Carolyn notes that she woul d not punish her teammates for a mistake: I would never curse at other people, on the fi eld. I might curse at myself or out loud, it helps my aggression. For example, if somebody scored over a stupid mistake I made, like misreading [a pass] or if I jumped too soon I would curse out loud to show I could have done better. (Carol yn/Interview)

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39 This may suggest that college women Ultimate players may use competitive language to motivate themselves but not in relation to their teammates or other players. Curry notes that bonding in the locker room be tween male athletes often occurs when they joke about women, femininity, or homosexuality. The bonding of these male athletes comes at the expense of others. At practices and at tournaments, I would hear some of these same types of bonding language. For example, some of th e players make your momma jokes during practices and tournaments. At one practice I was on the offense and the opposing team pulled the disc out of bounds. As I went to retrieve th e disc, Deidre calls out your momma. I was confused and unsure of what she said so I as ked her and she said, I didnt know any other insults. Even though these jokes are at the e xpense of others they are so outlandish and impersonal that they often do not carry any speci al meaning as a put-down. At a competitive tournament, one that drew top teams in the nation and set a higher level of play for Discs, I heard the following from two fellow players: Ronnie: You look slow out there. Are you feeling better? [She wa s not feeling well earlier] Lynn: Yeah, so is your mother! Im feeling okay, thanks. These jokes are not meant to directly insult women. They are making fun of these jokes by showing the absurdity of them. This may suggest that female athletes ch ange notions of gender when the competition increases. The word choi ce and language becomes more explicit and vulgar, as games become more tense or close. The jokes became more vulgar as well. Although language may become vulgar, it is not at the expense of others. How do college women Ultimate players use langua ge to describe other players as well as themselves? I argue that they use masculine langua ge to describe specific acts of athleticism

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40 by themselves and other players. The following is an example from my field observations during another high-level tournament: Ana, Lynn, Tina, Emma all refer to a prominent and very skilled female player by her last name and refer to her as a more masculine player. All other refere nces to players are by their first names. Ana and Amy refer to Karen as a beast or animal or sick because she makes very difficult catches. There are numerous other references to good plays with the same language. These terms emphasize aggression and competitiveness in a single defensive play or sequence of plays. The emphasis is on the pl ay and athleticism of the individual during that play and not at the expense of the other player. Players will often praise their opponent for an impressive play, saying nice bid [for the disc] or nice catch. Often players refer to notable outstanding players on other teams in their region by only their surname. Before games, teams try to pump up one another by cheering or singing songs in a huddle. In research on womens rugby, Broad (2 001) notes how the majority of mens rugby songs vilify women and homosexuals by si nging sexually explicit songs. Womens rugby songs reinterpret and rewrite these songs and as sert active, fluid, and multiple sexualities (Broad 2001:193). Cheers from womens Ultimate teams vary, most are not sexual and are not rewritten from mens cheers. Most of the mens Ultimate teams cheers have vulgar and sexual content. Discs cheer uses the first letter fr om the team name and creates a supportive phrase that is repeated three times. Th e team stands in a huddle with players arms wrapped around one anothers waists and all the women jump up a nd down. Another rival team sings the American anthem as a cheer before games. This may sugge st that these Ultimate players pump each other up in a supportive manner creating a space that encourages aggressive, competitive behavior but not at the expense of other player s. After games, teams also cheer each other, regardless of who won or who lost. Most of the cheers are parodies of old or popular songs. Each team comes over to the other team after the game and serenade s the opposing team. The other team gathers around

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41 listens, sits, and claps along with the cheer. Te ams jump around, follow poorly written lyrics, and even teach dances. At the College National Cham pionships, another team taught the Discs team a dance. Discs had won a tight and intense game a nd was prepared for a fast cheer. However, the other team came over with a radio and started to teach each member a step of the dance. The opposing team said that Discs must use the danc e at the tournament party later in the day. In my observations, at the end of mens games pl ayers look as if they barely want to slap hands with their opponent. In the college mens U ltimate, teams do not cheer at the end of the game or congratulate the winning team on a well-played game. Disc s player Sherrie feels that cheering is an important part of college women s Ultimate. She notes, Its what keeps Ultimate different. [Cheering] kind of brings back the whol e spirit aspect. It is also nice when they go out of their way to think of someth ing specifically tailored for your team. (Sherrie/Interview) Skirts or Shorts: What to Wear for Ultimate When a good team wears all black it is intimidating. (Carolyn/Interview) When I first began to play Ultimate I wore short skirts, ankle-length socks, womens soccer cleats, a purple visor, no wristbands, and my team jersey. I would always wear a black skirt on the Saturday of tournament play and a white skirt on Sunday. In my mind I felt the skirt was more comfortable and easier to play in than shorts or other athlet ic attire. Once, at a tournament, a player asked me Why do you wear a skirt? I annoyingly replied, because I can and then proceeded to walk onto the field. Afte r developing as a player on highly competitive teams, I realized that I wore skirts because I was uncomfortable with my athleticism and the masculinity associated with that image. In or der to combat any notion of masculinity, I wore short tennis skirts to be more feminine. Now I wear mens long black basketball shorts, black socks, football cleats, wristbands and a baseball cap. This attire is typically viewed as more masculine. It can also be more practical and comfortable.

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42 As noted, research suggests th at women who are college Ulti mate Frisbee players define their athleticism in masculine te rms because there is no other vocabulary to describe competitive athletes. Players may also wear more masculin e attire to intimidate their opponents. These players use such terms and methods because they have no other way of expressing themselves as competitive athletes. Although most players may cl aim to dress in a practical and comfortable manner, most also use intimidating at tire, such as wearing all black. What is practical in Ultimate? Since Ultimate is a non-contact sport, there is no need for body pads or helmets. In Ultimate Frisbee, it is n ecessary to wear cleats because of the stop and start nature of play; howev er, there is no protocol for specific t ypes of cleats. Ultimate is played in all conditions with no preset uniform for cold, wet, or dry weather. The individual player decides what is best for her play, both ment ally and physically. They may use the typical depiction of masculinity and uniform in sport but reshape these ideas into their own. Women Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and dress on their own terms, thereby creating a distinct space and self-identity. In this space, these players claim their own identity and restructure masculine practices and identities, challe nging the hierarchy and power that hegemonic masculinity often creates. There are no mainstream images of hegemonic masculinity or feminine bodies specific to Ultimate. However, I would argue, college women Ultimate players utilize conceptualizations of hegemonic masculinity in order to constitute th emselves as athletes. Specifically, women in college Ultimate often use masculine sport conc epts such as physicality, competitiveness, and aggression but do not adopt them as deeply-felt identities. Terminology a nd attire in womens Ultimate often reflects masculinity, such as dressing as an aggressive and intimidating player. Therefore, college women Ultimate players must us e these terms because they have no other way

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43 of expressing themselves as athletes. Ultimate players do not have a definition of an Ultimate athlete and bring their own definition of athlet ic ability to the sport. In addition, in my observations many female college Ultimate players wear clothing that is masculine in order to feel like a competitive athlete. The follo wing comment came from Carolyn, during a conversation with the team about her style when she first started playing with Discs: When I first started playing I wore dance shor ts, T-shirts and at to urnaments I would wear tall socks, skirts and my jersey. Honestl y, the first year I thought about appearanceI wanted to look coordinated. For example I woul d think about matching socks to my jersey. (Carolyn/Interview) In a statement after the competitive season ended she changed her position on appearance and opted to be more practical in or der to perform at a higher level: My motive now is to wear what I need to be comfortable in that c limate, its about being smarter about playing a sport, it doesnt ma tter how you look. Wear what you need to play better. (Carolyn/Interview) This may suggest that when college women U ltimate players first begin to play organized Frisbee they bring their normativ e views of femininity, masculin ity, and athleticism with them. As they progress in the sport and as players, they may begin to shed these ideas of masculinity and femininity as athletes and accep t their space in womens Ultimate. Other players expressed similar feelings about their attire. At the competitive level, most players on Discs said they would rather be mo re comfortable and wear items that are more practical, rather than look good. One of the ve teran players, Amy, thinks about aspects of practicality, not femininity, when choos ing what to wear for a tournament: I mostly wear knee-length [surf] board shorts because my legs might get scraped up; its not to wear to be intimidating but more prac tical. I usually scrape my elbows badly so I will wear wristbands and sometimes a hat because I am trying not to have skin cancer. I dont wear makeup because I dont want it to run down my face, I dont take extra steps to be feminine, and its not th e place. (Amy/Interview)

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44 Again and again during interviews, I heard that practicality was more important than an image. Although most claim to wear practical dress items. The Discs team choose to wear the same brand of long black shorts with the logo on the lower corner of the short. Discs wanted to be more intimidating, noting that the old pair of shorts didnt do the trick because it made them appear short. Teams often choose colors for their jerseys according to their schools colors. Many womens teams may also choo se different styles and types of jerseys. There are three major licensed companies that sell Ultimate Frisbee apparel, including customized jerseys for women and men. Most teams use one of these three companies. Each team chooses a style, fit, cut, and colors. The Discs team voted for a white and black womans cut jersey with sleeves. The shorts are black to match the black jersey for an intimidating look. As Discs progressed as a team, players began to incorporat e a logo, colors, cut, and styles into their jerseys. This may suggest that the culture of Ultimate Frisbee allo ws female athletes to use a more masculine image as intimidating athletes and not to feel apologetic for their behavi or. The concept of the female apologetic in sports, fi rst articulated by Jan Felshin, describes female athletes participation in the masculine world of sports as an anomaly (Felshin 1974) In an interview with Ultimate player, Deidre, she notes that in the cu lture of Ultimate Frisbee there might not be a need for female athl etes to apologize: In those sports [basketball, softball] female at hletes have to restate their femininity because its assumed that they are masculine as athlet es. In Ultimate, people dont care. Ultimate is androgynous in general. (Deidre/Interview) I suggest that college women Ultimate player s may not feel the need to restate their femininity in the sport of Ultimate. These players are not unapologetic with their athleticism but rather present a different form of their own masculinity. K.L. Broad (2001) finds in her research on female rugby teams that womens sport can be characterized by an unapologetic, marked by transgressing gender, destabilizing sexu al identities and in your face confrontations

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45 of normativity (Broad 2001:199). Broad (2001) dr aws parallels to womens resistance in rugby and queer activism that suggests th at there exist forms of queer re sistance in womens sport. I suggest that these college women Ultimate play ers are not expressing a conscious form of resistance but rather particip ating in a culture that noneth eless resists normativity. However, not all gendered identities in co llege womens Ultimate express a form of masculinity. Some bring conventional forms of fe mininity into their identity and attire. For example, many players wear mens surfing board shorts, but they buy them in a more feminine color such as pink. In addition, many female coll ege Ultimate players use wristbands, baseball caps, and wear mens football cl eats but usually incorporate a si gn of their femininity. This sign may be the color of the wristbands or pairing womens soccer socks with mens football cleats. People outside of college womens Ultimat e, such as college men Ultimate players, may approve of such expressions of masculinity only if their femininity or sexuality is also clear. At a recent competitive tournament, one of the players from the mens team told Karen the following: Karen you are the only girl I know that wear s mens football clea ts, not stupid womens soccer cleats. That is awesom e, that is why you rock! Everybody knew that Karen was dating a member of the mens team and therefore her femininity was not questioned, she did not feel the need to justify he r expression of masculinity. In Ultimate it is popular to choose the color of your cleats. The colors of cleats on the Discs team range from orange to polka dots. Th is last bit of color may add a feminized and distinct individual style for th e player. One year, many of the players bought pink Nike womens soccer cleats. If players have a di stinct piece of flare that they wear, other teams may use this to characterize them. Teams often refer players on other teams by their distinct sporting attire.

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46 One year Discs referred to a player on a rival t eam as shiny shoes and a player on another team as pink cleats. What happens off the field? Do college women Ultimate players feel as if they need to establish their femininity off the field? In he r research on womens ice hockey, Nancy Theberge (2000) notes that some players feel the need to counter stereotypes of female ice hockey players being overly masculine. From her observati ons, she writes about one of the players: There is an important irony in this playe rs concern about image. She is a strong and powerful player, one of the most physical and heavily penalized on the team. Although concerned to counter the stigma of masculinity off the ice, on the ice she has a particularly masculine game. (Theberge 2000: 88) In sport culture, ice hockey is perceived as a masculine sport. Ultimate Frisbee does not rely on bodily contact and therefore is not perceived as an overly masculine sport; this may affect how female Ultimate players consider how to present a gendered identity. At tournament parties, many of the Discs members ultimately c hoose comfort over presenting an image of being highly feminine. Janice, a Discs pl ayer, states the following, I want to look like a girl but I dont want to put much effort into it. I would never dress up for a frisbee party. (Janice/Interview) This may suggest that these players feel a leve l of comfort within college womens Ultimate and do not feel obligated to present femininity to c ounter the perceived mascul ine characteristics that mainstream sport culture associates with a high level of athleticism.

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47 CHAPTER 4 ULTIMATE FRISBEE: A SPACE FOR FEMALE ATHLETES? Discs team members generally attend tournament parties, which often are at local bars in the city where the tournament is held. At one spring tournament, I observed the same routine as at most tournaments. As usual after the first day of competition, the Discs team showers at the hotel, puts on comfortable and feminine clot hing, and departs for the party together. This particular tournament party is held at a small local bar where the beer is free but not very good and the music is loud. At the games that day, the tournament director had given each team wristbands for admission into the bar. The Discs team members have a drinking game that they organize at tournament parties called Boatracing. On this occasion, the boatrace cap tain, Tina, screamed at players to come over and line up. These seven players competed ag ainst seven other players on a rival team. The first person to completely finish a glass of beer and turn the cup over her head would win. In this race, the last girl on the opposi ng boatrace team took her cup full of beer and poured it over her own head. The Discs boatrace responded by saying that this was poor boatrace etiquette. The other team stated that she had sacrificed for the team. The opposing team had won the race and received seven very nice pint glasses. Howeve r, Discs went on to win the tournament and the team received their own pint glasses. Some team members said they wanted the boatrace pint glasses and that the other team had cheated. As in other boatraces and similar drinking games, this was not solely a competition to see who can drink the greatest amount of alcohol in the least amount of time. The game also served as a tool to bond between teams and within teams. At more than one tournament I witnessed, and even participated in, several boatraces by Discs used water rather than beer so th e players would stay hydrated for the next day of play.

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48 After Discs left the boatrace, they moved to the dance floor where they provocatively danced with one another. There ar e certain songs that the team likes and as they played the team fervently dances to them. Other onlookers tried to dance with them but they gently refused and continued to dance together as a team. The members decided to re turn to the hotel because they had a long day of tournament play the next day and they wanted to be prepared to win. In their research on college womens athletic s, Blinde, Taub, and Han (1994) studied the ability of sport to empower wome n at the team and societal le vel. They found that athletes bonded with their teammates and created important relationships with them (Blinde et. al 1994). My research illustrates that college women s Ultimate Frisbee teams also bond with their teammates, creating important and substantial relationships in thei r lives. This may suggest that womens Ultimate creates a space where these athlet es are able to exhibit athleticism and also nourish relationships with their teammates. Often in the culture of sport, sexuality is solely heterosexual and created in opposition to hom osexuality (Messner 2002). My observations suggest that college womens Ultimate Frisb ee provides a space that cultivates womens relationships one another and may sometimes a llow for playful erotic expression. This also suggests that these players feel comfortable in an all-female space and therefore can freely express their sexuality among themselves as women on the team. How do researchers accurately represent the e xperience of the fema le athlete? The sociological model of multiple bodies, as proposed by Cox and Thompson, (2000) is an effective tool to interpret the experience of female athletes. By dividi ng the body into four theoretical components, Cox and Thompson (2000) illustrate the complex and uncertain process of how female athletes understand their bodies. These theo retical bodies often challenge each other and when placed in juxtaposition they often ch allenge mainstream di scourses on femininity,

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49 sexuality, and stereotypical gender roles. This analysis of the multiple bodies model helps to illuminate how female athletes in Ultimate Frisb ee may experience their bodies. It also illustrates the complexity of this process for these athl etes. College womens Ultimate Frisbee may be different from other sports in mainstream cultu re because it can create a safe space for its athletes. However, there are still aspects of main stream sport that these players must negotiate when playing Ultimate. The Ultimate Bond: Relationships in Ultimate Frisbee After playing my first tourname nt with members of this team, it became even more evident to me how important good communication, pati ence, and a willingness to help and learn are to a successful team. I witnessed behavior on the part of members of other teams that I balked at, knowing how much healthier and more fun an encouraging environment is. (Francine/Interview) The history and culture of Ultimate may help to create a supportive space in college womens Ultimate Frisbee. In my observations, the interactions vary from team to team but most report an encouraging environment, different from other womens sports. In her research, Nancy Theberge (2000) noticed challenges to team c ohesion during the two seasons she spent with a womens ice hockey team. She notes that although the team promoted the concept of team unity, the team had several stars that put their own interests above the teams, causing egos to clash (Theberge 2000:44). In May 2006, Discs traveled to the College National Championships in Columbus, Ohio where we competed against sixteen of the top college womens teams in the nation. During the three-day tournament, Discs played close-scor ing games with all of our opponents. Although players described each game as long and tough, th e team worked hard to earn a high place the tournament. Pre-quarterfinals were held in the early morning on the second day of the tournament. Discs knew the team would face its Sectional and Regional rival and had to be prepared to play well. The team arrived as the sun was just coming up and the grass was still wet

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50 from dew. No team members would admit that they were nervous. The team went through its pre-game warm ups, drills, and its cheers. As th e game began, a van full of fans from Discs hometown pulled onto the field and flooded the side line. The van had travel ed the entire night to come cheer for their hometown teams. I coul d feel the teams added nervousness, and the increased intensity. When the game started, Discs came out with strength and speed and got up (quickly scored) on their opponent with numerous sc ores. It was clear from the Discs players actions and language that they were feeling good a nd confident in their offense and defense. The game soon turned and their adversary began to score. I could see Disc s players panicking and making poor decisions, such as throwing the disc to the opponents best defender and repeatedly dropping passes. Soon their opponents were wit hin two points and time was running out. Discs had to score the last two points to win. On the last point of the game, Discs had the disc on offense, we worked it up and the throw went up. It sailed high towards the end zone where it was only Discs player Casey and her defender wait ing for the disc. Casey and her defender went up high for the disc but Casey used her body to win the best position to make the grab. Both players came down and Casey held on to the di sc. The game was over and the Discs had won. The team went on to the quarterfinals of College Nationals. After the ga me, a television station covering the championship came over to intervie w Casey. The interviewer asked Casey what it felt like to catch the winning goal. Casey replie d, I may have caught the winning goal, but I wouldnt have been able to without the throw that got it there. It was a team effort and I am just glad that we won and are a dvancing to quarterfinals. In my experience, most Ultimate teams indicate the importance of chemistry for their team. Teams talk about their offense flowing or gelling together in order to create effective offensive plays. A team may become more co mfortable with one anot her on the field and know

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51 how each of the players work together. During th e spring season, Discs never indicated that they had one superstar on the team or that another player needed to perform well. Discs player Laurie notes the importance of chemistry and team cohesion for an Ultimate team: I think it is very important for chemistry to exist between players on the field. To know each others strengths and weaknesses is absolu tely crucial, so you, as an individual, can help the team as a whole. Some players stre ngths lie in speed and catching skills, others are great defenders. It is important to rec ognize how to utilize each player to their strengths, and to improve their weaknesses, so that they can become a better player. Nothing is more demoralizing while playing a sport than not being given the opportunity to do something that you excel at. I think that with out chemistry, it is difficult for the team to recognize who works well together, and to put a strong line out every time. (Laurie/Interview) Third year Discs player Karen i ndicates that a teams success is from the teams unity and not because of a few key players: Unlike most teams that are dictated by a few people, we all respect each other on the field. We are light hearted off the field and we don t ever get down on each other or blow up on each other on the field. I think that is very important in order to have a team succeed, to make sure that there is a mutual re spect and a team bond. (Karen/Interview) Each year in college womens Ultimate and men s Ultimate, teams nominate a candidate for the Henry Callahan Award. This annual award is for th e most valuable player in College Ultimate. After each team nominates one player, all eligible college womens Ultimat e players go online to a voting system and vote for the three best wome ns candidates. The candidates are tallied and one female is presented the award at the Colle ge National Championships at the end of the season. Recently on an online forum for Ultimate Frisbee, a previous female Callahan winner observed that womens Ultimate teams tend to select players based on talent, skill, and spirit. She went on to say that mens Ultimate teams tend to select a player based only on skill. Another female Ultimate player, and a coach in coll ege womens Ultimate Frisbee, commented on the initial thread concerning the Callahan award: I think that women seem to value the spirit as pect of the award and carrying a team on your back while the men seem to value being the l eader and go-to player on a great team. All of

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52 the last seven men's Callahan winners have le d their teams to a Nationals appearance, six made it to the finals, and five won it all. By comparison, only five of the last seven womens Callahan winners were at Nationals the year they w on, only one made it to finals, and none earned a title. (http://icultimate.blogspot.com ) This may indicate that college womens Ultimate Frisbee promotes a sense of team unity and cohesion, which seems to be missing from most ma instream sports. Teams may rely on their own total unity and structure in order to exhibit th e players individual athl eticism and physicality. Individual players often promote their teams su ccess over their individual success in order to highlight their schools program and growth rather than the individual player s, as seen in Discs. The most successful programs in college womens Ultimate include numerous key players rather than a select few superstars. In their research on college womens athletic s, Blinde, Taub and Han (1994) studied the ability of sport to empower wome n at the group and societal leve l. They found that athletes bonded with their teammates and created important relationships with them (Blinde et al.1994). In their research, they found the following: Athletes felt it was easier to relate with someone who goes through the same thing. A second factor concerned the frequency and re gularity of athlete interaction. Athletes constituted the major network of friends for n early all respondents. Such sentiments were expressed by a swimmer who stated, We are ju st always there for each other. Because of the time you spend and the things you go th rough, I guess it creates a certain bond between teammates Athletes frequently described their teammates as best friends, close knit, family, and people you love to death.(Blinde, et.al 1994:53) In my research, I also found these sentiments to be widely shown. The teams I have observed work together throughout the season to develop as a team by training and practicing together. They also develop relationships off the field. Di scs player Taylor notes her relationships with her teammates: It wouldve been hard not to [create relations hips.] At this point, ninety percent of my friends are ultimate players, and the few th at arent know how much time I spend doing Ultimate-related things and they just accept it as a part of me. (Taylor/Interview)

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53 In addition, Sherrie notes the following: After a whole semester of spending at least thr ee days a week of prac tice and almost every weekend together, they become like family. Gr anted you still feel closer to some than most, but you still share common goals and have been through so much together by the end of one season. (Sherrie/Interview) Most of the players interviewed indicated that the tim e spent with their teams help create strong relationships off the field. These players spend time training, practicing, traveling and attending tournaments during the five-month college seaso n. Ultimate player Laurie indicates that spending time with her team has helped to creat e lasting relationships as well as strengthen already existing relationships: But as I've played and traveled with the team, I've become increasingly comfortable. When you travel eight hours to a tournament, you lear n quickly to get comfortable with each other. Also, rather than Ultimate helping to form significant relationships, Ultimate has also formed much stronger already existing relationships. For example, my boyfriend who I met six years ago plays Ultimate. Being in a long-distance relationship, Ultimate has provided a way of seeing each other. It's a sim ilar story with my roommate. We have been friends since middle school, but had we not both decided to pl ay for [Discs], we probably wouldn't have ended up as roommates or su ch close friends. (Laurie/Interview) This may suggest that college womens Ultimate Frisbee creates a space that promotes relationships and bonds among its team as tea mmates as well as friends. College womens Ultimate teams spend time training as athletes through track, gym, and practice. Through the years as Discs has become more competitive, the outside training has increased during the season. A typical week for the Discs team duri ng the spring season would includes: a three hour practice on Sunday, rest on Monday, a two hour pr actice on Tuesday, a forty-five minute track workout on Wednesday, a two hour practice on T hursday and an additional speed workout during the weekend. As training increased, so di d the bond between players, as noted by Karen in the following example: I feel more comfortable with my teammate s than I do with my roommates now because they understand why I spend so much time playi ng Ultimate, running track etc. I also think that because we spend so much time togeth er, doing all these things makes me more

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54 comfortable with my team. We have the same or similar schedules, and therefore we can hang out more outside of pract ice. (Karen/Interview) Teams spend a significant amount of time tr aining and they also spend a significant amount of time in social settings. At a recent pr actice, a new player to Discs asked me what was on my lower left ankle. I looked down and replie d that it was a tattoo of the image from the Discs team logo, a design of a flame. In my third year on the Discs team, two other team members and I decided to get tattoos of the l ogo on different parts of our bodies. For me, the logo represented the entire community. In this community, I found strong, supportive, and loving relationships. Many Discs members said that they have found their relationships in the Ultimate community to be meaningful and long lasting. One of the newer players on the Discs team noted the following: The person I'd consider my best friend is on the team, my boyfriend is on the [mens Ultimate] B-team. I feel like I spend more time with the Frisbee community than my other friends lately and I dont really mind, I consid er pretty much all of them my friends. (Margo/Interview) This may suggest that although college womens Ultimate creates a competitive and athletic space for competing, it also extends its community to form important relationships. College womens Ultimate takes from mainstream sport cultu re the desire to win by training and working hard it goes farther in creating a community that does not rely on key individuals of the team. This community creates a positive and supportive space that fosters important relationships in players lives. Although many Discs members feel close in th eir relationships to other team members, not all share that closeness. Blinde et al. ( 1994) found that female bonding did not always occur among teammates. They found that because teammates were competing for playing time and positions, some players became jealous and distrustful of other players and their intentions (Blinde et al. 1994:54). During interviews with the Discs team, players never expressed these

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55 types of feelings to me. However, some players st ated that they felt more comfortable with team members with a comparable skill level. Di scs player Lonnie expressed the following: For the most part I feel at ease with my team members, but I definite ly feel more at ease around the players that are close to my skill level. It seems that there is a hierarchy on the team that is based on playing ability, and the la dies tend to hang out with other ladies that are around their same ability. I would certainly not feel comfortable hanging out with the starting offense if I was the only one there not on it. (Lonnie/Interview) Although Lonnie states that she f eels more comfortable with sp ecific players on the team, she does not directly express feeling competitive or su spicious of other players on the team. The high level of competitiveness in college womens U ltimate Frisbee may call for team cohesion and unity and does not often rely on individual superstars. This ma y create a distinct space that does not foster a system of hierarchy and pow er found in mainstream sport culture. In her research on womens ice hockey, Nancy Theberge observed the ice hockey team go through two phases: a friendship first season to a for the hockey season (Theberge 2000:55). She describes the emphasis of these teams to be on eith er the cohesion or closeness of the team or on games and the development of skills. I would argue that college womens Ultimate is able to do both. Teams need team cohesion and unity and this in turn creates close re lationships and female bonding, but it also fosters athletic sk ills and development as athletes. Erotic Play: Expressing Sexuality in College Womens Ultimate Frisbee It was our semester meeting for Discs and ev erybody was there. There was lots of food and wine during the meeting. I could see that Sherrie was standing in the room with her back to Elsie and Ronnie. Elsie and Ronnie were whispering and lo oking at Sherrie. I knew something was coming. They began to adva nce around Sherrie and soon they quickly grabbed her breasts and slid their hand across her crotch and yelled, Taco and Milkshake. Sherrie smiled a nd replied, I cant believe I fell for that one! Everybody laughed. (Field Notes) Often when female athletes play sports, they enact identities outside of their expected feminine gendered identity and therefore they may suffer negative consequences. The concept of the lesbian label defines acceptable boundaries for women in patriarc hal society, and women

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56 in sport are outside of these boundaries (Griffin 1992:252). With the inclusion of sexuality into the culture of sport and the construction of th e female athlete in opposition to masculinity, a climate of homophobia may exist. When female at hletes present traits similar to those of masculine male athlete, their sexuality becomes an issue. Particularly when placed within the context of Judith Butlers heter osexual matrix, all female athlet es perceive pressure to present a heterosexual feminine body. Butler describes th e heterosexual matrix as the way in which heterosexuality encodes and structur es everyday life (Butler 1990:42). Sport scholar Pat Griffin (1992) notes the need to present a heterosexu al body as one of the six manifestations of homophobia in womens sport, also known as the promotion of a heterosexual image. Griffin (1992) notes, whe re presenting a feminine image previously sufficed, corporate sponsors, professional women s sport organizations, some womens college teams, and individual athletes have moved be yond presenting a feminine image to adopting a more explicit display of heterosex appeal (Griffin 1992:255). The other five categories are: silence, denial, apology, attacks on lesbians, and preference for male coaches. Silence, as Griffin (1992) writes, is the most c onsistent and enduring manifest ation of homophobia in womens sport. Female athletes often live in fear of drawing attention to themselves by achieving athletic success and therefore drawing attention to their sexuality. When a female athletes status of heterosexuality comes into question to their coaches, managers, and even the athletes themselves will deny it. This denial, another cate gorical manifestation of homophobia, results in the erasure of lesbians in sport. In order to apologize for possible appe arances or associations outside of femininity, female athletes, their co aches, sponsors, and managers often promote an ideal feminine image that is consistent with white heterosexual images of beauty. Women in

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57 sport suffer not only detrimental psychological consequences but al so physical effects. Griffin writes, in a style reminiscent of 1950s McCarthyism some coaches proclaim their anti-lesbian policies as an introduction to their programs. At hletes thought to be le sbian are dropped from teams, find themselves benched or are suddenly ostracized by coaches and teammates (Griffin 1992:256). Homophobia affects all women in sport; the idea or lesbian label marginalizes womens sport and all female athletes. However, withou t outside influence of media womens Ultimate Frisbee resists the need to promote a sens e of heterosexualized body. As Susan Cahn (1993) notes the figure of the mannish lesbian has acted as a powerful unarticulat ed bogey woman of sport, forming a silent foil for more positive, corr ective images that attemp t to rehabilitate the image of women athletes and resolve the cultur al contradiction between athletic prowess and femininity (Cahn 1993:343). The idea of the ma nnish lesbian still pervades thinking about female athletes, yet the overall camaraderie of a womens Ultimate Frisbee team overrides a homophobic climate in sport. Even so, players ma y create a heteronormative atmosphere, mainly through jokes, and may still promote a sexua lity that is distin ctly heterosexual. Although college womens Ultimate Frisbee incor porates aspects of mainstream ideologies of sport, such as competitiveness, aggression, and physicality, the sport still resists all facets that promote hegemonic masculinity. The following is from my observat ions at practice: Karen starts with Viagra jokes as her throws are too low and they need to get higher in order for the receiver to score. The jokes include taking Viag ra in order to, get it up and I took my Viagra, my throws are up. Ever ybody else either partak es in the jokes or laughs at them. At another practice I overheard tw o new players talking about how to learn the flick (snapping the wrist to release the disc) throw:

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58 Margo: I was running around and I overhead one of the guys teaching a younger player on the mens team on how to throw a flick. He told him its just like slapping an ass when you snap your wrist. (She mimics the act of slapping an ass) Beatrice: Oh thats easy to remember! I will just think of when I am slapping a guys ass whenever I go to throw flick (She also mimics the act of slapping an ass.) In these observations, players are making joke s using aspects of hete rosexuality and male sexuality. Karen is joking about Viagra, a drug enhancer for men with penis erectile dysfunction. I would argue that this type of joking may creat e a heteronormative environment where some players might feel uncomfortable. However, those telling these jokes may be adapting and manipulating aspects of male sexuality to make them their own. These aspects of masculinity may help these player s to think of themselves of at hletes. As I argue, college women Ultimate players use aspects of masculinity to th ink of themselves as athletes because they do not have an alternative vocabulary. These players re shape these ideas so that they do not generate a hierarchy of power. Aside from practices, at competitive tourna ments the jokes increase in vulgarity and heteronormative language. The following is from observations made at the most competitive tournament of the season: Jane is talking about finding the water jugs in the morning before our first game. The conversation turned into talki ng about breasts, and Janice recalls her nickname of jugs. Tina makes the comment that she prefer s the word tits to any other word. Taylor and Ronnie both yell the phr ase of pussy footing to players on the field when they are not running hard or in the huddle before games. On numerous occasions at practices when player s would go to change colors to play on the offense or defense, other players would joke a bout giving them a little striptease and say things like, take it off! Although both of these comme nts may create a heteronormative environment, they may also indicate that th is environment creates a space fo r all women to feel comfortable with themselves and each other. My research su ggests that in college womens Ultimate Frisbee,

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59 womens sexuality does not exist solely in relatio n to male sexuality and heterosexuality. Often in the culture of sport, sexuality is sole ly heterosexual and created in opposition to homosexuality (Messner 2002: 35). My observati ons suggest that college womens Ultimate Frisbee provides a space that cultivates wo mens relationships with each other and may sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. Th is may also suggest that these players feel comfortable in an all-female space and therefore can freel y express their sexuality among themselves. These expressions may include play ful interactions, playful touching or jokes. Karens joking about Viagra and Margos joki ng about how to throw a flick may signal an adoption of a form of hegemonic masculinity but it may also indicate that as a woman she is comfortable in this space and can playfully express her sexuality. Most of my observations occur when teams are in all-female settings. If these events occurred in a mix gendered setting, these actions might be misinterpreted. For example, if a mens team were present when these teams exhibit erotic play they might interpret these acts as expressions of heterosexuality towards them. At a competitive preseason tournament, Discs lost in the quarterfinals. Discs played another losing team in an isolat ed field removed from the other competing teams. The two teams decided to enjoy this game since this game did not change the outcome of the tournament for either team. During the game the opposing team members took off their shorts exposing underwear or tights. The team encouraged Discs to take off their shorts and many members complied. Both teams had play ers on the field that had their underwear or tights on during the entire point. Th ere were shouts from both teams sidelines to take it off! These teams felt a level of comfor t that allowed them to express their sexuality with one another in an uninhibited way.

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60 On the Discs team there are long lasting joke s and playful gestures that team members often use with each other. These jokes conti nue through the seasons even as team members graduate and move on from their co llege years. One of them is the taco. A taco, mentioned earlier in this section, is wher e one woman quickly runs her hand across the front part of another womans pelvic area, as noted earlier. The opposite of a taco is a butter knife because the hand quickly slides over the backside. When one woman places her hands on the breast of another woman and moves them up and down, this is a milkshake. The origin of these jokes or pranks is unknown among the Discs team. This ma y suggest that these pl ayers feel comfortable in an all-female space and th erefore express notions of female sexuality among team mates. These women flirt playfully with each other as they touch their bodies in a sexual manner. Although the culture of college womens Ultimat e Frisbee is very supportive of lesbian relationships, I would say that it does not identify as a lesbian culture. These flirtations may signify romantic relationships betw een players, but this did not a ppear to be the case during my research with the Discs team. In general, these exchanges occur because pl ayers feel comfortable in an all-female space. I would argue that since womens Ultimate Frisbee is outside the mainstream culture of sport, th ese female athletes may create a safe space to nourish a female bond and relationships where female sexuality does not exist solely in rela tion to male sexuality and heterosexuality. My observations suggest th ere is a space in womens college Ultimate Frisbee that celebrates womens re lationships with one another. The Ultimate Athlete: Expressions of Fe male Athleticism in Ultimate Frisbee I identify as an athlete and Ultimate is my sport. (Deidre/Interview) As I was parking my car at a tournament, I read this bumper sticker on another car, Ultimate ruined my life. There is generally no external validation for a long, hard day of physically demanding Ultimate. The team does not usually receive public recognition for its

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61 efforts, as in mainstream sport. There are no paychecks, no benefits, and no crowds waiting at home. There is no mass production of jerseys for the superstar on the team, no autographs or photo shoots. I have found in my research that pl ayers speak of a desire to play the game of Ultimate, a desire to play with their team through easy and hard games and through good and bad weather. In these conditions, how do female Ulti mate players express themselves as athletes? Can outside comments affect the psyche of the female athlete who plays Ultimate? Can researchers, including myself, accurately relate the experience of the female athlete? What specific areas of mainstream sport might thes e athletes bring into Ultimate? Can college womens Ultimate bring their existing ideas of sp ort and athleticism and still create a safe space to express their athleticism? I would argue that by understanding the complexity of how female athletes regard themselves as athletes, researchers are able to depict their experience. This past spring, Discs participated in a co mpetitive tournament in cold rain, wind, and snow. The team knew that there would be inclem ent weather and yet the players still chose to attend the tournament. I observed that all my teamma tes wore at least three layers of clothing and they were soon soaked. Many of th e players tried adding layer afte r layer and when that did not work, we huddled together to try to salvage some warmth. Casey, Ana, Karen, and Jane were in a tight huddle and Casey remarked, I am going to put my hands down my pa nts because that is what the football players do when they are cold and need to keep their hands warm. The only thing getting them through the day was the thought of a hot shower. During the middle of the day, I tried to give a pep talk by asking the team to visualize that hot shower. At one point when I was on the line waiting to play defense, I tried to speak but could not feel my face, nose or lips. I looked at Carolyn and her lips were purpl e and I knew she could not feel her face either. The players hands were too cold and wet to throw the disc properly. We huddled again on the

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62 sideline with arms and hands locked together still trying to concentrate on the game. When a game ended early, the team ran from the fields in to the nearby middle school and defrosted in the bathrooms. Player after player came into the bathroom and tried desperately to wash the mud off and put their cold hands under the hot water. Af ter the shower, after ea ting, we would talked about the day and even laugh about it later because they were a team, a team of athletes who would play together thro ugh the good and the bad Ultimate does not generally incorporate mainstr eam sports ethos into its culture. At times, players notice the differences between Ultimate and other sports. Deidre relates her experience with club soccer and Ultimate saying, I tried out for club soccer and they were mean, different. In Ultimate, you are encouraged to keep learni ng, its unique. (Deidre/Interview) Amy also relates her impression of club soccer players in comparison to Ultimate players by saying, I know plenty of soccer bitches and they are conceited, selfish and ha ve all the bad qua lities of an athlete or a jock. (Amy/Interview) This may suggest that Ultimate creates a space that does not incorporate the negative as pects of mainstream sport. Ho wever, Ultimate does not exist completely outside of mainstream sport culture; participants may bring their beliefs from other sports into their game. Studies in feminist research often analyze th e importance of the image of the female body. From theory of the sexuality of human bodies and their meanings to current feminist research on the female body, the image of the body is an important concern. How can researchers accurately represent the experience of the female athlete? The sociological model of multiple bodies, as proposed by Barbara Cox and Shona Thompson (2000) is an effective tool to interpret the experience of female athletes. The research by Cox and Thompson (2000) based on in-depth interviews and participant observation with a pr emier New Zealand soccer league. By dividing

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63 the body into four theoretical components, Cox and Thompson (2000) illustrate the complex and uncertain process of how female athletes unders tand their bodies. These theoretical bodies often challenge each other and when placed in j uxtaposition they often challenge mainstream discourses on femininity, sexuality, and stereo typical gender roles (Cox and Thompson 2000:17). The athletic body, one of the four theoretica l bodies, is a body of physical strength and endurance and it is able to perf orm athletics at the desired level (Cox and Thompson 2000:10). When Cox and Thompson asked what an ideal athletic body would entail, All sketched a picture, particularly at elite level, that was relatively thin, muscled, athletic and strong (Cox and Thompson 2000:10). Physical strength offers more autonomy and less reliance on the strength of others. In addition, Cox and Thompson ( 2000) note how the physical strength of the body transferred into a better psychol ogical self. Several of the Discs players consider themselves to be athletes because of their athletic physical body and high level of fitness. Amy states the following: I always considered myself as an athlete but when I started playing Ultimate, I was in decent fitness but now I have achieved a new level of fitness. I gained a new identity as an athlete. (Amy/Interview) Team members appreciated their ability to perform within their sport. The better the physical body, the better the performance of the athlete, both mentally and physically. In addition, the number one body concern among participants in the case study by Cox and Thompson was fat. Fat is a factor that is controllable and opposite of the idea of the athletic body (Cox and Thompson 2000:13). In turn, this influenced thei r evaluations about performance and athletic ability, of themselves and their teammates. Kare n notes how weight and fitness may affect her performance in Ultimate, but is different from female attractiveness: I feel that I plan to get in sh ape, and in return I lose weight and that helps my performance on the field. Ultimate is not about sexy or fe minine, in my opinion. (Karen/Interview)

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64 A new player to Discs, Mar go, also notes the following: If I happen to get in amazing shape from Ultimat e I wont deny that I'd be really glad. And I don't really want to bulk up, but if I had to choose between looki ng really feminine but being slow and weak or being good at Ultima te but looking kind of manly, I'd go with the manly body. (Margo/Interview) The second body within the model of the mu ltiple body perspective is the private body. The private body represents the bod y located within the private spheres such as the dressing room or showers. In the private sphere the private body may become public when undressing and when showering. Cox and Thompson (2000) found in their research that female athletes are anxious about their naked body. An example is the way the athletic body highlights the awareness of womens comfort, appreciation, and enjoyment of their physicality. However, when we place the athletic body in opposition to the private body we can see how the private body reveals womens concerns w ith fat or body weight and the attractive female athletic body. The athletes may feel the need to incorpor ate the traits of the feminine body to maneuver within the culture of sports. Ultimate player Karen indicates some anxiety over undressing in front of her team: If I am butt naked, I would feel very self-cons cious. But as far as changing my shirt in front of a bunch of teams it doesn t really bother me. Usually I am in a hurry to change whatever I need to so it does nt really matter who is watchi ng. On the other hand, if I have the opportunity to change in the bathr oom, I probably would. (Karen/Interview) The private body is now a space where an attractive femaleness and the heteronormative female body coexist (Cox and Thompson 2000:12). Therefor e, while body weight is an issue of performance and athletic ability, it was also a way to recreate female attractiveness. In the following, Discs player La urie relates her experiences in other sports as well as Ultimate Frisbee: When I began weight training for basketba ll in high school, I was concerned about becoming too muscular. However having trained heavily for basketball with no significant muscle mass changes, I am not really worried about maintaining my feminine physique

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65 while training for Ultimate. I think my body w ill look more or less the same regardless of my Ultimate training. (Laurie/Interview) Furthermore, womens appreciation of the ability of the athletic body also affects the confidence of the female athlete. Carolyn considers herself an athlete because of her training for Ultimate and her role on a team: I am an athlete; I play for a team and compet e. I play against other teams across the nation. We have an off-season and on season and I train to play. (C arolyn/Interview) It is important to acknowledge the fact that each female athlete ma y experience her body in different ways and the multiple body models reveal the complexity of this process. When we place each of these theoretical bodies in juxtaposition with ea ch other, we can see how the female athlete must maneuver and negotiate w ithin different discourse s and contexts. The body of the female athlete is cons tantly contradicting the dominant social discourse on identity, gender, and sexuality. How do these athletes communicate within thei r team? What expressions do players use to teach a skill, play, or to motivate? I argue that college women Ultimate Frisbee players consider themselves as competitive athletes within the space of womens Ultimate, but may feel conflicted in interactions with the outside comm unity. Ultimate player Barbara describes hearing some of the mens team describe womens Ultimate: I remember overhearing them describe wome ns Ultimate and say thing like, womens Ultimate is mens Ultimate underw ater. They run slower and make decisions at a slower pace In regards to the mens team, you are of ten defined by things like being a girlfriend, and hear, she only plays because she is dating a guy. (Barbara/Interview) Deidre also describes the opinions of male players of Ultimate in the following: Mens Ultimate, in general, does not respect womens Ultimate. They would say that younger guys arent good throwers for women b ecause they are direct and for women you have to cater to their lesser athletic ism when throwing. (D eidre/Interview) Carolyn also notes the following:

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66 Mens Ultimate sees womens Ultimate as less important; in their mind, its a lower grade of what they play. I would think that every man on the mens team would think they would know the game better than every woman of the womens team. (Carolyn/Interview) These expressions come from all areas of th e players lives, including their coach. At one practice, I heard the following co mment from Discs male coach, as the team was getting ready to scrimmage the mens B team: They may be taller, faster, and jump higher bu t dont be scared. They are also dumb. You will be fine. You get three tr ies to score and dont worry you can score against these dumb boys. Be patient and concentr ate on throwing and catching. I argue that these players rece ive criticism about their athletic ism as Ultimate players but they do not internalize the comments. They use them to create a space in womens Ultimate in which they celebrate their ability as athletes. In the following, Ultimate player Melinda hears the criticisms of womens Ultimate but finds their concerns to be humorous: The only comment that outsiders tend to make is that Ultimate isnt a real sport. But I never feel conflicted about th is. I just laugh because I can definitely see where theyre coming from. All they see are parties and hipp ies, not the practices and track workouts. (Melinda/Interview) This may suggest that college women Ultimate play ers consider their identity as athletes and as teammates. This may create a space within the s port to exhibit both athleticism and expressions of support as teammates. This analysis of the multiple bodies model helps to shed light on the experience of the female athlete in Ultimate Frisb ee. It also illustrates how complex this process is for the athletes. College womens Ultimate may create a safe space for its athletes, but there are still aspects of mainstream sport that thes e players must negotiate when playing Ultimate. These players are sometimes conflicted about their own athletic body in Ultimate as how to conceptualize themselves as athletes.

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67 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS The formation of gendered identities, specifica lly masculinity, in mainstream sport often results in an unequal distribution of power whereby masculinity in sport is favored above other forms of masculinity and above all expressions of femininity. Em pirical research on gender and the institution of sport indicates how hegem onic masculinity may sustain and maintain a hierarchy of gender. There are few structural an alyses of gender and sport, and much of the research still relies on Connells (1987) notion of hegemonic masculinity. In his early work, Messner (1992) relied heavily on hegemonic masculinity and the gender order. Messner notes in this earlier work that, t he gender order is thus a social system that is constantly being created, contested, and changed, both in the rela tionships and power struggles between men and women, and in the relationships and power struggles between men (Messner 1992). However, in his later work Messner (2002) develops a broader structural analysis of gender. Can research better conceptualize gender in sp ort through Judith Butler s (1990) concept of performativity of gender? How can this research use a critical analysis of gender and sport, whether through notions of perfor mativity or a structural framework, in order to disrupt the current gender hierarchy in spor t? Can we use research to cha nge an existing and established social structure, a social struct ure that is embedded in the gender fabric of society? By employing feminist research methods and using a critical an alysis of gender, this research will expose the weakness of the structure. Specifically, by combini ng a critical analysis with specific individual characteristics of college womens Ultimate Frisbee, this research may begin to destabilize the center of institutionalized mens sport. With a structural change, individual acts may become significant and consequential in ch anging the overall structure of s port. Female athletes, at all

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68 levels, should see themselves, as male athletes ar e able to, as strong, and self-confident, not as anomalies. In her work, Gender Trouble Butler (1990) critici zes the assumption that there is a core or essence to a preexisting gende red social being that willfully en ters into social contracts and relationships. Butler states, the performative invo cation of a nonhistorical before becomes the foundational premise that guarantees a presocial ontology of persons who freely consent to be governed and thereby constitute the legitimacy of the social contract (Butler 1990:5). This premise leads most feminist theorists to mistaken ly assume that there is some sort of gendered ontological woman that desires to be free of social attributes that essentializes their being. Butler goes on to write, the femini st subject turns out to be disc ursively constituted by the very political system that is supposed to facilitate its emancipation (Butler 1990:4). Butler suggests the notion of gender as a performance where ther e is no preexisting being, but an effect that happens in everyday performance. Many scholars mi sinterpret this idea of performance as being a matter of free will or choice. Therefore Butler notes: In this sense, gender is not a noun but rather a set of free fl oating attributes, for we have seen that the substantive effect of gender is performatively produced and compelled by the regulatory practices of gender coherence. Henc e, within the inheri ted discourse of the metaphysics of substance, gender proves to be pe rformative that is cons tituting the identity it is purported to be, gender is always a doing though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed. (Butler 1990:33) Is Butlers notion of a performative gender usef ul to an analysis of gender and sport found in college womens Ultimate Frisbee? Does Butler suggest that if we ca n use other performative, or subversive, acts to destabili ze these effects, then we can challenge the very systems and subjects that are simultaneously producing one another? If this is Butlers message, how can we illustrate the absurdity of gender effects while wome n athletes are still held accountable to them? Although Butler might disagree, a structural anal ysis of the institution of gender and sport

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69 combined with Butlers notions of performativity will generate an insightful critique and useful dialogue on gender and the culture of sport. Messner (2002) points to thr ee levels of analysis in crea ting a structural framework for discussing gender and sport. The first level is an interactionist theo retical framework that illustrates the ways that social agents perform or do gender in order to describe how groups of people reproduce or challeng e boundaries that create nat ural categorical differences between women and men. The next level is a stru ctural theoretical fram ework that highlights how gender is inscribed in institutions. This level helps to show how under certain conditions social agents mobilize variously to disrupt or to affirm gende r differences and inequalities (Messner 2002: 25). Last is a cultural theore tical perspective that shows how symbols and images are carefully incorporated into culture and used, reproduced, or contested in different locations in society. By combining this structural framework of analysis with specific subversive acts, as located in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee, we may challenge detrimental consequences of sport culture To build on this gender research, Martin ( 2004) merges the individua lity of gender with a structural analysis. Martin stat es that institutions do not stand alone and may often interact with one another (Martin 2004:1265). If we frame ge nder as an institution, it is possible to notice how the institution of sport and gender are reac ting and reconstituting each other in mainstream sport. Martin explains that the members of these institutions, including sport, may use gender expectations to construct the so cial relations and dynamics of its institution (Martin 2004:1266). Martin notes, without question, ot her institutional sphe res use gender to construct (some) practices, social relations, rule s, and procedures (Martin 2004:1266) I argue that the institution of mainstream sport uses gende r to emphasize hegemonic mascul inity as a natural trait of

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70 athletes and to disregard other fo rms of masculinity as well as tr aits of femininity. By framing gender as an institution, I am able to show how gender can both work against and, sometimes, for the institution of sport. College womens U ltimate Frisbee reshapes gender expectations so that gender identities are no longer reproduced to create a hierarchy of power. College womens Ultimate Frisbee may challenge structural levels of the institution of sport. At the interactionalist level women Ultimate players sometimes perform their gender outside of their acceptable gendere d identities. However, this is acceptable because it exists in a culture where college womens Ultimate player s incorporate aspects of both categorical and individual gendered identities in order to destab ilize these oppositional categories. My research suggests that women who are college Ultimate Fris bee players often use their athleticism in a typically masculine manner, though with a differe nce. I argue that these players must use masculine practices and language found in spor t culture because they have no other way of expressing themselves as competitive athletes. Play ers may also participate in gendered identities by wearing masculine attire to express in timidation. Although many players may claim to dress themselves in a practical manner, most still recognize intimidating attires such as wearing all black. Another example of masculine practices is language use in college womens Ultimate Frisbee. Although the overall culture in coll ege womens Ultimate Frisbee may be more accessible, players may still rely on mainstream sporting terms to describe specific acts of athleticism. College womens Ultimate Frisbee may offer a more accessible environment and vocabulary than other sports and activities. Ne w players may feel at ease within Ultimate because its culture and terms create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. This research suggests that college women Ultimate Frisbee play ers define their athlet icism using masculine

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71 language; they use terms that emphasize aggres sion, competitiveness, and physicality but do not use these terms or language at the expense of other teammates. College women Ultimate players use masculine language and practices, but they alte r their purpose so that it does not perpetuate gender inequality. Women Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and language into their own, thereby creating a distinct space. These actors in the space transform and change perceived masculine gend ered identities in order to create a culture without a distinct hi erarchy. In this space, college women Ultimate players transform masculine gender meanings and thereby feel a level of comfort and camaraderie with their fellow players. I would argue that since womens Ultimate Frisbee is outside the culture of mainstream sport, these fe male athletes are able to nourish female bonds and relationships. Through my observations, I ha ve found that college womens Ultimate Frisbee allows women to cultivate relationships with one another and may sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. This may also suggest that these players feel comfortable in an all-female space and therefore can freely express their se xuality. Some expressions may include playful interactions, touching, or jokes. These exch anges may signal an adoption of hegemonic masculinity, heterosexuality, or male sexuality, but it may also indicate that these women feel at ease in this space and can express themselves sexually and playfully among other women on their teams. I emphasize that these practices are specific to college womens Ultimate Frisbee, even if, in the overall culture of Ultimate Frisbee, th ere are some interactions and exchanges that reinforce gender inequality. My research is specific to college womens Ultimate Frisbee, because this sport has characteristics that I argue are different from those found in other womens sports. Characteristics such as attire, language, and physicality may be similar in other

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72 womens sports, but those sports can often reproduce the same inequality and gender hierarchies found in mens sport culture. Fo r example, in Theberges (200 0) work, she found that even though there is no body checking in womens ic e hockey, there can be a large amount of physicality in the game. These players use thei r bodies for physicality and play through the pain, and may also see their bodies as machines (Messner 2002:57, Theberge 2000:129). Theberge noted that players saw injury and pa in as a sign of weakness outside of hegemonic masculinity, and therefore not suitable tr aits of an athlete (Theberge 1997:83). In addition, some womens sport culture and its practices may form in response to the culture or climate found in its mens sport c ounterpart. In Broads (2001) work on womens rugby, she examines how womens rugby responds to the destructive culture of mens rugby. She draws parallels between womens resistance in rugby to queer ac tivism, suggesting that there exists forms of queer resistance in womens spor t. I argue that college womens Ultimate Frisbee does not react directly to practices in mens Ultimate, nor does it reproduce gender inequality found in mens sport culture. At a structural level, college womens Ultimate players move outside the gendered hierarchy of institutionalized sport. Here they ar e free of divisions based on categories of gender that could have a detrimental influence on female Ultimate players. There are powerful masculine sporting images and symbols of spor t which influence Ultimate, but, college women Ultimate players choose to manipulate these im ages in order to disrupt perceptions of naturalized differences between female and ma le athletes. In the future college womens Ultimate Frisbee may become more mainstream and begin to incorporate practices found in mainstream sport that may reinforce gender ineq uality. As Ultimate begins to grow, the media may intervene and change the dynamic found in co llege womens Ultimate. However, at this

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73 moment I argue that college womens Ultimate Frisbee challenges the institution of sport by creating a location for female athletes that is outside the center of mainstream sport culture. Therefore, college womens Ultimate Frisbee may serve to destabilize mens institutionalized sport by challenging gender ideologies that hold it in place.

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74 LIST OF REFERENCES Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1993. Writing Womens Worlds: Bedouin Stories. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ambler, Gwen. 2007. A Callahan vs. A Cham pionship. Retrieved June 8, 2006 from, http://icultimate.blogspot.com Anderson, Kristin L. 1999. Snowboarding: The Cons truction of Gender in an Emerging Sport. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 23:55-79. Banet-Weiser, Sarah. 1999. Hoop Dreams: Prof essional Basketball a nd the Politics of Race and Gender. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 23:403-420. Behar, Ruth and Gordon, Deborah (eds). 1995. Women Writing Culture University of California Press. Birrell, Susan and Cole, C. (eds). 1994. Women, Sport and Culture Champaign, Illnois: Human Kinetics Publishers. Blinde, Elaine, Taub, Diane, and Han, Ling ling. 1994. Sport as a Site for Women's Group and Societal Empowerment: Perspec tives From the College Athlete. Sociology of Sport Journal 11:51-59. Broad, K.L. 2001. The Gendered Unapologetic: Queer Resistance in Womens Sport. Sociology of Sport 8:181-204. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. __________. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. London: Routledge. Cahn, Susan. 1994. Crushes, Competition, and Clos ets: The Emergen ce of Homophobia in Womens Physical Education. Pp 327-340 in Women, Sport, and Culture, edited by Susan Birrell & Cheryl Cole. Champaign: Human Kinetics Books. ________ 1993. From the Muscle Moll to th e Butch Ballplayer: Mannishness, Lesbianism, and Homophobia in U.S. Womens Sport. Feminist Studies 19:343-368 Carrington, Ben. 1998. Sport, Masculinit y, and Black Cultural Resistance. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 22:275-298. Connell, R.W. 1987. Gender & Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politic s. Stanford: Stanford University Press. _________ 1990. An Iron Man: The Body and Some Contradictions of Hegemonic

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75 Masculinity. Pp. 83-95 in Sport, Men and the Gender Order: Critical Feminist Perspectives, edited by Messner, M and Sabo, D. Champaign: Human Kinetics Books. Connell, R. W. and Messerschmidt, James. 2005. Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender & Society 19:829-859. Cox, Barbara. and Thompson, Shona. 2000. Multiple Bodies: Sportswoman, Soccer, and Sexuality. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 35:5-20. Curry, Tim. 1991. Fraternal Bonding in the Lock er Room: A Profeminist Analysis of Talk About Competi tion and Women. Sociology of Sport Journal 8:119-135. Dworkin, S and Messner, M (2002). Just do...what? Sport, Bodies and Gender. Pp. 17-29 in Gender and Sport: A Reader edited by Sheila Scraton & Anne Flintoff. London: Routledge Frank, Gelya. 2000. Venus on Wheels: Two Decades of Dialogue on Disability, Biography, and Being Female in America Berkley: University of California Press. Felshin, Jan. 1974. "The Social View.in The American Woman in Sport, edited by Ellen Gerber, Jan Felshin, Pearl Berlin, and Wan een Wyrick. Boston:Addison-Wesley Griffin, Patricia. 1992 Changing the Game: Hom ophobia, Sexism and Lesbians in Sport. Quest 44:251-265. Halberstam, Judith. 1998. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press. Martin, Patricia Yancey. 2004. "Ge nder as a Social Institution." Social Force s 82: 1249-1273. Messner, Michael and Sabo, Donald (eds.). 1990. Sport, Men, and the Gender Order: Critical Feminist Perspectives Champaign: Human Kinetics Books. Messner, Michael A. 1992. Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity Boston: Beacon Press. ________ 2002. Taking The Field: Women, Men, and Sports. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press. Obel, Camilla. 1996. Collapsing Gender in Competitive Bodybuilding: Researching Contradictions and Ambiguity in Sport . International Review of Sociology of Sport 31:185-203. Scraton, S, and Flintoff, A (eds.). 2002. Gender and Sport: A Reader London: Routledge. Theberge, Nancy. 2000. Higher Goals: Womens Ice Hockey and the Politics of

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76 Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press. _________ 1997. It's Part of the Game: Physicality and the Construction of Gender in Woman's Ice Hockey. Gender & Society 11: 69-87. Thornton, Andrew. 2004. Anyone Can Play This Game: Ultimate Frisbee, Identity and Difference. Pp. 175-196 in Understanding Lifestyle Sports: Consumption Identity and Difference, edited by Belinda Wheaton. London: Routledge. Ultimate Players Association. 2006. UPA Board of Directors Definition of the Sport of Ultimate. Retrieved January 29, 2007 from, http://www.upa.org/ultimate _________. 2007. UPA Board 11th Edition of Rules. Retr ieved January 29, 2007 from, http://www.upa.org/files/11th_ed_Finl_1_25_07.pdf __________. 2006. Fact Sheet About Ultimate. Retrieved March 23, 2007 from, http://www3.upa.org/files/06_About _the_UPA_factsheet_low.pdf. West, Candace and Zimmerma n, Don. 1987. Doing Gender. Gender and Society 1:125151. Wheaton, Belinda and Tomlinson, Alan. 1998. The Changing Gender Order in Sport?: The Case of Windsurfing Subcultures. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 22:252-274. World Flying Disc Federation. 2002. History of Ultimate. Retrieved April 26, 2006 from, http://www.wfdf.org/index.php? page=history/ultimate.htm Wray, Sharon. 2002. Connecting Ethnicity, Ge nder and Physicality: Muslim Pakistani Women, Physical Activity and Health. Pp 127-139 in Gender and Sport: A Reader, edited by Sheila Scraton & Anne F lintoff. London: Routledge.

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77 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Joanna Winn Neville was born on January 2, 1981 in Louisville, Kentucky. She soon moved to Miami, Florida wher e she attended Howard Drive Elementary School, Palmetto Middle School, and Palmetto Senior High School. Jo anna received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Florida in 2003 and began working at a publishing house in Gainesville, Florida. Joanna has played Ultimate Frisbee for 5 years and began her Ultimate career with the Gainesville womens team in 2002. Since then she has played with successful coed and college teams. She has played in the Ultimate Players Association Club Champi onships Series, and the Ultimate Players Association College Championship Series.


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Physical Description: Mixed Material
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OUT OF BOUNDS: COLLEGE WOMEN' S ULTIMATE FRISBEE AND THE PRACTICE OF
GENDERED IDENTITIES





















By

JOANNA WINN NEVELLE


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007
































O 2007 Joanna Winn Neville




































To my teammates, past, present and future









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First, I would like to thank my family for their support and encouragement. I would also

like to thank my supervisory committee chair (Florence Babb) and members (K.L. Broad and

Heather Gibson) for their knowledge, patience, and encouragement. In addition, I thank the

faculty and staff from the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research, especially Paula

Ambroso, for their support. I could not have accomplished this task without the participation and

support from my Ultimate Frisbee teammates. They continue to help me on and off the field.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank my partner, Matthew Tennant, for all of his support,

encouragement, and love.











TABLE OF CONTENTS


page

ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. ...............4.....

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............8.......... ......


Proj ect Obj ectives and Methodology ................. ...............8...............
Hi story of Ultimate Fri sbee ................. ................. 12.............
Playing Ultimate ................. ...............14.......... .....
A Typical Tournament............... ...............1

2 REVIEW OF GENDER AND SPORT LITERATURE............... ...............1

3 PLAYING WITH GENDER IN ULTIMATE FRISBEE .............. ..... ............... 2


Ultimate Bodies: Physicality in a Non-Contact Sport ......____ ..... ... ................ ..31
Talking Tough: Language Use in Ultimate Frisbee .............. ...............37....
Skirts or Shorts: What to Wear for Ultimate .............. ...............41....

4 ULTIMATE FRISBEE: A SPACE FOR FEMALE ATHLETES?............... ...............4


The Ultimate Bond: Relationships in Ultimate Frisbee................ ..... .. ............4
Erotic Play: Expressing Sexuality in College Women's Ultimate Frisbee.............................55
The Ultimate Athlete: Expressions of Female Athleticism in Ultimate Frisbee ....................60

5 CONCLUSIONS .............. ...............67....

LIST OF REFERENCES ............ ..... ._ ...............74...

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............77....









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

OUT OF BOUNDS: COLLEGE WOMEN' S ULTIMATE FRISBEE AND THE PRACTICE OF
GENDERED IDENTITIES

By

Joanna Winn Neville

May 2007

Chair: Florence Babb
Major: Women's Studies

My research examines what happens when an emerging sport, such as Ultimate Frisbee,

does not reinforce stereotypical gendered identities and gendered practices. There are two areas

of my research on women' s Ultimate Frisbee. The first area examines the individual gendered

practices of players such as attire, language, and physicality. I argue that these individual players

manipulate and negotiate "masculine" identity practices, making them their own and thereby

creating a distinct space. The second area of my research examines the space that college women

Ultimate players create. My observations suggest that these players feel comfortable in an all-

female space and can freely express their sexuality among themselves. The data for this proj ect

come from my ethnographic research, group interviews, and one-on-one interviews that I

conducted while participating on a college women's Ultimate Frisbee team. During the spring

season, I attended practices, tournaments, and other social events off the frisbee field.

My proj ect builds on important gender and sport scholarship. For my research, l use the

concept of formulating gender as a social institution wherein people "practice" or "do" gender

but are also part of a larger social structure. By conceptualizing gender as a social institution, I

am able to analyze the specific practices of gender in Ultimate Frisbee while also noting that

there are other important structural components to gender. My research builds on important









existing sport scholarship. Several sport scholars address the construction of gender identity,

specifically hegemonicc masculinity," within the culture of sport. The concept of hegemonicc

masculinity" is important when discussing gender identities in sport because it is the primary

identity formed.

College women' s Ultimate Frisbee may challenge structural levels of the institution of

sport and gender. At the individual level, women Ultimate players sometimes "perform" their

gender outside of their "acceptable" gendered identities. However, this is acceptable because it

exists in a culture where college women's Ultimate players incorporate aspects of both

categorical and individual gendered identities in order to destabilize these oppositional

categories. These actors in the space transform and change perceived masculine gendered

identities in order to create a culture without a distinct hierarchy. In this space, college women

Ultimate players transform masculine gender meanings and thereby feel a level of comfort and

camaraderie with their fellow players. Through my observations, I have found that college

women's Ultimate Frisbee allows women to cultivate relationships with one another and may

sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. These exchanges may signal an adoption of

hegemonic masculinity, heterosexuality, or male sexuality, but they may also indicate that these

women feel at ease in this space and can express themselves sexually and playfully among other

women on their teams. I argue that college women's Ultimate Frisbee challenges the institution

of sport by creating a location for female athletes that is outside the "center" of mainstream sport

culture. This location may disrupt the overall culture of mainstream sport by challenging ideas

on gender and sport.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Gender is a critical and core category of analysis when understanding the culture of sport,

but how does gender function in a sport unmediated by the ideologies of mainstream sports? This

work will critically analyze how gender functions in the emerging sport of Ultimate Frisbee.

Often female athletes must "fit" into a culture of sport designed for men (Theberge 2000: 10). I

will show how college women's Ultimate Frisbee players negotiate and reshape current

mainstream sport ideologies in order to create a space for themselves as women and as athletes.

This space provides a site for an alternative sport community that focuses on women's

relationships. Women in this space may often feel comfortable freely expressing their sexuality

and camaraderie with each other. Based on current scholarship on gender and sport as well as my

own research, I formulate conclusions about the relationship between gender and Ultimate

Frisbee.

Project Objectives and Methodology

The data for this proj ect come from my ethnographic research, group interviews, and one-

on-one interviews. During spring 2006, I conducted ethnographic research while participating on

a college women's Ultimate Frisbee team called Discs. This research was approved by the

institutional review board and each participant was aware of my proj ect. Discs is a sports club

under the division of recreational sports at a large southeastern university. During the spring

season, I attended practices, tournaments, and other social events off the frisbee field. While at

these events, I observed language use, mannerisms, dress, and other behaviors closely associated

with gender. When I made an observation while playing, I remembered what I had seen and as




SThe names of players and the team name were changed for privacy.









soon as I came off the field I recorded it in my notebook. I took my notebook to social events,

tournaments, and practices and recorded my observations.

My one-on-one interviews and group interviews allowed participants time to discuss how

they consciously perform gender and how this relates to their behavior and physical appearance

as well as their mental state. Most interviews were informal and lasted for approximately one

hour. During the interviews, I used a tape recorder and also took notes in my journal. I used the

same notebook for interviews that I used for my ethnographic notes. Most of my ethnographic

data came from the spring season and most of my interviews were conducted during the fall

season. During these periods I would highlight interviews or observations that were particularly

important for my work. At the end of the fall season I highlighted sections of my ethnographic

work, as well as sections of my interviews. This step helped me to organize my data so when I

began to write I could easily interpret my work.

Participants came from established Ultimate Frisbee programs where the average player

had played Ultimate Frisbee for approximately three years. My research sample consisted of

women who were predominantly white and from a middle-class background. A degree of

diversity existed within the sample insofar as some participants came from Hispanic and Asian-

American backgrounds. I interviewed 27 women and the average age of these participants was

21, most of them undergraduate students. A maj ority of players had played a sport before they

began Ultimate. The sports that they played varied from team sports such as soccer, basketball,

softball, and crew to individual sports such as track and cross-country. These varied experiences

in sports may have influenced the player's participation in Ultimate.

As a researcher and an Ultimate player, I have a distinct advantage in understanding the

culture of Ultimate Frisbee and in noticing "patterns" in the sport that others might not see.









However, my position could also create potential problems in my research. As Gelya Frank

notes, "there is often a conflict of interest and emotion between the ethnographer as 'authentic,

related person (i.e., participant)' and the ethnographer as 'exploiting researcher (i.e., observer)'"

(Frank 2000: 15). At times I found myself "cheering" for college women' s Ultimate and the line

between "self' and "other" became a blur.

In a collection of essays compiled by Ruth Behar and Deborah Gordon, feminist

ethnographer Lila Abu-Lughod (1993) writes about "traveling" past the "impasse of the fixed

self/other or subj ect/obj ect divide" when describing her experiences with pregnancy in United

States and Egypt. Abu-Lughod (1993) notes how her feelings and friendships with the women in

Egypt led her to explore more complex ways to represent and make more apparent the

complexities of their lives and individual experiences. I also noticed my feelings on how to

"represent" the complexities of the female athletes in the Ultimate community. Abu-Lughod

recognizes that the personal experiences of the researcher may be shaped by the knowledge and

lives of the women she comes to know (Abu-Lughod 1993). When I acknowledged that the lives

and experiences of the community around me shaped my knowledge, I began to interpret the data

more readily.

For my research, I conceptualize gender as a social institution wherein people "practice" or

"do" gender but are also part of a larger social structure. This concept stems from Patricia

Yancey Martin's (2004) sociological work in gender scholarship. Martin argues that we must

frame gender as an institution because it "underscores gender's sociality; directs attention to

practices, practicing, and interaction; requires attention to power; reinstates the material body;

acknowledges disjuncture, conflicts and change; and challenges micro macro dualisms"

(Martin 2004: 1261). By conceptualizing gender as a social institution, I am able to analyze the










specific practices of gender in Ultimate Frisbee while also noting that there are other important

structural components to gender.

My research builds on important existing sport scholarship, including Shelia Scraton and

Ann Flintoff's (2002) edited collection of essays, Gender and Sport, and Susan Birrell and

Cheryl Cole's (1994) collection, Women, Sport and Culture. Several sport scholars address the

construction of gender identity, specifically hegemonicc masculinity" (Connell 1987), within the

culture of sport. As Messner notes, "in contrast with 'rational' or 'professional' masculinity

constructed in schools, the institution of sport historically constructs hegemonic masculinity as

bodily superiority over femininity and over non-athletic masculinities" (Messner 2002: 20). The

concept of hegemonicc masculinity" is important when discussing gender identities in sport

because it is the primary identity formed. Like organized institutional sports, some emerging

sports may construct gender in ways that reinforce notions of gender difference and masculine

hegemony (Anderson 1999:22).

My proj ect examines what happens when an emerging sport, such as Ultimate Frisbee,

does not reinforce the usual notions of stereotypical gendered identities and gendered practices. I

argue that in college women's Ultimate Frisbee, players use "masculine" practices and language

found in sport culture because they have no other way of expressing themselves as competitive

athletes. Although they use "masculine" language and practices, they do not use them in a way

that reinforces gender inequality. Women Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of

masculine practices and language into their own, thereby creating a distinct space. In this space,

these players reshape masculine practices and identities, challenging the hierarchy and power

that hegemonic masculinity often creates. I will argue that insofar as the ideology of Ultimate

Frisbee exists outside the culture of mainstream sport, the maj ority of these female athletes









create a safe space, without a marked gender hierarchy, to nurture female bonds and

relationships.

My research suggests that in college women's Ultimate Frisbee, women's sexuality does

not exist solely in opposition to male sexuality or simply reinforce heterosexuality. Often in the

culture of sport, sexuality is solely heterosexual and created in opposition to homosexuality

(Messner 2002:3 5). My observations suggest that college women' s Ultimate Frisbee provides a

space that cultivates women's relationships with each other and may sometimes allow for playful

erotic expression. This suggests that these players feel comfortable in an all-female space and

can freely express their sexuality among themselves.

College women' s Ultimate Frisbee challenges the culture of mainstream sport by creating a

subculture. My critical analysis contributes to the field of women' s studies and to gender and

sport studies because it offers Ultimate Frisbee as a possible model for greater equality in the

culture of sport. In addition, my research highlights gender inequality in mainstream sport and

describes how some female athletes work against it. Therefore, to some degree, college women's

Ultimate Frisbee may serve to destabilize men's institutionalized sport and challenge dominant

ideas on gender.

History of Ultimate Frisbee

Ultimate Frisbee college teams travel all around the country competing in highly organized

and highly competitive tournaments.3 The sport has come a long way since its humble

beginnings in Maplewood, New Jersey in 1967. The game known today as "Ultimate Frisbee"

began at Columbia High School when a student, Joel Silverman, presented the idea of "Ultimate"

to his student council. Within the year, the first recorded game was played between the student


3 The information on the history of Ultimate is from World Flying Disc Federation at:
ht tp u\ sawfdf.org/index.php?page=history/ultimate~t









council and the newspaper staff. Today, games are played out on the best fields, lined with chalk,

and set off by cones. However, in the early years boundary markers were such things as railroad

tracks and telephone lines.

Players do not need expensive equipment but only a 175-gram Frisbee (also know as a

flying disc) which costs approximately ten to twelve dollars. The "Frisbee" became a trademark

item in 1958 by the Wham-O Company; Wham-O still exists today and produces many discs

used in flying disc sports. Before to the Wham-O company, the name Frisbee came from the

Frisbie Pie Company, a small company in Connecticut. The Frisbie Pie Company made their

individual pies in metal tins and one day the company discovered that these tins could fly a short

distance if thrown into the air. The company soon started calling these flying contraptions,

"discs." Students at Yale University, located in close proximity to the pie company, started to

"toss the disc" as a way to pass time. In 1948, Fred Morrison recreated the metal disc using light

durable plastic. The new form flew much better and the "tossing of the disc" became

increasingly popular. In 1954 the first recorded game using a disc started at Dartmouth

University and was nicknamed, "Guts."

As Silverman began developing the rules for the game of Ultimate, ten years after the

creation of the "Frisbee," disc sports grew in popularity. Over the next few years, games between

the student council and newspaper became structured with the new guidelines. Soon Columbia

High School students grew tired of playing each other and approached Milburn High School

about interscholastic games. Columbia High School won the first interscholastic game in 1970

against Milburn High with a score of 43-10. As students began to graduate and go on to college,

they took the game of Ultimate with them. As students formed teams, the game of Ultimate

began to spread to more campuses. On November 6, 1972, Rutgers University defeated Princeton









University in a competitive Ultimate Frisbee game with a score of 29-27. Three years later Yale

University held the first Ultimate Frisbee college tournament. Eight teams attended the

tournament and Rutgers University pulled out the overall win. That summer at the Second World

Frisbee Championship, Ultimate made its first public appearance. Since the Championship was

held at the Rose Bowl, many on the west coast got their first glimpse of Ultimate and the game

spread quickly. In 1979, the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) became the governing body for

Ultimate Frisbee and one of the first flying disc sport organizations. Today the UPA is a player-

run, not-for- profit organization based in Colorado with over 24,000 dues-paying members. The

UPA establishes and publishes all rules and regulations, and oversees the three championship

series (Club, College, and Youth) of Ultimate Frisbee.

Although Ultimate may have diverse players, most players come from a middle-class

background. During the 2006 year, the Ultimate Players Association had 22, 079 members. Fifty

percent of those members were college players, 33 percent were regular players and the

remainder played youth Ultimate. Seventy percent were female and thirty percent were male.

Eighteen percent of the regular club members had a household income over $100,000 and 55

percent earned over $50,000

(http://www3 .upa. org/fil es/06_Ab out~thePAffactsheet_10w. pdf).

Playing Ultimate

At their 2001 Strategic Planning meeting, the UPA Board of Directors formed a definition

of Ultimate: "Player defined and controlled non-contact team sport played with a flying disc on a

playing surface with end zones in which all actions are governed by the "Spirit of the Game"

(http://www.upa. org/ultimate).

The current game of Ultimate Frisbee incorporates skills and athleticism similar to sports

like soccer, basketball, and football. The "playing field proper," or the field where you are in










play, is seventy yards long and forty yards across. At each end of the field are end zones, which

are twenty-five yards long and forty yards across

(http://www.upa. org/files/11lth_ed Fin_1_25_07 .pdf). Games typically take two hours to play to

a score set by the tournament director (e.g., 15 points). Players start the games by lining up seven

players at each end zone. When the defense pulls, or kicks off, to the offense, the point begins

and does not end until the offense scores a goal worth one point. A player cannot move after

catching the disc, or else a "travel" is called. The defense may "mark" the person with disc for

ten seconds; this forces the thrower to throw in a specific direction.

There are two basic throws in Ultimate: a backhand and a flick. There are variations of

these throws: long, short, inside-out (the traj ectory of the disc goes from the inside to the

outside), outside-in flick (the traj ectory of a disc goes from outside to inside) low, high, or

around the mark. The offense and defense may use strategic offensive plays or deceptive

defensive zones.

When a disc is up in the air, it may change possession if the defense catches it or if the disc

falls to the ground. There is no intentional physical contact between players and if this does

occur, the player calls a foul. If a defensive player encounters an obstruction (from a teammate or

other player) and cannot play defense, she may call a "pick" and play stops so that the defense

may catch up with the offense. The Spirit of the Game," meaning there are no referees, governs

Ultimate Frisbee and it is up to each player to enforce the rules to the best of her ability. Some

believe that the Spirit of the Game is Ultimate Frisbee's most defining and important

character stic.

A Typical Tournament

After playing Ultimate Frisbee for five years, I have noticed a pattern when preparing for

a tournament. In the following two chapters, I draw on my ethnographic material to discuss










specific moments from the culture of college women's Ultimate Frisbee. In this section, I

describe the events of a typical tournament so the reader may fully understand those moments.

These events typically occur when Discs prepares for a tournament. Ultimate Frisbee

tournaments typically start on Saturday morning and end Sunday afternoon. Tournaments are

usually held on fields at a university or soccer complexes and are hosted by a college team. The

tournament director chooses a format to use during tournament play. The format usually begins

with pool play on Saturday, followed by an elimination bracket on Sunday. Teams must pay a

tournament fee to attend; the fee covers water, minimal food, field space, and any additional

costs paid by the host team.

The Monday before a tournament, the team begins to prepare for the upcoming weekend

by trying to drink, eat, and sleep well. Tuesday, they make sure to go over their skills and plays

during practice and decide how they will travel to the tournament. Generally, on Wednesday and

Thursday the team rests or has a very easy and light practice. Last minute emails go out on the

listsery to remind the team of what to bring, what car they will be traveling in, directions,

tournament schedules, and other relevant information. Most cars leave at the same time but there

is nearly always a "late car" which arrives at the tournament hotel late, waking the players trying

to sleep. The late comers must step over sleeping, snoring bodies in sleeping bags. The team has

reserved two rooms at the tournament hotel and tries to cram eight to ten people into each room.

At the end of the first day, the small hotel room begins to mix the smells of sweat and dirty

cleats from all those crowded in the room. The team is usually tired from the trip and does not

stay up late. The next morning the team awakes early to cell phone alarms and clock buzzers.

Everybody goes downstairs for the free continental breakfast and tries to load up on

carbohydrates for the long day. Saturday pool play typically begins at 9am and ends around










5pm. During pool play, teams will usually have a round off. Discs and most other teams arrive

on the fields an hour before play to warm-up and prepare for the day. Tournament directors will

usually provide water, bananas, and bagels for the teams. Many members bring extra food items

in their field bag. For example, I bring soups and apple sauce because these items are easier for

me to digest.

At the end of the first day, Discs goes back to the hotel and team members take turns

showering. Discs usually calls a "team dinner" to regain team cohesion and discuss the events of

the day. After dinner, they begin to prepare for the tournament party, usually held at a local bar.

At the party there are various typical party events, including the "boat race." The team selects

seven players to line up across seven players from another team with half full beers in their

hands. The boat race is a relay race; the first person must finish their beer before the next person

goes. After the boat race the team continues to drink and dance. Depending on the level of

competitiveness of tournament play, the Discs team will sometimes stay until the end and try and

"win the party." If your team has the most representatives left at the end of the party then your

team "wins."

Sunday morning begins early and team members must be ready to play their first game.

These rounds start early because teams must travel long distances home. The team may have one

game or three depending on whether they win games and continue to advance to the finals.

Whether the team wins or loses, the ride home is always long and full of talk on the frisbee

events of the weekend. Sometimes team members change clothes before the ride so they do not

have to sit in their dirty and sweaty clothes. The Discs team arrives at their respective homes

tired and ready to shower and go to bed. Some have homework or papers to finish, but most are









exhausted and make a decision to go to bed and get up early to work. They return to practice on

Tuesday and get ready for the next tournament.









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF GENDER AND SPORT LITERATURE

Current sport scholarship frequently discusses the relationship between gender and sport

and the formation and consequences of masculinity in sport. At the core of this literature is R.W.

Connell's concept of "hegemonic masculinity" and "emphasized femininity" as introduced in his

1987 work, Gender andPower. Connell (1987) states that hegemonic masculinity does not

always correspond to the actual experience of masculinity by men in society. In fact, the

"winning of hegemony" or cultural hegemonic masculinity involves the creation of idealistic,

exemplar, and fantasy heroes, such as star athletes and their "heroic" ois(onl 97.I


reality, at the local level most men and boys do not live up to this model of masculinity. This

hegemony of masculinity functions through the production of these cultural symbols of

masculinity. How does the development of athletic male bodies and careers based on specific

notions of success serve in the creation of specific masculine identities?

In his work on sport, Michael Messner (1992) extends Connell's concept by noting that

athletic success is based on "physical power, strength, discipline, and willingness to take, ignore,

or deaden pain inclined men to experience their own bodies as machines, as instruments of

power and domination--and to see other peoples' bodies as obj ects of their power and

domination" (Messner 1992: 151). Connell (1987) states that all forms of femininity in this

society are constructed in the context of the overall subordination of women to men; for this

reason there is no femininity that holds among women the position held by hegemonic

masculinity among men. The option of compliance, according to Connell, is central to the pattern

of femininity, which is given the most cultural and ideological support at present, called

"emphasized femininity."









In a more recent work, Connell revises his previous concept with scholar James

Messerschmidt by discussing and analyzing the four maj or critiques of hegemonicc masculinity."

Here Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) suggest a "review and reformulation" of the concept.

Specifically, they reformulate the framework surrounding the locations of hegemonic

masculinity. They list three levels of analysis: local, regional and global. In emerging or

alternative sports the emphasis is on the local level because of the sport' s reliance on a sense of

community. At the local level hegemonic masculinity is constructed in the "arenas of face-to-

face interactions of families, organizations and immediate communities" (Connell and

Messerschmidt 2005:849). At the regional level, hegemonic masculinity is constructed at the

cultural level or at the level of the nation-state. Finally, at the global level it is constructed in

arenas such as world politics, transnational business and media. These levels relate to each other

to constantly reproduce and reformulate conceptualizations of hegemonic masculinity (Connell

and Messerschmidt 2005:849). Hegemonic masculinity, at the regional level, manifests itself

symbolically through the actions of specific local practices with regional significance, such as

those practices constructed by such images as professional sporting athletes (Connell and

Messerschmidt 2005). Sport thus provides the heroes that hegemonic masculinity needs for

survival; the body of the sporting hero exhibits the physical signs of strength, speed and agility

(Connell 1990).

There are numerous empirical research studies that investigate the relationship between

gendered identities and sport. For example, there is empirical research on the sport of

bodybuilding which calls for conceptualizations of gender, sexuality, and the body, arguing for

the collapse of gender as an unambiguous principle. Camilla Obel (1996) suggests there are

different readings of identity in the sport of bodybuilding. This work suggests that there are far









more contradictions and ambiguities experienced by women than men in the sport. There is the

potential for women bodybuilders to both support with and resist dominant notions of gender and

also to expand definitions of "emphasized femininity" (Obel 1996: 192). However, their agency

is still contained by structures and ideology of female bodybuilding.

Timothy Curry (1991) notes how hegemonicc masculinity" and male privilege is

reinforced through sexist locker room talk. Through participating in sport, young men learn how

to adhere to a dominant masculinity that denigrates women and marginalizes men who are

perceived as different. Men's talk reveals how masculine identity is affirmed through

conversations about women, competition and heterosexuality. Sport provides an arena for male

bonding and the constructions of hegemonic masculinity (Curry 1991). Kristen Anderson (1999)

found in her research on snowboarding that there are different ways of constructing gender

within the institution of sport, resulting in many sport masculinities. Anderson (1999) found that

sport is often depicted as an institution that creates and maintains male dominance, but the

construction of gender differs greatly in the various activities that constitute sport. Snowboarding

is developing in a different social and historical context from that of organized men's sports, and

these contextual differences are salient to the particular ways in which it becomes gendered. Like

organized sports, some emerging sports are constructed in ways that reinforce notions of gender

difference and masculine hegemony (Anderson 1999).

Using Connell's framework of hegemonic masculinity, the sporting body is an important

part of maintaining hegemonic masculinities. Sport thus provides the images and "standards"

that hegemonic masculinity needs to continue; the athletic body exhibits the physical signs of

strength, speed, and agility (Connell 1990:83). Although current images of female athletes

seemingly represent a greater definition of femininity, there are still societal expectations of the









femininity of female athletes that includes expressions of heterosexuality and a non-threatening

"feminine" body image.

Sport scholar Pat Griffin (1992) notes that this need to present a heterosexual body is one

of the six manifestations of homophobia in women' s sport, also known as the promotion of a

heterosexual image. The other five categories of homophobia Griffin (1992) defines are silence,

denial, apology, attacks on lesbians, and preference for male coaches. The "lesbian label" is used

to define "acceptable" boundaries for women in patriarchal society, and women in sport are

outside of these boundaries (Griffin 1992). When placed within the context of Judith Butler' s

"heterosexual matrix," all female athletes are perceived to feel pressure to present a heterosexual

feminine body. Butler (1993) describes the "heterosexual matrix" as the way in which

heterosexuality encodes and structures everyday life. In their 2000 case study using the

"multiple bodies model," Cox and Thompson (2000) note how the presentation of a heterosexual

body, even in cases where the female athlete is not heterosexual, exists in order to combat

suspicion and shift focus to the athletic ability of the athlete. By using this model, Cox and

Thompson advance a theoretical perspective that understands the complexity of the constituting

human bodies in sport. Cox and Thompson state, "They [conformed to standards of

heterosexuality and femininity] to gain acceptance as team mates, to overcome prejudices

associated with negative stereotypical images of lesbians and to help preserve their own and the

team's credibility in the broader sporting realm" (Cox and Thompson 2000:8).

Sport sociologist Nancy Theberge (2000) advances research on gender and sport as she

analyzes the relationship between bodies, physicality, force, and power in sport. Theberge (2000)

discusses how there is no body checking in women's ice hockey and how this constructs ideas of

gender in the masculine sport of ice hockey. Women's ice hockey is often seen as "inferior" to









the "real" game of men' s ice hockey, which is full of bodily contact, force, and power (Theberge

2000:133). Connell notes, "images of ideal masculinity are constructed and promoted most

systemically through competitive sport, where the combination of skill and force in athletic

experience becomes a defining feature of masculine identity" (Connell 1987:85). Based on this

aspect of competitive sport, Theberge argues that physicality, bodies, and force as represented in

competitiveness help to create and sustain hegemonic masculinity in sport.

Is hegemonic masculinity the only way to conceptualize masculinity in sport? Judith

Halberstam (1998) introduces the concept of "female masculinity" in her discussion of

butch/femme roles within lesbian communities. Halberstam (1998) tries to disrupt the connection

between masculinity and the male body by providing an alternative masculinity in a female

body. Halberstam asks, "[if] female born people have been making convincing and powerful

assaults on the coherence of male masculinity for well over a hundred years, what prevents these

assaults from taking hold and accomplishing the diminution of the bonds between masculinity

and men" (Halberstam 1998:15).

Halberstam's (1998) insight into masculinity offers a greater perspective on gendered

practices, identities, and power. She is careful not to catalog female masculinity into a concrete

definition. She notes that there are several types of masculinities and not all are born to male

bodied men. At times, Halberstam says, "these new masculinities are produced as new renditions

of male masculinities and sometimes they are produced as original forms of a growing

subculture" (Halberstam 1998:277). Halberstam very briefly addresses the need for the

reformation of the gender binary within the context of sports. She builds on Susan Cahn' s (1994)

work on gender and sexuality in twentieth-century women's sport. Halberstam builds on this

work in order to show how if women want to be competitive then need to build traits that are









associated with masculinity and the male-born body. Cahn argues that these traits should not be

associated with gender but should be "human" traits. Halberstam acknowledges that society is

not moving toward the elimination of gender and argues that these traits should extend to women

as female masculinity, a masculinity not associated with male-bodied individuals.

Messner (2002) discusses the role of "subculture" sport or "alternative, extreme" sports

outside of institutionalized organized men's sport (Messner 2002). Located outside in the

margins, extreme sports hold the ability to challenge the dominant model of sport. Belinda

Wheaton (1998) utilizes the emerging sport of windsurfing to analyze how these new

"subculture" sports challenge the center of sport. Messner asks, "Who were these 'alternative'

athletes who seemed to revel in doing sports differently and autonomously, in the relative

obscurity of sport' s 'extreme' margins?" (Messner 2002:81). Current research indicates that

these "alternative" athletes are males who tend to come from white middle-class backgrounds,

where they have access to models of such "extreme" athletes as skateboarder Tony Hawk.

However, if the current status of institutional sport already benefits white middle-class males,

then why are they moving away from the center into the margins? Messner suggests that these

young white male middle-class athletes are attracted to "extreme" marginal sports not because

they are rej ecting or rebelling against organized men' s sport, but because they see the center of

sport (basketball, track and field, and football) as thoroughly racialized as "black sports" and

therefore fear this perceived racial center. Messner writes, "this fear is based, in part, on a

contemporary myth of black physical superiority (and 'natural' orientations toward physical

violence), played out most publicly in men's sports" (Messner 2002: 82).

Empirical research by Sarah Banet-Weiser (1999) on the intersection of race and gender in

the sport of basketball indicates that there are specific representations of athletes. Banet-Weiser









examined the depiction of gender and race in the WNBA. She found that there exist gendered

and racialized meanings that surround both male and female professional basketball players. The

WNBA women, the promotional hype promises, offer fans a "return to the purity of the game,"

this purity was positioned against the backdrop of the image of the rich, spoiled, violent, highly

sexualized and very "black bad boys" of the NBA (Banet-Weiser 1999:405). In short, the

WNBA were coded as women, the athletes of the NBA are coded as black (Banet-Weiser 1999).

Research by Ben Carrington (1998) offers an alternative focus on race and sport. Through

ethnographic research in a Northern England cricket club, he develops an account of the

meanings associated with sport in relation to black masculinity and the use of sport as a form of

cultural resistance to white racism. Carrington identifies three themes in his work. The first

theme is the sport of cricket and its role in the contestation of racial and gendered identities. The

second theme he identifies is the construction of black sports institutions as black spaces

(Carrington 1998: 289). Last, he shows the use of an African American Cricket Club as the

symbolic marker of community identity. The study conveys how sport can provide an arena for

some black men to assert a masculine identity in order to restore a unified sense of racial identity

(Carrington 1998).

One more empirical research study explores the connections between ethnic and gender

identities and identifies how femininity is constructed and experienced for these women through

racialized power relations that regulate ethnic identity. Specifically, Sharon Wray (2002) uses

participant observation, focus groups, and in-depth interviews with women between the ages of

36 to 56 years of age and primarily identified themselves as Muslim Pakistani women. Here she

illustrates the connections between gender, ethnicity, and physicality. The study showed how

women participated in athletic activities in order to benefit their health rather than adjust the










appearance of their bodies because they did not wish for their bodies to conform to western

ideals of femininity and feminine bodies. Instead, they wished to improve their health and

constructed their feminine bodies that were circumscribed by ethnic and religious identities

(Wray 2002).

Other empirical studies indicate that there are more differences within the categories of

"women" and "men" than there is between them. Messner notes that, "in terms of physical

abilities, there are some identifiable average differences between women and men but these

differences are never categorical. And it is social practices...that produce ideologies of

categorical difference between the sexes" (Messner 2002: 171). However, according to Candace

West and Don Zimmerman's (1987) innovative work on gender, "doing gender involves a

complex of socially guided perceptual, interactional, and micropolitical activities that cast

particular pursuits as expressions of masculine and feminine 'natures'" (West and Zimmerman

1987: 126). They propose an ethnomethodologically informed and therefore sociological

understanding of gender as routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment. The key reason

of why we adhere to our gendered identities, according to West and Zimmerman, is that we are

held accountable to them. These authors write that "doing gender" requires acknowledgement in

any given situation that our acts are gender appropriate or as in cases where they are gender

inappropriate, then it is held accountable (West and Zimmerman 1987). Often female athletes

"do gender" outside of their institutional gendered identity and therefore suffer negative

consequences. While it is individuals who enact gender, it is interactional and institutional in

character, for accountability is a feature of social relationships.

One critique of the work by West and Zimmerman (1987) is that it does not recognize the

structural meanings surrounding individual actions. Why or how does society consider









something genderedd?" More recent gender scholarship focuses on the power and agency of the

social actors within structures. In her work, Patricia Yancey Martin (2004) states that gender is a

social institution. Martin incorporates West and Zimmerman's idea of enacting gender at the

individual level into an analysis of social structure. In addition to placing agency with the social

agents, Martin also uses her concept of linking theory with empirical work. She outlines the

definition of a social institution and proceeds to illustrate how gender is an institution. Moreover,

she clearly describes the utility of conceptualizing gender as an institution.

Martin notes that her concept "affirms gender' s sociality" and focuses on the practices of

its social characters. Martin (2004) writes that reflexive and non-reflexive practices need

attention. Individuals may or may not intend to perform a genderedd" activity and may not know

exactly what their gestures mean. Does putting on a "feminine" style of clothing or using

"masculine" language require us to think about our gender? In addition, this concept may

highlight power but may point toward disjuncture, conflict, and change. Institutions have a great

ability to persist over time and hold a great deal of power. Indeed, to consider gender as an

institution highlights gender' s ability to yield power by placing few in positions of power. By

showing gender as a social institution, it also brings the focus back to those who embody it.

People make up institutions. Most importantly, Martin challenges the distinction between the

individual level or micro level and the structural level or the macro level. She shows that there

are individual actors but that they are also constrained by structural meanings. Certain behavioral

practices are only given meaning when they are located in society because society structures the

interpretation of gender and gendered practices. Martin calls for gender scholars to interpret how

individual acts constitute one another as well as the larger structure.










In my research I build on current gender and sport scholarship in an effort to offer new

insights on how to destabilize men's mainstream sport culture. In the next two chapters, I offer

ethnographic research from the culture of college women's Ultimate Frisbee. In chapter three I

focus on the language, attire, and physicality found in women's Ultimate. These three areas

highlight the individuality of gender in sport. Chapter four focuses on the space that college

women's Ultimate players create for themselves. In this supportive space they often feel able to

openly acknowledge their own bodies, relationships, sexuality. In my conclusion I illustrate how

individual enactments of gender in Ultimate Frisbee combined with an overall structural analysis

of sport, may offer insights into ways of challenging the center of mainstream sport culture.









CHAPTER 3
PLAYING WITH GENDER INT ULTIMATE FRISBEE

Most people are unaware that Ultimate Frisbee is a sport. Most assume it is a leisure

activity that involves throwing a frisbee with a dog. Ultimate is not soccer, it is not football, it is

not basketball. It does incorporate aspects from these sports but in the end Ultimate is just

Ultimate. For the players, Ultimate is not just a sport; it is a culture. In my experiences, I have

found that Ultimate can find partners for people, it may raise children, it lets you borrow its car,

it calls you when you are sick, and it chooses its people and stays with them forever. Ultimate

takes over lives. Ultimate Frisbee has its own clothing, language, and uses bodies to work.

College women' s Ultimate is a subculture within the culture of Ultimate Frisbee, with its own

bodies, clothing, language and people.

Each player has a pre-game ritual or a good luck charm, and the "necessary" items in her

field bag. My field bag has countless items and always includes a first-aid kit. Team members

always ask me for that one item they forgot and most of the time I have it. Discs eat on the road

and arrive at the tournament hotel the night before playing, sometimes late or sometimes early.

At one spring tournament I awake to see Sherrie leaving the crowded hotel rooms in her team

j ersey to take advantage of the free continental buffet, fighting for the last scrap of packaged

cereal. After I put on pants and my generic sweatshirt, so no other team can recognize my team

name, I head downstairs to try and grab some food. When I emerge, I notice Wendy heading

straight for the coffee; she will rely on energy bars to nourish her body throughout the day.

Sometimes players talk to each other and sometimes they know they will be in a heated

competition later in the day and choose not to look at each other. Discs players arrive on their

field an hour before game time for the same warm- up jog, stretch, and drills. They bring the

"jam box" or radio to dance along to and act silly. Some teams have long pre-game pump-up









cheers, some have loud ones, and some don't cheer at all. On the Discs team some players that

tall, some short, some wear dark colors, some wear long sleeves, some wear skirts, some wear

shorts. But once they step onto the playing field they are all the same, they are Ultimate Frisbee

players. Each player knows that for the next two hours she will have to tell her body to run,

catch, and throw all along the seventy-yard field that feels miles and miles long. Neither wind

nor rain will stop the game and both conditions are just as tough to play in. I always check the

weather forecast and if it does rain I take out my bright orange rain coat to keep my body from

soaking in water. If the forecast predicts windy conditions the Discs team must change its game

plan because zone defense works better. In the wind, players cry when they see how it takes the

disc to places they did not want it to go. Rain ruins the usually easy catch because there are no

dry hands available. But some days are perfect when the sun is bright and cheerful, the air is

crisp and clean and the green grass is soft. These days the disc begs to soar through the air and

wishes to be caught.

The players in college women's Ultimate Frisbee have diverse body types, attire, and

personalities. The culture of Ultimate Frisbee exists outside the culture of mainstream sport.

Media, money, or other aspects of mainstream sport heavily influence the dominant sport culture.

In hi s work Messner describe es the mainstream sport industry as a sport-medi a-commerci al

complex" where economics, mass media, and commercial industries work to endorse masculinity

and male privilege in sport (Messner 2002:77).

How does this influence the identities of athletes, specifically college women Ultimate

Frisbee players? What does their attire or language say about identity? I argue that these players

incorporate "masculine" practices from mainstream sport into their identities as athletes but









reshape and reformulate their meanings into their own. In owning their meanings, players

challenge the detrimental effects of hegemonic masculinity in mainstream sport culture.

Ultimate Bodies: Physicality in a Non-Contact Sport

Ultimate players know that they must score in the twenty-five by forty-yard section outside

of the playing field known as the end zone. It is difficult to describe what goes through the mind

of players as they run around on the field. They do know that the end zone is vital; they know

they must catch the disc by any means possible. They also know getting there is the tough part; it

is physically demanding on the body. There is no contact, no traveling, no fouls, and no picks.

The Spirit of the Game regulates the game, not referees. Each player is familiar with the rules.

Throw a backhand, throw a flick, throw a hammer, throw a blade, throw inside-out, throw

outside-in, throw it forty yards, or throw it ten. Cut to the open side, cut to the break mark side,

catch it behind, catch it laterally, or catch it in the end zone. These are some of the many

decisions in the ten-second possession of the disc. Discs player Karen feels pressure when she

has possession of the disc saying, "All I think about is who is the most open. If we are playing a

tight game and I know that we need to move this disc it can definitely be stressful. I usually freak

out once I hear eight." (Karen/Interview)

I do know from personal experience the exhilaration when the disc advances into the air,

its movement is clear, the arc of the disc, and its traj ectory all come together. When this happens

in a game, I sprint to the area where I think the disc will finally settle and adrenaline pumps

through my veins as blood hits my muscles. I scream at my muscles to work faster, but the

defense wants the disc too. The disc drops back towards the ground and we bend our knees, push

off from our toes, and launch into the air. I watch the disc move down in slow motion, and see

the white plastic lip fading away as I stretch my fingers to grasp the edge. I struggle to grip it,

knowing I must not drop it. The defense knows she has only one attempt at tapping it away from









me. As we hit the ground, our elbows bruise first and then our stomachs hit and finally the tops

of our knees. But I do not feel the pain, not today anyway. I know that will come tomorrow. For

now, I have the disc. In the distance, cheers float in like a song, people flood me. The defense

acknowledges my effort with a slap of the hand and I appreciate this gesture.

The culture of sport and specifically the "center" of organized mainstream sport

emphasizes the bodily manifestation of hegemonic masculinity as the "heterosexualized,

aggressive, violent, strong male athlete" as well as emphasizing the "heterosexualized,

flirtatious, moderately muscled female athlete" (Dworkin and Messner 2002: 24). In Ultimate

Frisbee there are no standards of what an Ultimate player' s body should look like; there are

different types of bodies within the sport. Players considered "superstars" within the sport have

various body types. Outside of Ultimate, there are "standards" for feminine and athletic bodies,

which are "acceptable" to the culture of sport. How do college women Ultimate Frisbee players

incorporate their own ideas of the "feminine" body and physicality into ideas of what their

"athletic" body should look like? How do they use their bodies in play? Ultimate Frisbee is a

non-contact sport; however, it is still very physical.

Using Connell's framework of hegemonic masculinity, the sporting body is an important

part of maintaining hegemonic masculinities. Sport thus provides the images and "standards"

that hegemonic masculinity needs to continue; the athletic body exhibits the physical signs of

strength, speed, and agility (Connell 1990:83). Although current images of female athletes

seemingly represent a greater definition of femininity, there are still societal constraints on the

femininity of female athletes. Female athletes still must exhibit an image of heterosexuality, as

well as, a non-threatening "feminine" body image (Dworkin and Messner 2002:23). For

example, Florence Griffith-Joyner was applauded for her muscular and sculpted body yet still










competed in extremely feminine outfits and wore long, feminine painted fingernails (Dworkin

and Messner 2002:24).

How does the physicality of a sport affect the body and mind of a female athlete? Sport

sociologist Nancy Theberge analyzes the relationship between bodies, physicality, force, and

power in sport. She discusses how in a sport like ice hockey, in which there is no body checking,

ideas of gender are constructed. Although body checking is not allowed, many of the women

athletes prefer the physicality of the sport and say it is "part of the game" (Theberge 2000: 133).

Many outsiders perceive women' s ice hockey as "inferior" to the "real" game of men' s ice

hockey which is full of bodily contact, force, and power (Theberge 2000: 115). Connell notes,

"Images of ideal masculinity are constructed and promoted most systemically through

competitive sport, where the combination of skill and force in athletic experience becomes a

defining feature of masculine identity" (Connell 1987:85). Based on this aspect of competitive

sport, Theberge argues that physicality, bodies, and force help to create and sustain hegemonic

masculinity in sport.

Women' s Ultimate Frisbee has the ability to expand traditional notions of "femininity" in

Ultimate Frisbee and to challenge hegemonic masculinity. At times, some college women

Ultimate players, despite stereotypes, still see their bodies as "feminine" bodies. The following

example comes from my observations at a very competitive national tournament:

The coach referred to the body types of the other team, to make us feel we were

better. They are just "fat, slow big girls." The team accepted his comment by laughing.


Does this remark suggest that as athletes, college women Ultimate players must adhere to a

more "feminine" body type that is skinny and non-muscular? Or was this simply a tactic for

motivation? Ultimate Frisbee has many different types of bodies, yet there are some body types










that are celebrated more than others. For example, tall women have an advantage in catching the

disc. However, if you can run faster, catch better, and throw farther it does not matter what body

type you have.

In Ultimate Frisbee, there is no intentional physical contact between players in both the

women and men' s games. If there is contact between players, the player calls a foul and both

players decide if the call is indeed a foul. Spirit of the Game guides the interpretation and

enforcement of the game. However, players can come in contact with the ground by "laying out"

or "going ho" (i.e., horizontal). Players can also lay out on defense to interrupt the other team' s

possession of the disc or the offense can lay out to maintain that possession. The act of laying out

often results in bruises and other injuries. In my observations, hitting the ground can result in

injuries ranging from bone bruises and broken collarbones, to dislocated fingers and broken

wrists. Although I myself have injured myself from laying out, I still do it. In a Regional

tournament a couple of years ago, I attempted to lay out on defense while my knee was bent and

landed on my knee cap resulting in a very painful bone bruise. Currently, I wear a kneepad on

my right knee. There is a build up of scar tissue and swelling from the number of times I have

landed on it. Nevertheless, laying out is a signal of intensity and a high level of play that often

excites teams. One specific cheer by Discs illustrates the intensity of laying out:



Call: What?

Response: Huck [throw long] that disc.
Call: What?

Response: Catch that shit.
Call: What?

Response: Lay out bitch, yeah!i










La tOrt a tot

Lay it out, Lay it out, Lyi u


If you can 't lay it out do the best that you can but
You better have the mother fuckin disc in your hand...



Fellow players often shout out enthusiastically to those in the field of play to lay out for an

otherwise out-of-reach pass. For Ultimate players it shows an intense willingness to catch the

disc. Amy restates this point when she talks about laying out:

I do feel like I am more competitive and it's the competitive will that takes me to that
level to hit the ground for the disc. I would consider it a serious disadvantage if a player
didn't lay out when a disc is within reach and if you don't do it, you are less of a player. I
couldn't idolize somebody who can't lay out. (Amy/Interview)

Therefore, this may suggest that college women Ultimate players often promote

aggressiveness, competitiveness, and intense physicality during play. Is this an incorporation of

the ideology of men' s sport and hegemonic masculinity or is it a form of resistance? I would

argue it is a form of resistance despite the fact that college women Ultimate players accept the

current core ideology of men' s sport. Even though they perform aspects of hegemonic

masculinity, they also reform and reshape it. These players use their bodies for physicality but

also respect their bodies' injuries and don't "play through the pain" or see their bodies as

"machines" (Messner 2002: 57, Theberge 2000:129). Theberge notes in her research that women

ice hockey players saw injury and pain as symbols of weakness outside of hegemonic

masculinity and therefore not traits of an athlete (Theberge 1997:83). College women Ultimate

players are challenging, at times unknowingly, theories on bodies and physicality and their place

between power and sport. They do not always see injury and pain as "weaknesses." They use

their bodies as powerful sites for athleticism but also places of empowerment and nurture. The









act of laying out is not only a sign of competitiveness, as Amy notes, but also a skill that a player

can learn. Amy goes on to say "I don't feel like I'm magical at laying out. I taught myself."

Sherrie, a newer player still trying to "leam" to lay out says "it's a particular skill. I'm not afraid

to hit the ground, I just can't figure how."

In a recent collection of essays, Andrew Thornton (2004) comments on the act of "laying

out" in Ultimate Frisbee. He examines the Ultimate community and the construction of identity.

Thomnton states that even though Ultimate players (his research comes from coed teams in

Canada and the UK) dislike the aggression, competition, and physicality celebrated in the

"center" of men' s sport culture, they still celebrate it in the act of laying out. He writes:

The fear of not being seen as a 'real' sport I argue is most profoundly expressed in the
regulation of the boundaries of physical aggression Players do not want to be physically
violent, but they still express a desire for physical dominance and experience pleasure
through physical exertion. This identification is expressed by Ultimate players' reservation
of the highest praise for those who 'go ho" (Thornton 2004: 192).

Although I might agree with Thomnton' s assessment of the whole community of Ultimate

Frisbee, I disagree that this happens in the specific space of college women's Ultimate Frisbee.

Janice and Elsie, both veteran Discs players, do not ignore the body pains and injuries and note

the following:

I very much listen to my body and try and keep it happy. If it' s not happy I try to
understand why and try to fix it. (Elsie/Interview)

I also listen to my body. It is important to listen to your injuries and take care of them
quickly. (Janice/Interview)

By paying attention to bodies and physicality, college women Ultimate players challenge

hegemonic masculinity by also knowing their bodies as loving, empathic, and nurturing. Often in

the culture of sport, athletes are taught to see their body as "a machine" that move through injury

and pain. In his work Power in Play, Messner (1992) shows that athletes often "give up their

bodies" to their sport because of the influence of external factors and the pressure to achieve a









full masculine identity. The external influence of teammates, coaches, fans and media pressure

athletes to play through the pain or he will be negatively judged. Messner also notes that athletes

wish to embody a masculine identity, resulting in a separation from their feelings and making

them more inclined to see their body as a machine or instrument (Messner 1992:79).

Talking Tough: Language Use in Ultimate Frisbee

Vocabulary in Ultimate is different from mainstream sport- all sports have quirks but
Ultimate is more accessible. (Deidre/Interview)

Ultimate has so much personality. Personally, I haven't seen it in another sport.
(Barbara/Interview)

As in many sports, Ultimate has its own vocabulary to refer to everything from plays and

positions to incidents and acts. At one practice, I was on the offensive line getting ready for the

pull and Lynn asked, "what popper will get the pull and dish it to the turn style or a handler and

keep a chilly O?" For those who do not play Ultimate this common phrase might seem like

another language. The word "popper" refers to the offensive position in a zone where the player

moves between the areas covered by the opposing team in order to disrupt the defense. The

"pull" is when the defense "kicks off' at the start of each point to the offense by throwing it to

the end zone. A "turn style" and "handler" are both offensive positions and are experienced

throwers who frequently receive the disc. When a player says "keep a chilly O," she is

reminding the offense to stay steady and to make wise decisions. The terminology for Ultimate

may suggest a culture, as Deidre says, "different from mainstream sport." One of the veteran

players, Casey, notes the difference:

The whole spirit thing was new to me; I usually was involved in academic-geared activities
like marching band. Ultimate has a different language, environment, and vocabulary and at
first I didn't understand it. (Casey/Interview)

This may suggest that Ultimate offers a more "accessible" environment and vocabulary

than other sports and activities. New players may feel at ease within Ultimate because its culture









and terms create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Although the overall culture in

college women's Ultimate Frisbee may be more "accessible," players may still rely on

mainstream sporting terms to describe specific acts of athleticism. My current research suggests

that college women Ultimate Frisbee players define their athleticism in masculine terms; that

emphasize aggression, competitiveness, and physicality. I argue that these players must use this

"masculine" language because they have no other way of expressing themselves as competitive

athletes. College women Ultimate players use "masculine" language and practices; they do not

use them in a way that reinforces gender inequality. Women Ultimate Frisbee players

reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and language into their own, thereby creating a

distinct space.

In an article on dialogue in male athletes' locker rooms, Timothy Curry (1991) lists

categories that emerge from his pro-feminist analysis of the locker room talk. One category

involves the dynamic of competition, status attainment, and bonding among male athletes (Curry

1991:123). Curry (1991) states that competition becomes an important part of the male athlete

and his sense of identity. In college women's Ultimate, most do not use competition as a way to

establish themselves as athletes, instead defining their identity through the culture of Ultimate.

At times when play becomes intense and heated, the language turns increasingly vulgar. The

vulgarity is often used by the player about herself rather than about others on her team. Ultimate

players promote camaraderie and support among players with encouraging and supportive words.

Veteran player Carolyn notes that she would not punish her teammates for a mistake:

I would never curse at other people, on the field. I might curse at myself or out loud, it
helps my aggression. For example, if somebody scored over a stupid mistake I made, like
misreading [a pass] or if I jumped too soon I would curse out loud to show I could have
done better. (Carolyn/Interview)









This may suggest that college women Ultimate players may use competitive language to

motivate themselves but not in relation to their teammates or other players.

Curry notes that bonding in the locker room between male athletes often occurs when they

joke about women, femininity, or homosexuality. The bonding of these male athletes comes at

the expense of others. At practices and at tournaments, I would hear some of these same types of

"bonding" language. For example, some of the players make "your momma" j okes during

practices and tournaments. At one practice I was on the offense and the opposing team pulled the

disc out of bounds. As I went to retrieve the disc, Deidre calls out, "your momma." I was

confused and unsure of what she said so I asked her and she said, "I didn't know any other

insults." Even though these jokes are at the expense of others they are so outlandish and

impersonal that they often do not carry any special meaning as a put-down. At a competitive

tournament, one that drew top teams in the nation and set a higher level of play for Discs, I heard

the following from two fellow players:

Ronnie: You look slow out there. Are you feeling better? [She was not feeling well earlier]

Lynn: Yeah, so is your mother! I'm feeling okay, thanks.


These j okes are not meant to directly insult women. They are making fun of these j okes by

showing the absurdity of them. This may suggest that female athletes change notions of gender

when the competition increases. The word choice and language becomes more explicit and

vulgar, as games become more tense or close. The jokes became more vulgar as well. Although

language may become vulgar, it is not at the expense of others.

How do college women Ultimate players use language to describe other players as well as

themselves? I argue that they use "masculine" language to describe specific acts of athleticism










by themselves and other players. The following is an example from my field observations during

another high-level tournament:

Ana, Lynn, Tina, Emma all refer to a prominent and very skilled female player by her last
name and refer to her as a more "masculine" player. All other references to players are by
their first names. Ana and Amy refer to Karen as a 'beast' or 'animal' or 'sick' because she
makes very difficult catches. There are numerous other references to good plays with the
same language.

These terms emphasize aggression and competitiveness in a single defensive play or sequence of

plays. The emphasis is on the play and athleticism of the individual during that play and not at

the expense of the other player. Players will often praise their opponent for an impressive play,

saying "nice bid" [for the disc] or "nice catch." Often players refer to notable outstanding players

on other teams in their region by only their surname.

Before games, teams try to "pump" up one another by cheering or singing songs in a

huddle. In research on women' s rugby, Broad (2001) notes how the maj ority of men' s rugby

songs "vilify women and homosexuals" by singing sexually explicit songs. Women's rugby

songs reinterpret and rewrite these songs and assert "active, fluid, and multiple sexualities"

(Broad 2001:193). Cheers from women's Ultimate teams vary, most are not sexual and are not

rewritten from men' s cheers. Most of the men' s Ultimate teams' cheers have vulgar and sexual

content. Discs' cheer uses the first letter from the team name and creates a supportive phrase

that is repeated three times. The team stands in a huddle with players' arms wrapped around one

another' s waists and all the women jump up and down. Another rival team sings the American

anthem as a cheer before games. This may suggest that these Ultimate players "pump" each other

up in a supportive manner creating a space that encourages aggressive, competitive behavior but

not at the expense of other players. After games, teams also cheer each other, regardless of who

won or who lost. Most of the cheers are parodies of old or popular songs. Each team comes over

to the other team after the game and serenades the opposing team. The other team gathers around










listens, sits, and claps along with the cheer. Teams jump around, follow poorly written lyrics, and

even teach dances. At the College National Championships, another team taught the Discs team a

dance. Discs had won a tight and intense game and was prepared for a fast cheer. However, the

other team came over with a radio and started to teach each member a step of the dance. The

opposing team said that Discs must use the dance at the tournament party later in the day.

In my observations, at the end of men' s games players look as if they barely want to slap

hands with their opponent. In the college men' s Ultimate, teams do not cheer at the end of the

game or congratulate the winning team on a well-played game. Discs player Sherrie feels that

cheering is an important part of college women' s Ultimate. She notes, "It' s what keeps Ultimate

different. [Cheering] kind of brings back the whole spirit aspect. It is also nice when they go out

of their way to think of something specifically tailored for your team." (Sherrie/Interview)

Skirts or Shorts: What to Wear for Ultimate

When a good team wears all black it is intimidating. (Carolyn/Interview)

When I first began to play Ultimate I wore short skirts, ankle-length socks, women's

soccer cleats, a purple visor, no wristbands, and my team jersey. I would always wear a black

skirt on the Saturday of tournament play and a white skirt on Sunday. In my mind I felt the skirt

was more comfortable and easier to play in than shorts or other athletic attire. Once, at a

tournament, a player asked me "Why do you wear a skirt?" I annoyingly replied, "because I can"

and then proceeded to walk onto the field. After developing as a player on highly competitive

teams, I realized that I wore skirts because I was uncomfortable with my athleticism and the

masculinity associated with that image. In order to combat any notion of masculinity, I wore

short tennis skirts to be more "feminine." Now I wear men's long black basketball shorts, black

socks, football cleats, wristbands, and a baseball cap. This attire is typically viewed as more

masculine. It can also be more practical and comfortable.









As noted, research suggests that women who are college Ultimate Frisbee players define

their athleticism in masculine terms because there is no other vocabulary to describe competitive

athletes. Players may also wear more "masculine" attire to intimidate their opponents. These

players use such terms and methods because they have no other way of expressing themselves as

competitive athletes. Although most players may claim to dress in a practical and comfortable

manner, most also use intimidating attire, such as wearing all black.

What is practical in Ultimate? Since Ultimate is a non-contact sport, there is no need for

body pads or helmets. In Ultimate Frisbee, it is necessary to wear cleats because of the stop and

start nature of play; however, there is no protocol for specific types of cleats. Ultimate is played

in all conditions with no preset uniform for cold, wet, or dry weather. The individual player

decides what is best for her play, both mentally and physically. They may use the typical

depiction of "masculinity" and uniform in sport but reshape these ideas into their own. Women

Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine practices and dress on their own

terms, thereby creating a distinct space and self-identity. In this space, these players claim their

own identity and restructure masculine practices and identities, challenging the hierarchy and

power that hegemonic masculinity often creates.

There are no mainstream images of hegemonic masculinity or feminine bodies specific to

Ultimate. However, I would argue, college women Ultimate players utilize conceptualizations of

hegemonic masculinity in order to constitute themselves as athletes. Specifically, women in

college Ultimate often use masculine sport concepts such as physicality, competitiveness, and

aggression but do not adopt them as deeply-felt identities. Terminology and attire in women's

Ultimate often reflects masculinity, such as dressing as an aggressive and intimidating player.

Therefore, college women Ultimate players must use these terms because they have no other way









of expressing themselves as athletes. Ultimate players do not have a definition of an Ultimate

athlete and bring their own definition of athletic ability to the sport. In addition, in my

observations many female college Ultimate players wear clothing that is "masculine" in order to

"feel" like a competitive athlete. The following comment came from Carolyn, during a

conversation with the team about her "style" when she first started playing with Discs:

When I first started playing I wore dance shorts, T-shirts and at tournaments I would wear
tall socks, skirts and my jersey. Honestly, the first year I thought about appearance- I
wanted to look coordinated. For example I would think about matching socks to my jersey.
(Carolyn/Interview)

In a statement after the competitive season ended she changed her position on appearance and

opted to be more practical in order to perform at a higher level:

My motive now is to wear what I need to be comfortable in that climate, it' s about being
smarter about playing a sport, it doesn't matter how you look. Wear what you need to play
better. (Carolyn/Interview)

This may suggest that when college women Ultimate players first begin to play organized

Frisbee they bring their normative views of femininity, masculinity, and athleticism with them.

As they progress in the sport and as players, they may begin to shed these ideas of "masculinity"

and "femininity" as athletes and accept their space in women's Ultimate.

Other players expressed similar feelings about their attire. At the competitive level, most

players on Discs said they would rather be more comfortable and wear items that are more

practical, rather than "look good." One of the veteran players, Amy, thinks about aspects of

practicality, not femininity, when choosing what to wear for a tournament:

I mostly wear knee-length [surf] board shorts because my legs might get scraped up; it's
not to wear to be intimidating but more practical. I usually scrape my elbows badly so I
will wear wristbands and sometimes a hat because I am trying not to have skin cancer. I
don't wear makeup because I don't want it to run down my face, I don't take extra steps to
be feminine, and it' s not the place. (Amy/Interview)










Again and again during interviews, I heard that practicality was more important than an

"image." Although most claim to wear "practical" dress items. The Discs team choose to wear

the same brand of long black shorts with the logo on the lower corner of the short. Discs wanted

to be more "intimidating," noting that the old pair of shorts didn't "do the trick" because it made

them appear short. Teams often choose colors for their j erseys according to their school's colors.

Many women' s teams may also choose different styles and types of jerseys. There are three

maj or licensed companies that sell Ultimate Frisbee apparel, including customized j erseys for

women and men. Most teams use one of these three companies. Each team chooses a style, fit,

cut, and colors. The Discs team voted for a white and black woman' s cut j ersey with sleeves. The

shorts are black to match the black j ersey for an "intimidating look." As Discs progressed as a

team, players began to incorporate a logo, colors, cut, and styles into their jerseys. This may

suggest that the culture of Ultimate Frisbee allows female athletes to use a more "masculine"

image as intimidating athletes and not to feel apologetic for their behavior. The concept of the

"female apologetic" in sports, first articulated by Jan Felshin, describes female athletes'

participation in the masculine world of sports as an anomaly (Felshin 1974). In an interview with

Ultimate player, Deidre, she notes that in the culture of Ultimate Frisbee there might not be a

need for female athletes to "apologize":

In those sports [basketball, softball] female athletes have to restate their femininity because
it' s assumed that they are masculine as athletes. In Ultimate, people don't care. Ultimate is
androgynous in general. (Deidre/Interview)

I suggest that college women Ultimate players may not feel the need to restate their

femininity in the sport of Ultimate. These players are not "unapologetic" with their athleticism

but rather present a different form of their own masculinity. K.L. Broad (2001) finds in her

research on female rugby teams that "women's sport can be characterized by an unapologetic,

marked by transgressing gender, destabilizing sexual identities and 'in your face' confrontations









of normativity" (Broad 2001:199). Broad (2001) draws parallels to women' s resistance in rugby

and queer activism that suggests that there exist forms of queer resistance in women's sport. I

suggest that these college women Ultimate players are not expressing a conscious form of

resistance but rather participating in a culture that nonetheless resists "normativity."

However, not all gendered identities in college women's Ultimate express a form of

masculinity. Some bring conventional forms of femininity into their identity and attire. For

example, many players wear men's surfing board shorts, but they buy them in a more "feminine"

color such as pink. In addition, many female college Ultimate players use wristbands, baseball

caps, and wear men' s football cleats but usually incorporate a sign of their "femininity." This

sign may be the color of the wristbands or pairing women' s soccer socks with men' s football

cleats. People outside of college women's Ultimate, such as college men Ultimate players, may

"approve" of such expressions of "masculinity" only if their femininity or sexuality is also clear.

At a recent competitive tournament, one of the players from the men' s team told Karen the

following:

Karen you are the only girl I know that wears men's football cleats, not stupid women's
soccer cleats. That is awesome, that is why you rock!

Everybody knew that Karen was dating a member of the men's team and therefore her femininity

was not questioned, she did not feel the need to justify her expression of masculinity.

In Ultimate it is popular to choose the color of your cleats. The colors of cleats on the

Discs team range from orange to polka dots. This last bit of color may add a "feminized" and

distinct individual style for the player. One year, many of the players bought pink Nike women' s

soccer cleats. If players have a distinct piece of "flare" that they wear, other teams may use this

to characterize them. Teams often refer players on other teams by their distinct sporting attire.










One year Discs referred to a player on a rival team as "shiny shoes" and a player on another team

as "pink cleats."

What happens off the field? Do college women Ultimate players feel as if they need to

establish their femininity off the field? In her research on women' s ice hockey, Nancy Theberge

(2000) notes that some players feel the need to counter stereotypes of female ice hockey players

being overly masculine. From her observations, she writes about one of the players:

There is an important irony in this player's concern about image. She is a strong and
powerful player, one of the most physical and heavily penalized on the team. Although
concerned to counter the stigma of masculinity off the ice, on the ice she has a particularly
'masculine' game. (Theberge 2000: 88)

In sport culture, ice hockey is perceived as a "masculine" sport. Ultimate Frisbee does not

rely on bodily contact and therefore is not perceived as an overly "masculine" sport; this may

affect how female Ultimate players consider how to present a gendered identity. At tournament

parties, many of the Discs members ultimately choose comfort over presenting an image of being

highly feminine. Janice, a Discs player, states the following, "I want to look like a girl but I don't

want to put much effort into it. I would never dress up for a frisbee party." (Janice/Interview)

This may suggest that these players feel a level of comfort within college women's Ultimate and

do not feel obligated to present femininity to counter the perceived masculine characteristics that

mainstream sport culture associates with a high level of athleticism.









CHAPTER 4
ULTIMATE FRISBEE: A SPACE FOR FEMALE ATHLETES?

Discs team members generally attend tournament parties, which often are at local bars in

the city where the tournament is held. At one spring tournament, I observed the same "routine"

as at most tournaments. As usual after the first day of competition, the Discs team showers at the

hotel, puts on "comfortable" and "feminine" clothing, and departs for the party together. This

particular tournament party is held at a small local bar where the beer is free but not very good

and the music is loud. At the games that day, the tournament director had given each team

wristbands for admission into the bar.

The Discs team members have a drinking game that they organize at tournament parties

called Boatracing. On this occasion, the boatrace "captain," Tina, screamed at players to come

over and line up. These seven players competed against seven other players on a rival team. The

first person to completely finish a glass of beer and turn the cup over her head would win. In this

race, the last girl on the opposing boatrace team took her cup full of beer and poured it over her

own head. The Discs boatrace responded by saying that this was poor boatrace etiquette. The

other team stated that she had sacrificed for the team. The opposing team had won the race and

received seven very nice pint glasses. However, Discs went on to win the tournament and the

team received their own pint glasses. Some team members said they wanted the boatrace pint

glasses and that the other team had cheated. As in other boatraces and similar drinking games,

this was not solely a competition to see who can drink the greatest amount of alcohol in the least

amount of time. The game also served as a tool to bond between teams and within teams. At

more than one tournament I witnessed, and even participated in, several boatraces by Discs used

water rather than beer so the players would stay hydrated for the next day of play.









After Discs left the boatrace, they moved to the dance floor where they provocatively

danced with one another. There are certain songs that the team likes and as they played the team

fervently dances to them. Other onlookers tried to dance with them but they gently refused and

continued to dance together as a team. The members decided to return to the hotel because they

had a long day of tournament play the next day and they wanted to be prepared to win.

In their research on college women' s athletics, Blinde, Taub, and Han (1994) studied the

ability of sport to empower women at the team and societal level. They found that athletes

bonded with their teammates and created important relationships with them (Blinde et. al 1994).

My research illustrates that college women's Ultimate Frisbee teams also bond with their

teammates, creating important and substantial relationships in their lives. This may suggest that

women's Ultimate creates a space where these athletes are able to exhibit athleticism and also

nourish relationships with their teammates. Often in the culture of sport, sexuality is solely

heterosexual and created in opposition to homosexuality (Messner 2002). My observations

suggest that college women's Ultimate Frisbee provides a space that cultivates women's

relationships one another and may sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. This also

suggests that these players feel comfortable in an all-female space and therefore can freely

express their sexuality among themselves as women on the team.

How do researchers accurately represent the experience of the female athlete? The

sociological model of multiple bodies, as proposed by Cox and Thompson, (2000) is an effective

tool to interpret the experience of female athletes. By dividing the body into four theoretical

components, Cox and Thompson (2000) illustrate the complex and uncertain process of how

female athletes understand their bodies. These theoretical bodies often challenge each other and

when placed in juxtaposition they often challenge mainstream discourses on femininity,









sexuality, and stereotypical gender roles. This analysis of the multiple bodies model helps to

illuminate how female athletes in Ultimate Frisbee may experience their bodies. It also illustrates

the complexity of this process for these athletes. College women' s Ultimate Frisbee may be

different from other sports in mainstream culture because it can create a "safe" space for its

athletes. However, there are still aspects of mainstream sport that these players must negotiate

when playing Ultimate.

The Ultimate Bond: Relationships in Ultimate Frisbee

After playing my first tournament with members of this team, it became even more evident
to me how important good communication, patience, and a willingness to help and learn
are to a successful team. I witnessed behavior on the part of members of other teams that I
balked at, knowing how much healthier and more fun an encouraging environment is.
(Francine/Interview)

The history and culture of Ultimate may help to create a supportive space in college

women's Ultimate Frisbee. In my observations, the interactions vary from team to team but most

report an encouraging environment, different from other women's sports. In her research, Nancy

Theberge (2000) noticed challenges to team cohesion during the two seasons she spent with a

women's ice hockey team. She notes that although the team promoted the concept of team unity,

the team had several "stars" that put their own interests above the teams, causing "egos to clash"

(Theberge 2000:44).

In May 2006, Discs traveled to the College National Championships in Columbus, Ohio

where we competed against sixteen of the top college women' s teams in the nation. During the

three-day tournament, Discs played close-scoring games with all of our opponents. Although

players described each game as "long and tough," the team worked hard to earn a high place the

tournament. Pre-quarterfinals were held in the early morning on the second day of the

tournament. Discs knew the team would face its Sectional and Regional rival and had to be

prepared to play well. The team arrived as the sun was just coming up and the grass was still wet









from dew. No team members would admit that they were nervous. The team went through its

pre-game warm ups, drills, and its cheers. As the game began, a van full of fans from Discs'

hometown pulled onto the Hield and flooded the sideline. The van had traveled the entire night to

come cheer for their hometown teams. I could feel the team's added nervousness, and the

increased intensity. When the game started, Discs came out with strength and speed and "got up"

(quickly scored) on their opponent with numerous scores. It was clear from the Discs players'

actions and language that they were feeling good and confident in their offense and defense. The

game soon turned and their adversary began to score. I could see Discs players panicking and

making poor decisions, such as throwing the disc to the opponents' best defender and repeatedly

dropping passes. Soon their opponents were "within two" points and time was running out.

Discs had to score the last two points to win. On the last point of the game, Discs had the disc on

offense, we "worked it up" and the throw went up. It sailed high towards the end zone where it

was only Discs player Casey and her defender waiting for the disc. Casey and her defender went

up high for the disc but Casey used her body to win the best position to make the grab. Both

players came down and Casey held on to the disc. The game was over and the Discs had won.

The team went on to the quarterfinals of College Nationals. After the game, a television station

covering the championship came over to interview Casey. The interviewer asked Casey what it

felt like to catch the winning goal. Casey replied, "I may have caught the winning goal, but I

wouldn't have been able to without the throw that got it there. It was a team effort and I am just

glad that we won and are advancing to quarterfinals."

In my experience, most Ultimate teams indicate the importance of "chemistry" for their

team. Teams talk about their offense "flowing" or "gelling" together in order to create effective

offensive plays. A team may become more comfortable with one another on the field and know









how each of the players work together. During the spring season, Discs never indicated that they

had one "superstar" on the team or that another player "needed" to perform well. Discs player

Laurie notes the importance of chemistry and team cohesion for an Ultimate team:

I think it is very important for chemistry to exist between players on the field. To know
each other' s strengths and weaknesses is absolutely crucial, so you, as an individual, can
help the team as a whole. Some players' strengths lie in speed and catching skills, others
are great defenders. It is important to recognize how to utilize each player to their
strengths, and to improve their weaknesses, so that they can become a better player.
Nothing is more demoralizing while playing a sport than not being given the opportunity to
do something that you excel at. I think that without chemistry, it is difficult for the team to
recognize who works well together, and to put a strong line out every time.
(Laurie/Interview)

Third year Discs player Karen indicates that a team's success is from the team's unity and not

because of a few key players:

Unlike most teams that are dictated by a few people, we all respect each other on the field.
We are light hearted off the field and we don't ever get down on each other or blow up on
each other on the field. I think that is very important in order to have a team succeed, to
make sure that there is a mutual respect and a team bond. (Karen/Interview)

Each year in college women's Ultimate and men's Ultimate, teams nominate a candidate for the

Henry Callahan Award. This annual award is for the most valuable player in College Ultimate.

After each team nominates one player, all eligible college women's Ultimate players go online to

a voting system and vote for the three best women's candidates. The candidates are tallied and

one female is presented the award at the College National Championships at the end of the

season. Recently on an online forum for Ultimate Frisbee, a previous female Callahan winner

observed that women' s Ultimate teams tend to select players based on talent, skill, and spirit. She

went on to say that men's Ultimate teams tend to select a player based only on skill. Another

female Ultimate player, and a coach in college women's Ultimate Frisbee, commented on the

initial thread concerning the Callahan award:

I think that women seem to value the spirit aspect of the award and carrying a team on your
back while the men seem to value being the leader and go-to player on a great team. All of









the last seven men's Callahan winners have led their teams to a Nationals appearance, six
made it to the finals, and five won it all. By comparison, only five of the last seven
women's Callahan winners were at Nationals the year they won, only one made it to finals,
and none earned a title. (http ://icultimate.blogspot. com)

This may indicate that college women' s Ultimate Frisbee promotes a sense of team unity and

cohesion, which seems to be missing from most mainstream sports. Teams may rely on their own

total unity and structure in order to exhibit the players' individual athleticism and physicality.

Individual players often promote their team's success over their individual success in order to

highlight their school's program and growth rather than the individual players, as seen in Discs.

The most successful programs in college women's Ultimate include numerous key players rather

than a select few superstars.

In their research on college women' s athletics, Blinde, Taub and Han (1994) studied the

ability of sport to empower women at the group and societal level. They found that athletes

bonded with their teammates and created important relationships with them (Blinde et al. 1994).

In their research, they found the following:

Athletes felt it was 'easier to relate with someone who goes through the same thing.' A
second factor concerned the frequency and regularity of athlete interaction. Athletes
constituted the major network of friends for nearly all respondents. Such sentiments were
expressed by a swimmer who stated, 'We are just always there for each other. Because of
the time you spend and the things you go through, I guess it creates a certain bond between
teammates' Athletes frequently described their teammates as 'best friends,' 'close knit,'
'family,' and 'people you love to death.'(Blinde, et.al 1994:53)

In my research, I also found these sentiments to be widely shown. The teams I have observed

work together throughout the season to develop as a team by training and practicing together.

They also develop relationships off the field. Discs player Taylor notes her relationships with

her teammates:

It would've been hard not to [create relationships.] At this point, ninety percent of my
friends are ultimate players, and the few that aren't know how much time I spend doing
Ultimate-related things and they just accept it as a part of me. (Taylor/Interview)









In addition, Sherrie notes the following:

After a whole semester of spending at least three days a week of practice and almost every
weekend together, they become like family. Granted you still feel closer to some than
most, but you still share common goals and have been through so much together by the end
of one season. (Sherrie/Interview)

Most of the players interviewed indicated that the time spent with their teams help create strong

relationships off the field. These players spend time training, practicing, traveling and attending

tournaments during the five-month college season. Ultimate player Laurie indicates that

spending time with her team has helped to create lasting relationships as well as strengthen

already existing relationships:

But as I've played and traveled with the team, I've become increasingly comfortable. When
you travel eight hours to a tournament, you learn quickly to get comfortable with each
other. Also, rather than Ultimate helping to form significant relationships, Ultimate has
also formed much stronger already existing relationships. For example, my boyfriend who
I met six years ago plays Ultimate. Being in a long-distance relationship, Ultimate has
provided a way of seeing each other. It's a similar story with my roommate. We have been
friends since middle school, but had we not both decided to play for [Discs], we probably
wouldn't have ended up as roommates or such close friends. (Laurie/Interview)

This may suggest that college women's Ultimate Frisbee creates a space that promotes

relationships and bonds among its team as teammates as well as friends. College women's

Ultimate teams spend time training as athletes through track, gym, and practice. Through the

years as Discs has become more competitive, the outside training has increased during the

season. A typical week for the Discs team during the spring season would includes: a three hour

practice on Sunday, rest on Monday, a two hour practice on Tuesday, a forty-five minute track

workout on Wednesday, a two hour practice on Thursday and an additional speed workout

during the weekend. As training increased, so did the bond between players, as noted by Karen

in the following example:

I feel more comfortable with my teammates than I do with my roommates now because
they understand why I spend so much time playing Ultimate, running track etc. I also think
that because we spend so much time together, doing all these things makes me more









comfortable with my team. We have the same or similar schedules, and therefore we can
hang out more outside of practice. (Karen/Interview)

Teams spend a significant amount of time training and they also spend a significant

amount of time in social settings. At a recent practice, a new player to Discs asked me what was

on my lower left ankle. I looked down and replied that it was a tattoo of the image from the

Discs team logo, a design of a flame. In my third year on the Discs team, two other team

members and I decided to get tattoos of the logo on different parts of our bodies. For me, the

logo represented the entire community. In this community, I found strong, supportive, and loving

relationships. Many Discs members said that they have found their relationships in the Ultimate

community to be meaningful and long lasting. One of the newer players on the Discs team noted

the following:

The person I'd consider my best friend is on the team, my boyfriend is on the [men's
Ultimate] B-team. I feel like I spend more time with the Frisbee community than my other
friends lately and I don't really mind, I consider pretty much all of them my friends.
(Margo/Interview)

This may suggest that although college women's Ultimate creates a competitive and athletic

space for competing, it also extends its community to form important relationships. College

women's Ultimate takes from mainstream sport culture the desire to win by training and working

hard it goes farther in creating a community that does not rely on key individuals of the team.

This community creates a positive and supportive space that fosters important relationships in

players' lives.

Although many Discs members feel close in their relationships to other team members,

not all share that closeness. Blinde et al. (1994) found that female bonding did not always occur

among teammates. They found that because teammates were competing for playing time and

positions, some players became jealous and distrustful of other players and their intentions

(Blinde et al. 1994:54). During interviews with the Discs team, players never expressed these










types of feelings to me. However, some players stated that they felt more comfortable with team

members with a comparable skill level. Discs player Lonnie expressed the following:

For the most part I feel at ease with my team members, but I definitely feel more at ease
around the players that are close to my skill level. It seems that there is a hierarchy on the
team that is based on playing ability, and the ladies tend to hang out with other ladies that
are around their same ability. I would certainly not feel comfortable hanging out with the
starting offense if I was the only one there not on it. (Lonnie/Interview)

Although Lonnie states that she feels more comfortable with specific players on the team, she

does not directly express feeling competitive or suspicious of other players on the team. The high

level of competitiveness in college women's Ultimate Frisbee may call for team cohesion and

unity and does not often rely on individual "superstars." This may create a distinct space that

does not foster a system of hierarchy and power found in mainstream sport culture. In her

research on women's ice hockey, Nancy Theberge observed the ice hockey team go through two

phases: a "friendship first" season to a "for the hockey" season (Theberge 2000:55). She

describes the emphasis of these teams to be on either the cohesion or closeness of the team or on

games and the development of skills. I would argue that college women's Ultimate is able to do

both. Teams need team cohesion and unity and this in turn creates close relationships and female

bonding, but it also fosters athletic skills and development as athletes.

Erotic Play: Expressing Sexuality in College Women's Ultimate Frisbee

It was our semester meeting for Discs and everybody was there. There was lots of food and
wine during the meeting. I could see that Sherrie was standing in the room with her back to
Elsie and Ronnie. Elsie and Ronnie were whispering and looking at Sherrie. I knew
something was coming. They began to advance around Sherrie and soon they quickly
grabbed her breasts and slid their hand across her crotch and yelled, 'Taco' and
'Milkshake.' Sherrie smiled and replied, 'I can't believe I fell for that one!' Everybody
laughed. (Field Notes)

Often when female athletes play sports, they enact identities outside of their expected

feminine gendered identity and therefore they may suffer negative consequences. The concept of

the "lesbian label" defines "acceptable" boundaries for women in patriarchal society, and women










in sport are outside of these boundaries (Griffin 1992:252). With the inclusion of sexuality into

the culture of sport and the construction of the female athlete in opposition to masculinity, a

climate of homophobia may exist. When female athletes present traits similar to those of

masculine male athlete, their sexuality becomes an issue. Particularly when placed within the

context of Judith Butler' s "heterosexual matrix," all female athletes perceive pressure to present

a heterosexual feminine body. Butler describes the "heterosexual matrix" as the way in which

heterosexuality encodes and structures everyday life (Butler 1990:42).

Sport scholar Pat Griffin (1992) notes the need to present a heterosexual body as one of the

six manifestations of homophobia in women' s sport, also known as the promotion of a

heterosexual image. Griffin (1992) notes, "where presenting a feminine image previously

sufficed, corporate sponsors, professional women's sport organizations, some women's college

teams, and individual athletes have moved beyond presenting a feminine image to adopting a

more explicit display of heterosex appeal" (Griffin 1992:255). The other five categories are:

silence, denial, apology, attacks on lesbians, and preference for male coaches. Silence, as Griffin

(1992) writes, is the most consistent and enduring manifestation of homophobia in women' s

sport.

Female athletes often live in fear of drawing attention to themselves by achieving athletic

success and therefore drawing attention to their sexuality. When a female athlete's "status of

heterosexuality" comes into question to their coaches, managers, and even the athletes

themselves will deny it. This denial, another categorical manifestation of homophobia, results in

the erasure of lesbians in sport. In order to "apologize" for possible appearances or associations

outside of femininity, female athletes, their coaches, sponsors, and managers often promote an

ideal feminine image that is consistent with white heterosexual images of beauty. Women in










sport suffer not only detrimental psychological consequences but also physical effects. Griffin

writes, "in a style reminiscent of 1950s McCarthyism some coaches proclaim their anti-lesbian

policies as an introduction to their programs. Athletes thought to be lesbian are dropped from

teams, find themselves benched or are suddenly ostracized by coaches and teammates" (Griffin

1992:256).

Homophobia affects all women in sport; the idea or "lesbian label" marginalizes women's

sport and all female athletes. However, without outside influence of media women' s Ultimate

Frisbee resists the need to promote a sense of heterosexualized body. As Susan Cahn (1993)

notes the figure of the mannish lesbian has "acted as a powerful unarticulated 'bogey woman' of

sport, forming a silent foil for more positive, corrective images that attempt to rehabilitate the

image of women athletes and resolve the cultural contradiction between athletic prowess and

femininity" (Cahn 1993:343). The idea of the "mannish lesbian" still pervades thinking about

female athletes, yet the overall camaraderie of a women's Ultimate Frisbee team overrides a

homophobic climate in sport. Even so, players may create a heteronormative atmosphere, mainly

through j okes, and may still promote a sexuality that is distinctly heterosexual.

Although college women' s Ultimate Frisbee incorporates aspects of mainstream ideologies

of sport, such as competitiveness, aggression, and physicality, the sport still resists all facets that

promote hegemonic masculinity. The following is from my observations at practice:

Karen starts with 'Viagra j okes' as her throws are too low and they need to get higher in
order for the receiver to score. The j okes include 'taking Viagra in order to, get it up' and
'I took my Viagra, my throws are up.' Everybody else either partakes in the jokes or
laughs at them.

At another practice I overheard two new players talking about how to learn the flick (snapping

the wrist to release the disc) throw:










Margo: I was running around and I overhead one of the guys teaching a younger player on
the men' s team on how to throw a flick. He told him it's just like slapping an ass when you
snap your wrist. (She mimics the act of slapping an ass)

Beatrice: Oh that' s easy to remember! I will just think of when I am slapping a guy's ass
whenever I go to throw flick (She also mimics the act of slapping an ass.)

In these observations, players are making j okes using aspects of heterosexuality and male

sexuality. Karen is joking about Viagra, a drug enhancer for men with penis erectile

dysfunction. I would argue that this type of joking may create a heteronormative environment

where some players might feel uncomfortable. However, those telling these jokes may be

adapting and manipulating aspects of male sexuality to make them their own. These aspects of

masculinity may help these players to think of themselves of athletes. As I argue, college women

Ultimate players use aspects of masculinity to think of themselves as athletes because they do

not have an alternative vocabulary. These players reshape these ideas so that they do not generate

a hierarchy of power.

Aside from practices, at competitive tournaments the jokes increase in vulgarity and

heteronormative language. The following is from observations made at the most competitive

tournament of the season:

Jane is talking about Einding the water jugs in the morning before our first game. The
conversation turned into talking about breasts, and Janice recalls her nickname of 'jugs.'
Tina makes the comment that she prefers the word 'tits' to any other word.

Taylor and Ronnie both yell the phrase of 'pussy footing' to players on the Hield when they
are not running hard or in the huddle before games.

On numerous occasions at practices when players would go to change colors to play on the

offense or defense, other players would j oke about giving them a little striptease and say things

like, "take it off!" Although both of these comments may create a heteronormative environment,

they may also indicate that this environment creates a space for all women to feel comfortable

with themselves and each other. My research suggests that in college women's Ultimate Frisbee,









women's sexuality does not exist solely in relation to male sexuality and heterosexuality. Often

in the culture of sport, sexuality is solely heterosexual and created in opposition to

homosexuality (Messner 2002: 35). My observations suggest that college women's Ultimate

Frisbee provides a space that cultivates women's relationships with each other and may

sometimes allow for playful erotic expression. This may also suggest that these players feel

comfortable in an all-female space and therefore can freely express their sexuality among

themselves. These expressions may include playful interactions, playful touching or jokes.

Karen' s joking about Viagra and Margo' s joking about how to throw a flick may signal an

adoption of a form of hegemonic masculinity but it may also indicate that as a woman she is

comfortable in this space and can playfully express her sexuality.

Most of my observations occur when teams are in all-female settings. If these events

occurred in a mix gendered setting, these actions might be misinterpreted. For example, if a

men's team were present when these teams exhibit erotic play they might interpret these acts as

expressions of heterosexuality towards them. At a competitive preseason tournament, Discs lost

in the quarterfinals. Discs played another losing team in an isolated field removed from the other

competing teams. The two teams decided to enj oy this game since this game did not change the

outcome of the tournament for either team. During the game the opposing team members took

off their shorts exposing underwear or tights. The team encouraged Discs to take off their shorts

and many members complied. Both teams had players on the field that had their underwear or

tights on during the entire point. There were shouts from both teams' sidelines to "take it off!"

These teams felt a level of comfort that allowed them to express their sexuality with one another

in an uninhibited way.









On the Discs team there are long lasting jokes and playful gestures that team members

often use with each other. These jokes continue through the seasons even as team members

graduate and move on from their college years. One of them is the "taco." A "taco," mentioned

earlier in this section, is where one woman quickly runs her hand across the front part of another

woman's pelvic area, as noted earlier. The opposite of a "taco" is a "butter knife" because the

hand quickly slides over the backside. When one woman places her hands on the breast of

another woman and moves them up and down, this is a milkshakee." The origin of these j okes or

pranks is unknown among the Discs team. This may suggest that these players feel comfortable

in an all-female space and therefore express notions of female sexuality among team mates.

These women flirt playfully with each other as they touch their bodies in a sexual manner.

Although the culture of college women's Ultimate Frisbee is very supportive of lesbian

relationships, I would say that it does not identify as a lesbian culture. These flirtations may

signify romantic relationships between players, but this did not appear to be the case during my

research with the Discs team. In general, these exchanges occur because players feel comfortable

in an all-female space. I would argue that since women's Ultimate Frisbee is outside the

mainstream culture of sport, these female athletes may create a safe space to nourish a female

bond and relationships where female sexuality does not exist solely in relation to male sexuality

and heterosexuality. My observations suggest there is a space in women's college Ultimate

Frisbee that celebrates women's relationships with one another.

The Ultimate Athlete: Expressions of Female Athleticism in Ultimate Frisbee

I identify as an athlete and Ultimate is my sport. (Deidre/Interview)

As I was parking my car at a tournament, I read this bumper sticker on another car,

"Ultimate ruined my life." There is generally no external validation for a long, hard day of

physically demanding Ultimate. The team does not usually receive public recognition for its









efforts, as in mainstream sport. There are no paychecks, no benefits, and no crowds waiting at

home. There is no mass production of jerseys for the "superstar" on the team, no autographs or

photo shoots. I have found in my research that players speak of a desire to play the game of

Ultimate, a desire to play with their team through easy and hard games and through good and bad

weather. In these conditions, how do female Ultimate players express themselves as athletes?

Can outside comments affect the psyche of the female athlete who plays Ultimate? Can

researchers, including myself, accurately relate the experience of the female athlete? What

specific areas of mainstream sport might these athletes bring into Ultimate? Can college

women's Ultimate bring their existing ideas of sport and athleticism and still create a "safe"

space to express their athleticism? I would argue that by understanding the complexity of how

female athletes regard themselves as athletes, researchers are able to depict their experience.

This past spring, Discs participated in a competitive tournament in cold rain, wind, and

snow. The team knew that there would be inclement weather and yet the players still chose to

attend the tournament. I observed that all my teammates wore at least three layers of clothing and

they were soon soaked. Many of the players tried adding layer after layer and when that did not

work, we huddled together to try to salvage some warmth. Casey, Ana, Karen, and Jane were in a

tight huddle and Casey remarked, "I am going to put my hands down my pants because that is

what the football players do when they are cold and need to keep their hands warm." The only

thing getting them through the day was the thought of a hot shower. During the middle of the

day, I tried to give a "pep" talk by asking the team to visualize that hot shower. At one point

when I was on the line waiting to play defense, I tried to speak but could not feel my face, nose

or lips. I looked at Carolyn and her lips were purple and I knew she could not feel her face either.

The players' hands were too cold and wet to throw the disc properly. We huddled again on the









sideline with arms and hands locked together still trying to concentrate on the game. When a

game ended early, the team ran from the fields into the nearby middle school and defrosted in the

bathrooms. Player after player came into the bathroom and tried desperately to wash the mud off

and put their cold hands under the hot water. After the shower, after eating, we would talked

about the day and even laugh about it later because they were a team, a team of athletes who

would play together through the good and the bad

Ultimate does not generally incorporate mainstream sports ethos into its culture. At times,

players notice the differences between Ultimate and other sports. Deidre relates her experience

with club soccer and Ultimate saying, "I tried out for club soccer and they were mean, different.

In Ultimate, you are encouraged to keep learning, it' s unique." (Deidre/Interview) Amy also

relates her impression of club soccer players in comparison to Ultimate players by saying, "I

know plenty of soccer bitches and they are conceited, selfish and have all the bad qualities of an

athlete or 'a jock.'" (Amy/Interview) This may suggest that Ultimate creates a space that does

not incorporate the negative aspects of mainstream sport. However, Ultimate does not exist

completely outside of mainstream sport culture; participants may bring their beliefs from other

sports into their game.

Studies in feminist research often analyze the importance of the image of the female body.

From theory of the sexuality of human bodies and their meanings to current feminist research on

the female body, the image of the body is an important concern. How can researchers accurately

represent the experience of the female athlete? The sociological model of multiple bodies, as

proposed by Barbara Cox and Shona Thompson (2000), is an effective tool to interpret the

experience of female athletes. The research by Cox and Thompson (2000) based on in-depth

interviews and participant observation with a premier New Zealand soccer league. By dividing









the body into four theoretical components, Cox and Thompson (2000) illustrate the complex and

uncertain process of how female athletes understand their bodies. These theoretical bodies often

challenge each other and when placed in juxtaposition they often challenge mainstream

discourses on femininity, sexuality, and stereotypical gender roles (Cox and Thompson 2000:17).

The athletic body, one of the four theoretical bodies, is a body of physical strength and

endurance and it is able to perform athletics at the desired level (Cox and Thompson 2000:10).

When Cox and Thompson asked what an "ideal" athletic body would entail, "All sketched a

picture, particularly at elite level, that was relatively thin, muscled, athletic and strong" (Cox and

Thompson 2000: 10). Physical strength offers more autonomy and less reliance on the strength

of others. In addition, Cox and Thompson (2000) note how the physical strength of the body

transferred into a better psychological self. Several of the Discs players consider themselves to

be athletes because of their athletic physical body and high level of fitness. Amy states the

following:

I always considered myself as an athlete but when I started playing Ultimate, I was in
decent fitness but now I have achieved a new level of fitness. I gained a new identity as an
athlete. (Amy/Interview)

Team members appreciated their ability to perform within their sport. The better the physical

body, the better the performance of the athlete, both mentally and physically. In addition, the

number one body concern among participants in the case study by Cox and Thompson was fat.

Fat is a factor that is "controllable" and "opposite" of the idea of the athletic body (Cox and

Thompson 2000: 13). In turn, this influenced their evaluations about performance and athletic

ability, of themselves and their teammates. Karen notes how weight and fitness may affect her

performance in Ultimate, but is different from "female attractiveness":

I feel that I plan to get in shape, and in return I lose weight and that helps my performance
on the Hield. Ultimate is not about sexy or feminine, in my opinion. (Karen/Interview)









A new player to Discs, Margo, also notes the following:
If I happen to get in amazing shape from Ultimate I won't deny that I'd be really glad. And
I don't really want to bulk up, but if I had to choose between looking really feminine but
being slow and weak or being good at Ultimate but looking kind of manly, I'd go with the
manly body. (Margo/Interview)

The second body within the model of the multiple body perspective is the private body.

The private body represents the body located within the private spheres such as the dressing

room or showers. In the private sphere the private body may become public when undressing and

when showering. Cox and Thompson (2000) found in their research that female athletes are

anxious about their naked body. An example is the way the athletic body highlights the

awareness of women' s comfort, appreciation, and enj oyment of their physicality. However,

when we place the athletic body in opposition to the private body we can see how the private

body reveals women's concerns with fat or body weight and the "attractive" female athletic

body. The athletes may feel the need to incorporate the traits of the feminine body to maneuver

within the culture of sports. Ultimate player Karen indicates some anxiety over undressing in

front of her team:

If I am butt naked, I would feel very self-conscious. But as far as changing my shirt in
front of a bunch of teams it doesn't really bother me. Usually I am in a hurry to change
whatever I need to so it doesn't really matter who is watching. On the other hand, if I have
the opportunity to change in the bathroom, I probably would. (Karen/Interview)

The private body is now a space where an attractive femaleness and the heteronormative female

body coexist (Cox and Thompson 2000:12). Therefore, while body weight is an issue of

performance and athletic ability, it was also a way to recreate female attractiveness.

In the following, Discs player Laurie relates her experiences in other sports as well as

Ultimate Frisbee:

When I began weight training for basketball in high school, I was concerned about
becoming too muscular. However having trained heavily for basketball with no significant
muscle mass changes, I am not really worried about maintaining my 'feminine' physique










while training for Ultimate. I think my body will look more or less the same regardless of
my Ultimate training. (Laurie/Interview)

Furthermore, women' s appreciation of the ability of the athletic body also affects the confidence

of the female athlete. Carolyn considers herself an athlete because of her training for Ultimate

and her role on a team:

I am an athlete; I play for a team and compete. I play against other teams across the nation.
We have an off-season and on season and I train to play. (Carolyn/Interview)

It is important to acknowledge the fact that each female athlete may experience her body in

different ways and the multiple body models reveal the complexity of this process. When we

place each of these theoretical bodies in juxtaposition with each other, we can see how the

female athlete must maneuver and negotiate within different discourses and contexts. The body

of the female athlete is constantly contradicting the dominant social discourse on identity,

gender, and sexuality.

How do these athletes communicate within their team? What expressions do players use to

teach a skill, play, or to motivate? I argue that college women Ultimate Frisbee players consider

themselves as competitive athletes within the space of women' s Ultimate, but may feel

conflicted in interactions with the outside community. Ultimate player Barbara describes hearing

some of the men' s team describe women' s Ultimate:

I remember overhearing them describe women's Ultimate and say thing like, 'women's
Ultimate is men' s Ultimate underwater.' They run slower and make decisions at a slower
pace In regards to the men's team, you are often defined by things like being a girlfriend,
and hear, 'she only plays because she is dating a guy.' (Barbara/Interview)

Deidre also describes the opinions of male players of Ultimate in the following:

Men's Ultimate, in general, does not respect women' s Ultimate. They would say that
younger guys aren't good throwers for women because they are direct and for women you
have to cater to their lesser athleticism when throwing. (Deidre/Interview)

Carolyn also notes the following:









Men's Ultimate sees women's Ultimate as less important; in their mind, it' s a lower grade
of what they play. I would think that every man on the men' s team would think they would
know the game better than every woman of the women' s team. (Carolyn/Interview)

These expressions come from all areas of the players' lives, including their coach. At one

practice, I heard the following comment from Discs' male coach, as the team was getting ready

to scrimmage the men's B team:

They may be taller, faster, and jump higher but don't be scared. They are also dumb. You
will be fine. You get three tries to score and don't worry you can score against these dumb
boys. Be patient and concentrate on throwing and catching.

I argue that these players receive criticism about their athleticism as Ultimate players but they

do not internalize the comments. They use them to create a space in women's Ultimate in which

they celebrate their ability as athletes. In the following, Ultimate player Melinda hears the

criticisms of women' s Ultimate but finds their concerns to be humorous:

The only comment that outsiders tend to make is that Ultimate isn't a real sport. But I
never feel conflicted about this. I just laugh because I can definitely see where they're
coming from. All they see are parties and hippies, not the practices and track workouts.
(Melinda/Interview)

This may suggest that college women Ultimate players consider their identity as athletes and as

teammates. This may create a space within the sport to exhibit both athleticism and expressions

of support as teammates. This analysis of the multiple bodies model helps to shed light on the

experience of the female athlete in Ultimate Frisbee. It also illustrates how complex this process

is for the athletes. College women's Ultimate may create a "safe" space for its athletes, but there

are still aspects of mainstream sport that these players must negotiate when playing Ultimate.

These players are sometimes conflicted about their own athletic body in Ultimate as how to

conceptualize themselves as athletes.









CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSIONS

The formation of gendered identities, specifically masculinity, in mainstream sport often

results in an unequal distribution of power whereby masculinity in sport is favored above other

forms of masculinity and above all expressions of femininity. Empirical research on gender and

the institution of sport indicates how hegemonic masculinity may sustain and maintain a

hierarchy of gender. There are few structural analyses of gender and sport, and much of the

research still relies on Connell's (1987) notion of hegemonicc masculinity." In his early work,

Messner (1992) relied heavily on hegemonicc masculinity" and the "gender order." Messner

notes in this earlier work that, "the gender order is thus a social system that is constantly being

created, contested, and changed, both in the relationships and power struggles between men and

women, and in the relationships and power struggles between men" (Messner 1992). However,

in his later work Messner (2002) develops a broader structural analysis of gender.

Can research better conceptualize gender in sport through Judith Butler' s (1990) concept of

"performativity" of gender? How can this research use a critical analysis of gender and sport,

whether through notions of performativity or a structural framework, in order to disrupt the

current gender hierarchy in sport? Can we use research to change an existing and established

social structure, a social structure that is embedded in the gender fabric of society? By employing

feminist research methods and using a critical analysis of gender, this research will expose the

weakness of the structure. Specifically, by combining a critical analysis with specific individual

characteristics of college women's Ultimate Frisbee, this research may begin to destabilize the

center of institutionalized men' s sport. With a structural change, individual acts may become

significant and consequential in changing the overall structure of sport. Female athletes, at all










levels, should see themselves, as male athletes are able to, as strong, and self-confident, not as

anomalies.

In her work, Gender Trouble, Butler (1990) criticizes the assumption that there is a "core"

or "essence" to a preexisting gendered social being that willfully enters into social contracts and

relationships. Butler states, "the performative invocation of a nonhistorical 'before' becomes the

foundational premise that guarantees a presocial ontology of persons who freely consent to be

governed and thereby constitute the legitimacy of the social contract" (Butler 1990:5). This

premise leads most feminist theorists to mistakenly assume that there is some sort of gendered

ontological woman that desires to be "free" of social attributes that essentializes their being.

Butler goes on to write, "the feminist subj ect turns out to be discursively constituted by the very

political system that is supposed to facilitate its emancipation" (Butler 1990:4). Butler suggests

the notion of gender as a performance where there is no preexisting being, but an "effect" that

happens in everyday performance. Many scholars misinterpret this idea of performance as being

a matter of free will or choice. Therefore Butler notes:

In this sense, gender is not a noun but rather a set of free floating attributes, for we have
seen that the substantive effect of gender is performatively produced and compelled by the
regulatory practices of gender coherence. Hence, within the inherited discourse of the
metaphysics of substance, gender proves to be performative that is constituting the identity
it is purported to be, gender is always a doing though not a doing by a subj ect who might
be said to preexist the deed. (Butler 1990:33)

Is Butler' s notion of a performative gender useful to an analysis of gender and sport found

in college women' s Ultimate Frisbee? Does Butler suggest that if we can use other performative,

or subversive, acts to destabilize these effects, then we can challenge the very systems and

subjects that are simultaneously producing one another? If this is Butler' s message, how can we

illustrate the absurdity of gender effects while women athletes are still held accountable to them?

Although Butler might disagree, a structural analysis of the institution of gender and sport









combined with Butler' s notions of performativity will generate an insightful critique and useful

dialogue on gender and the culture of sport.

Messner (2002) points to three levels of analysis in creating a structural framework for

discussing gender and sport. The first level is an interactionist theoretical framework that

illustrates the ways that social agents "perform" or "do" gender in order to describe how groups

of people reproduce or challenge boundaries that create "natural" categorical differences

between women and men. The next level is a structural theoretical framework that highlights

how gender is inscribed in institutions. This level helps to show how under certain conditions

social agents "mobilize variously to disrupt or to affirm gender differences and inequalities"

(Messner 2002: 25). Last is a cultural theoretical perspective that shows how symbols and

images are carefully incorporated into culture and used, reproduced, or contested in different

locations in society. By combining this structural framework of analysis with specific subversive

acts, as located in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee, we may challenge detrimental consequences of

sport culture

To build on this gender research, Martin (2004) merges the individuality of gender with a

structural analysis. Martin states that institutions do not "stand alone" and may often interact

with one another (Martin 2004: 1265). If we frame gender as an institution, it is possible to notice

how the institution of sport and gender are reacting and reconstituting each other in mainstream

sport. Martin explains that the members of these institutions, including sport, may use gender

expectations to construct the social relations and dynamics of its institution (Martin 2004:1266).

Martin notes, "without question, other institutional spheres 'use gender' to construct (some)

practices, social relations, rules, and procedures" (Martin 2004:1266). I argue that the institution

of mainstream sport "uses gender" to emphasize hegemonic masculinity as a "natural" trait of









athletes and to disregard other forms of masculinity as well as traits of femininity. By framing

gender as an institution, I am able to show how gender can both work against and, sometimes,

for the institution of sport. College women's Ultimate Frisbee reshapes gender expectations so

that gender identities are no longer reproduced to create a hierarchy of power.

College women' s Ultimate Frisbee may challenge structural levels of the institution of

sport. At the interactionalist level women Ultimate players sometimes "perform" their gender

outside of their "acceptable" gendered identities. However, this is acceptable because it exists in

a culture where college women's Ultimate players incorporate aspects of both categorical and

individual gendered identities in order to destabilize these oppositional categories. My research

suggests that women who are college Ultimate Frisbee players often use their athleticism in a

typically masculine manner, though with a difference. I argue that these players must use

"masculine" practices and language found in sport culture because they have no other way of

expressing themselves as competitive athletes. Players may also participate in gendered identities

by wearing "masculine" attire to express intimidation. Although many players may claim to

dress themselves in a "practical" manner, most still recognize intimidating attires such as

wearing all black.

Another example of "masculine" practices is language use in college women's Ultimate

Frisbee. Although the overall culture in college women's Ultimate Frisbee may be more

"accessible," players may still rely on mainstream sporting terms to describe specific acts of

athleticism. College women's Ultimate Frisbee may offer a more "accessible" environment and

vocabulary than other sports and activities. New players may feel at ease within Ultimate

because its culture and terms create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. This research

suggests that college women Ultimate Frisbee players define their athleticism using masculine










language; they use terms that emphasize aggression, competitiveness, and physicality but do not

use these terms or language at the expense of other teammates. College women Ultimate players

use "masculine" language and practices, but they alter their purpose so that it does not perpetuate

gender inequality. Women Ultimate Frisbee players reformulate the meanings of masculine

practices and language into their own, thereby creating a distinct space.

These actors in the space transform and change perceived masculine gendered identities in

order to create a culture without a distinct hierarchy. In this space, college women Ultimate

players transform masculine gender meanings and thereby feel a level of comfort and

camaraderie with their fellow players. I would argue that since women's Ultimate Frisbee is

outside the culture of mainstream sport, these female athletes are able to nourish female bonds

and relationships. Through my observations, I have found that college women's Ultimate Frisbee

allows women to cultivate relationships with one another and may sometimes allow for playful

erotic expression. This may also suggest that these players feel comfortable in an all-female

space and therefore can freely express their sexuality. Some expressions may include playful

interactions, touching, or j okes. These exchanges may signal an adoption of hegemonic

masculinity, heterosexuality, or male sexuality, but it may also indicate that these women feel at

ease in this space and can express themselves sexually and playfully among other women on

their teams.

I emphasize that these practices are specific to college women's Ultimate Frisbee, even if,

in the overall culture of Ultimate Frisbee, there are some interactions and exchanges that

reinforce gender inequality. My research is specific to college women's Ultimate Frisbee,

because this sport has characteristics that I argue are different from those found in other

women's sports. Characteristics such as attire, language, and physicality may be similar in other










women's sports, but those sports can often reproduce the same inequality and gender hierarchies

found in men's sport culture. For example, in Theberge's (2000) work, she found that even

though there is no body checking in women's ice hockey, there can be a large amount of

physicality in the game. These players use their bodies for physicality and "play through the

pain," and may also see their bodies as "machines" (Messner 2002:57, Theberge 2000:129).

Theberge noted that players saw injury and pain as a sign of weakness outside of hegemonic

masculinity, and therefore not suitable traits of an athlete (Theberge 1997:83).

In addition, some women's sport culture and its practices may form in response to the

culture or climate found in its men' s sport counterpart. In Broad' s (2001) work on women' s

rugby, she examines how women' s rugby responds to the destructive culture of men' s rugby. She

draws parallels between women's resistance in rugby to queer activism, suggesting that there

exists forms of queer resistance in women's sport. I argue that college women's Ultimate Frisbee

does not react directly to practices in men's Ultimate, nor does it reproduce gender inequality

found in men's sport culture.

At a structural level, college women's Ultimate players move outside the gendered

hierarchy of institutionalized sport. Here they are free of divisions based on categories of gender

that could have a detrimental influence on female Ultimate players. There are powerful

masculine sporting images and symbols of sport which influence Ultimate, but, college women

Ultimate players choose to manipulate these images in order to disrupt perceptions of

"naturalized" differences between female and male athletes. In the future college women's

Ultimate Frisbee may become more "mainstream" and begin to incorporate practices found in

mainstream sport that may reinforce gender inequality. As Ultimate begins to grow, the media

may intervene and change the dynamic found in college women's Ultimate. However, at this









moment I argue that college women's Ultimate Frisbee challenges the institution of sport by

creating a location for female athletes that is outside the "center" of mainstream sport culture.

Therefore, college women's Ultimate Frisbee may serve to destabilize men's institutionalized

sport by challenging gender ideologies that hold it in place.










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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Joanna Winn Neville was born on January 2, 1981 in Louisville, Kentucky. She soon

moved to Miami, Florida where she attended Howard Drive Elementary School, Palmetto

Middle School, and Palmetto Senior High School. Joanna received her Bachelor of Arts from the

University of Florida in 2003 and began working at a publishing house in Gainesville, Florida.

Joanna has played Ultimate Frisbee for 5 years and began her Ultimate career with the

Gainesville women's team in 2002. Since then she has played with successful coed and college

teams. She has played in the Ultimate Players Association Club Championships Series, and the

Ultimate Players Association College Championship Series.