“You’re good…for a girl”. Exploring the impact of masculine hegemony on the gender identity of female judoka


  • Amy Dougan
  • Laura H Graham University of the West of Scotland


Gender, Judo, Coaching


Gender in sport is a commonly researched area, however there are few studies in sports where mixed-gender fighting during training occurs. This research aimed to explore the experiences of elite female judoka (judo players) in the U.K., and the potential impact of gender upon the athletes’ construction of athletic identities. 

A qualitative research design was utilised to analyse gender dynamics and interpret the meanings given to the judokas’ experiences. 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted with elite athletes and data were analysed using thematic analysis to identify the main themes.

Two main themes emerged: the treatment of female judoka by others; and the means by which the judoka construct their identities. Findings suggested the judoka are affected by masculine hegemony, often stereotyped and discriminated against both within and outside their sport.  Many participants coped by constructing a separate ‘feminine’ identity to avoid any consequences in social settings and to mitigate their participation in judo. While it is evident sport is becoming more accepting of women participating in sports like judo, it is clear female athletes still face a number of issues that must be challenged to promote an equal sporting environment for all.


Adams, N., Schmitke, A. and Franklin, A. (2005) ‘Tomboys, Dykes, and Girly Girls: Interrogating the Subjectivities of Adolescent Female Athletes’, Women’s Studies Quarterly 33(1&2), 17–34.

Anderson, E. (2008). “I used to think women were weak”: Orthodox masculinity, gender d sport. Sociological Forum, 23(1), 257-280.

Bailey, J., (2008) First Steps in Qualitative Data Analysis: Transcribing, Family Practice, 25(1) 127–131.

Birrell, S. and Cole, C.L., (1990) Double fault: Renee Richards and the construction and naturalization of difference. Sociology of Sport Journal, 7(1), 1-21.

Blinde, E. and Taub, D., (1992) Women athletes as falsely accused deviants: Managing the lesbian stigma. The sociological quarterly, 33(4), 521-533.

Broad, K., (2001) The gendered unapologetic: Queer resistance in women’s sport. Sociology of sport journal, 18(2), 181-204.

Bryant, M., (2016) Olympic medal winner Corey Cogdell slams the sexist treatment of female athletes after being described as 'the wife of an NFL player' in reports about her Rio triumph, Daily Mail [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3733467/Olympic-medal-winner-Corey-Cogdell-slams-sexist-treatment-female-athletes-described-wife-NFL-player-reports-Rio-triumph.html [Last Accessed 7/4/17].

Channon, A., (2013a) ‘Do you hit girls?’Some striking moments in the career of a male martial artist, In: Sánchez García, Raúl and Spencer, Dale C., (eds.) Fighting Scholars: Habitus and Ethnographies of Martial Arts and Combat Sports. Key Issues in Modern Sociology Series. Anthem Press, London, UK, 95-110.

Channon, A., (2013b) Enter the discourse: Exploring the discursive roots of inclusivity in mixed-sex martial arts. Sport in Society, 16(10), 1293-1308.

Channon, A., (2014) Towards the “undoing” of gender in mixed-sex martial arts and combat sports. Societies, 4(4), 587-605.

Channon, A. and Jennings, G., (2013) The rules of engagement: Negotiating painful and “intimate” touch in mixed-sex martial arts. Sociology of Sport Journal, 30(4), 487-503.

Coakley, J. and Pike, E. (2014). Sport in society, Issues and Controversies, 2nd ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Connell, R., W., Messerschmidt, J., (2005) Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept, Gender and Society, 19(6), 829-859.

Cooky, C., Messner, M. and Hextrum, R., (2013) Women play sport, but not on TV: A longitudinal study of televised news media. Communication & Sport, 1(3),.203-230.

Cox, B. and Thompson, S. (2000) ‘Multiple bodies: Sportswomen, Soccer and Sexuality’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 35(1), 5-21.

Curry, T., (1991) Fraternal bonding in the locker room: A profeminist analysis of talk about competition and women. Sociology of sport journal, 8(2), 119-135.

Daniels, E., (2009) Sex objects, athletes, and sexy athletes: How media representations of women athletes can impact adolescent girls and college women. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24(4), 399-422.

Davis-Delono, L., Pollock, A. and Ellsworth Vose, J., (2009) Apologetic behavior among female athletes: A new questionnaire and initial results. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 44(2-3), 131-150.

Donohue, B., Miller, A., Crammer, L., Cross, C. and Covassin, T., (2007) A standardized method of assessing sport specific problems in the relationships of athletes with their coaches, teammates, family, and peers. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(4), 375.

Duncan, M., Messner, M., & Willms, N. (2005). Gender in televised sports: News and highlights shows, 1989-2004. Los Angeles, CA: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, 2-30.

Dworkin, S. (2001) ‘‘Holding back’: Negotiating a glass ceiling on women’s muscular strength’, Sociological Perspectives, 44(3), 333-350.

Ezzell, M. (2009) ‘“Barbie Dolls” on the Pitch: Identity Work, Defensive Othering, and Inequality in Women’s Rugby’, Social Problems, 56(1), 111–131.

Fallon, M. and Jome, L. (2007) ‘An Exploration of Gender-Role Expectations and Conflict among Women Rugby Players’, Psychology of Women Quarterly 31(1), 311-321.

Fredrickson, B. and Roberts, T., (1997) Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of women quarterly, 21(2), 173-206.

Godoy-Pressland, A., (2014) The weekend as a male entity: how Sunday newspaper sports reporting centres around male activities, interests and language (2008 and 2009). Leisure Studies, 33(2), 148-163.

Gratton, C., Jones, I., (2010) Research Methods for Sports Studies, London: Routledge, 2nd Ed.

George, M. (2005) `Making Sense of Muscles: The Body Experiences of Collegiate Women Athletes', Sociological Inquiry, 75(3), 317-45

Halbert, C. (1997). Tough enough and woman enough: Stereotypes, discrimination, and impression management among women professional boxers. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 21(1), 7-36.

Hanson, V., (2012) The Inequality of Sport: Women< Men. The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research, 13(1), 15-22.

Hardy, E., (2013) The Female Apologetic within Canadian Women’s Rugby: Exploring Level of Competition, Racial Identity and Sexual Orientation (Doctoral dissertation, University of Manitoba).

Hargreaves, J. (1994), Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the history and sociology of women's sports. London: Routledge

Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford.

Hoek, H.W. and Van Hoeken, D., (2003) Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating disorders. International Journal of eating disorders, 34(4), 383-396.

IOC (2005) JUDO: History of Judo at the Olympic Games [Online] Available at: https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/Factsheets-Reference-Documents/Games/OG/History-of-sports/Reference-document-Judo-History-at-the-OG.pdf [Last Accessed: 3/4/17].

IOC (2016) Factsheet:Women In The Olympic Movement [online] Available at: https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Women_in_Olympic_Movement.pdf [Last Accessed: 3/4/17].

International Judo Federation (2013a) Sports and Organization Rules

of the International Judo Federation [Online] Available at: http://isaschools.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Judo-Rules.pdf [Last Accessed: 3/4/17].International Judo Federation (2013b) What is Judo [Online] Available at: http://www.worldjudoday.com/en/WhatisJudo-57.html [Last Accessed: 8/4/17].

Jamshed, S., (2014) Qualitative Research Method-Interviewing and Observation, Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, 5(4) pp.87-88.

Johns, D. (1996). Fasting and feasting: Paradoxes of the sport ethic. Sociology of Sport Journal, 15(1), 41–63.

Kane, M., (1995) Resistance/transformation of the oppositional binary: Exposing sport as a continuum. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 19(2), 191-218.

Kavoura, A., Kokkonen, M. and Ryba, T., (2014) The Female Fighter Phenomenon in Denmark and Greece: Exploring Gender Dynamics in Judo, Fighting: Intellectualising Combat Sports,87-96.

Kavoura, A., Ryba, T., Chroni, S., (2015) Negotiating Female Judoka Identities in Greece: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 17(1), 88-98.

Klomsten, A., Marsh, H. and Skaalvik, E., (2005) Adolescents’ perceptions of masculine and feminine values in sport and physical education: A study of gender differences. Sex roles, 52(9-10), 625-636.

Knight, J., & Giuliano, T. (2003). Blood, sweat, and jeers: The impact of the media's heterosexist portrayals on perceptions of male and female athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 2(1), 272-285.

Kolnes, L. (1995) Heterosexuality as an organizing principle in women's sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 30(1), 61-77.

Krane, V. (2001). We can be athletic and feminine, but do we want to? Challenging hegemonic femininity in women's sport. Quest, 53(1), 115-133.

Krane, V., Choi, P., Baird, S., Aimar, C. and Kauer, K. (2004) Living the paradox: Female athletes negotiate femininity and muscularity. Sex roles, 50(5-6), 315-329.

Krane, V., Waldron, J., Michalenok, J., & Stiles-Shipley, J. (2001). Body image, and eating and exercise behaviors: A feminist cultural studies perspective. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 10(1), 17-54.

Lantz, C. and Schroeder, P., (1999) Endorsement of masculine and feminine gender roles: Differences between participation in and identification with the athletic role. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22(4), 545.

Lenskyj, H., (1991) Combating homophobia in sport and physical education. Sociology of Sport Journal, 8(1), 61-69.

McKinley, N. and Hyde, J., (1996) The objectified body consciousness scale development and validation. Psychology of women quarterly, 20(2), 181-215.

McNaughton, M., (2012) Insurrectionary womanliness: Gender and the (boxing) ring. The Qualitative Report, 17(17), 1-13

Mennesson, C. (2000). ‘Hard’ women and ‘soft’ women: The social construction of identities among female boxers. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 35(1), 21-33.

Merriam, S., (2002) Introduction to qualitative research, Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis, 1(1), 1-17.

Messner, M. (1992) Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity. Boston: Beacon Press.

Messner, M., Duncan, M., & Cooky, C. (2003). Silence, sports bras, and wrestling porn: The treatment of women in televised sports news and highlights. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 27(1), 38–51.

Navarro, R., (2014) Children’s preferences for gender-typed objects and colours: a commentary from gender research in Spain. Escritos de psicología, 7(3), 1-9.

Pedersen, P., (2002) Examining equity in newspaper photographs: A content analysis of the print media photographic coverage of interscholastic athletics. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 37(3-4), 303-318.

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. and Ormston, R. eds., (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers, London: Sage.

Ross, S., & Shinew, K. (2008), Perspectives of women college athletes on sport and gender. Sex Roles, 58(1), 40-57.

Rouveix, M., Bouget, M., Pannafieux, C., Champely, S. and Filaire, E., (2007) Eating attitudes, body esteem, perfectionism and anxiety of judo athletes and nonathletes. International journal of sports medicine, 28(04), 340-345.

Royce, W., Gebelt, J. and Duff, R., (2003) Female athletes: Being both athletic and feminine. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 5(1), 47-61.

Russello, S., (2013) The Impact of Media Exposure on Self-Esteem and Body Satisfaction in Men and Women. Journal of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research, 1(1),.4.

Sabo, D., (2000) Men's health studies: origins and trends. Journal of American College Health, 49(3), 133-142.

Schacht, S., (1996) Misogyny on and off the “Pitch” The Gendered World of Male Rugby Players. Gender & Society, 10(5), 550-565.

Schmalz, D. and Kerstetter, D., (2006) Girlie girls and manly men: Chidren's stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities. Journal of Leisure Research, 38(4), 536-557

Silverman, D. (2013). Doing Qualitative Research. 4th ed. London: Sage Publications.

Sisjord, M., (1997) Wrestling with gender: A study of young female and male wrestlers' experiences of physicality. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 32(4), 433-438.

Sparkes, A. and Smith, B., (2014) Qualitative research methods in sport, exercise and health: From process to product. London: Routledge.

Sundgot-Borgen, J., (1994) Risk and trigger factors for the development of eating disorders in female elite athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(4), 414-419.

Wensing, E., & Bruce, T. (2003). Bending the rules media representations of gender during an international sporting event. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 38(4), 387-396.

West, C. and Zimmerman, D., (1987) Doing gender. Gender & society, 1(2), 125-151.

Wilde, K., (2015) Women in Sport: Gender stereotypes in the past and present, 4(1),1-10.

Wright, J. and Clarke, G., (1999) Sport, the media and the construction of compulsory heterosexuality: A case study of women's rugby union. International review for the sociology of sport, 34(3), 239

Yoffie, D. and Kwak, M., (2002) Judo strategy: 10 techniques for beating a stronger opponent. Business Strategy Review, 13(1), 20-30.

Young, K. (1997) Women, sport and physicality. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 32(1), 297-305.