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Kicking against tradition: women’s football, negotiating friendships and social spaces

Themen, C and van Hooff, J (2016) Kicking against tradition: women’s football, negotiating friendships and social spaces. Leisure Studies. ISSN 1466-4496

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This article examines friendships and social networks in the context of amateur women’s football. Studies of intimacies and friendships tend to situate women’s same-sex friendships around emotional support. The aim of this research seeks to account for more depth in understanding diversity in female friendships. The traditionally masculine (football) environment is peculiarly distinctive because it contrasts with traditional spaces found in private, domestic context that have traditionally associated with the formation and negotiation of ‘feminine’ friendship identities. Utilising 10 narrative interviews, the paper examines social and friendship networks in two main areas. Firstly, although non-traditional social groupings were evident, it was apparent that some participants had to negotiate a dual private/public role. Secondly, there were friendships based on sociability and these were integral to the connectedness of groups not defined by conventionally gendered roles, defined by emotional ties, but instead on collective interest focused around playing sport. These groupings are of interest because they are contrary to conventionality that frame emotional femininity, and foreground social activities that accentuate cultural complexities rather than confine friendship groups in terms of either masculine or feminine cultural practices. Drawing on the grounded experiences of female football players, we found that female friendships are much more layered and complex than represented in broader cultural discourse.

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