Female athletes in the United States face the paradoxical challenge of acquiring a degree of muscularity to be successful in their sport, yet they also endure pressure from societal expectations of femininity that often don’t conform with the notion of muscularity. To address research questions about how female student-athletes balance muscularity and femininity, we conducted a mixed-methods study to examine muscularity beliefs among female student-athletes, female college students, and male college student-athletes. We quantitatively examined Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS) scores from 221 participants attending college in the Midwestern US. Results indicated that female student-athletes reported significantly higher DMS scores than female students, but male student-athletes reported the highest DMS scores in the sample. Qualitative results indicated that female student-athletes wanted to be muscular for these reasons: functionality (45%), health (42%), external gratification (21%), and internal gratification (18%). Only 16% of female student-athletes did not want to be muscular, whereas every male student-athlete reported a desire to be muscular. The results of this study can be used to better understand the unique drive for muscularity among athletes, particularly female college student-athletes who live the paradox of negotiating societal standards of femininity with this desire to be muscular. This enhanced understanding can help create more nuanced interventions for coaches, administrators, and mental health professionals to use to help female student-athletes create space to resist constraining societal gender ideologies. Doing so can help these student-athletes actualize their athletic potential on the field as well as their interpersonal and intrapersonal potential off the field.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 28, 2011
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