A couple of weekends ago, I presented data from my senior honors thesis research at the Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  My research is looking at the conflict (and whether or not it exists) between being a girl and being an athlete.  To answer my research questions, I observed two different girls’ athletic teams, one softball and one basketball for the duration of their season.   I attended games, practices, tournaments, team dinners, and sleepovers to study how teenage girls perform gender.   As it turns out, many of the girls I observed did find a lot of differences between being “girly” and being “athletic.”  But, this didn’t mean they couldn’t be both.  Sometimes they were both at the same time and sometimes, they used one identity at a time.
It was such an honor to have my research be seriously considered by established sociologists and interested individuals.  One attendee of the panel raised a point about implicitly gendered uniform options for girls’ sports.  She mentioned that as a volleyball player in high school, her tight spandex shorts and matching top hardly allowed  her and her teammates to forget about being a girl on the court and just play volleyball.  It was as if she and her team were being labeled as girls automatically. Other participants at the conference asked about whether or not I found that girls  “apologize” for playing sports by emphasizing their femininity off the field.  Considering how female athletes become gendered, whether by others’ treatment or their own behavior, are important questions to consider.   My research suggests that girls aren’t apologizing for playing sports.  They are proud of what they do and it gives them an opportunity to work hard on something they enjoy, make new friends, exercise and stop worrying so much about boys.  Even though girls participate in youth sports nearly as much as boys, due to increased opportunity as a result of Title IX, equality has yet to be achieved.  Many of the girls I studied were upset that their male counterparts got so many more fans at their games and referees wouldn’t let them be as physical on the court.  Female athletes just wanted to be taken seriously, whether they are girly or not.  Just like the SWSG motto, you can be strong and wear pink at the same time!