Finding Safe and Affirming Spaces in Women’s Field Hockey

By Chelsea Litchfield.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Historically, many women’s team sports have been stigmatised with a lesbian label. Among the responses to this discrimination has been the creation of the Gay Games, Out Games and gay and lesbian sports clubs as safe and affirming spaces for gay and lesbian sportspeople. However, an analysis of a mix of lesbian and heterosexual women hockey players in Melbourne found that women’s experiences of ‘mainstream’ sport can also be positive. While many of the participants in this study encountered difficulties and challenges playing a women’s team sport, most women overcame these difficulties by feeling a sense of empowerment in an environment that was socially affirming. Many of the participants talk about or allude to the notion of a ‘safe space’ within their club’s culture and environment. Similar research and other case studies reveal that the association of lesbianism with women’s team sports can have what could be termed an ‘upside’, especially where there is the provision of safe spaces for women to explore and affirm diverse and non-conventional discourses of gender and sexuality. This paper will draw on interview and sociological material in order to explore the nature of inclusiveness in the culture of women’s team sports in regards to diversities in sexualities.

Keywords: Lesbian Label, Women’s Sport, Safe Space, Club Culture

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.35-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 764.961KB).

Dr. Chelsea Litchfield

Lecturer, School of Human Movement Studies, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Chelsea Litchfield is a lecturer with the School of Human Movement Studies at Charles Sturt University. Chelsea teaches in the areas of sport sociology and sport ethics. Chelsea holds a Bachelor of Applied Science – Physical Education (Honours), and is near completion of a doctoral degree at Victoria University exploring the culture of and finding safe and affirming spaces in women’s team sports in Melbourne.