IN MALE- AND FEMALE-ORIENTED
Thomas R. Alley
Catherine M. Hicks
This study examined gender stereotypes in peer ratings of femininity and
masculinity for adolescent participants in three sports. Following a prelimi-
nary study of gender stereotyping of several sports, high school students rated
unfamiliar cohorts each of whom was described in a single paragraph as either
a male or female dedicated participant in one of three sports. A total of 12
different descriptive paragraphs were used in a 2 (race)
design. Each of these paragraphs, although short, ascribed a variety of traits
that could be seen by raters as the independent variables: name (initials only),
age, race, gender, hours of practice per week, number of competitions/perfor-
mances per year, sport, and self-confidence. For this reason, raters were highly
unlikely to surmise that sex and sport were the primary independent variables
in the study. As predicted, there was a consistent decrease in rated femininity
and increase in masculinity for both male and female adolescent targets as
they switched from participating in a "feminine" (ballet) to a neutral (tennis)
to a "masculine" (karate) sport. These results suggest that sex stereotypes for
certain sports may influence who elects to participate and how participants
are viewed by others.
Research has found remarkably consistent and stable gender stereo-
types within our society. In brief, to be feminine is to be "communal"
or expressive, while to be masculine is to be "agentic," instrumental,
and competitive (Cann, 1991; Spencer & Helmreich, 1978;
Best, 1982). Our society also has many stereotypes about participants
in sports, including gender stereotypes (see Kaplan, 1979). Despite
Sage, 1993, p. 347). Following what Sage and Loudermilk (1979, p.
89) call "one of the oldest and most persistent folk myths
achievement has been equated with a loss of femininity." Sports partic-
ipation is seen as a masculine activity; sports are a traditionally male
domain, male sporting events receive far more media coverage, and
participation in competitive sports violates females' traditional sex-
roles and movement patterns (Eitzen & Sage, 1993;
A preliminary report of this study was presented at the 6th Annual Meeting
of the American Psychological Society in Washington, DC.
Reprint requests should be addressed to T. R. Alley, Ph.D., Department of
Psychology, 418 Brackett Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-1355.
Vol. 40, No.
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