Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2015


Social Justice and Community Engagement


Due to dominant gender ideology, the body has become a site for personal and political power struggles and many everyday practices maintain the current power dynamics and the dominant ideology regarding gender hierarchy. These occurrences help to sustain an ideology that positions men and women in opposition, with the male role representing superiority and strength, and the female role representing inferiority and weakness. It is of interest to discover whether participation in certain sports can influence a larger ideological shift by empowering girls to reclaim control over their own bodies and view them as shining examples of their own competence and capabilities. This paper utilizes the analytic autoethnography method in order to explore how the researcher’s experiences playing softball illuminate hidden social intricacies that increase the sport’s empowering potential. Despite the social and physical privilege associated with researcher’s subjective perspective, the results contained themes relating to fear, frustration, power, control, and a supportive environment, all of which are variables impacting the likelihood of a positive and empowering experience. Empowering benefits were attributed to controlled and powerful use of the body, a strong support structure both on field and in the stands, and a safe atmosphere within which to practice gender fluidity and defy gender normative roles. So, while the results are not generalizable to all female athletic experiences, they can still be used to structure a safer, more empowering place within sport. This work shows that there is a process to personal empowerment and that some variables foster and maintain the feeling of empowerment, while others dissolve it. By understanding these intricacies, those seeking to utilize sport as a tool for social justice may increase the likelihood that participants will have a positive experience.