Dissertation Abstracts

The production of women onlyness: Women's flat track roller derby and women-only home improvement workshops

Author: Donnelly, Michele K, donnelmk@gmail.com
Department: Department of Sociology
University: McMaster University, Canada
Supervisor: Michael Atkinson, PhD
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: gender , women onlyness , qualitative methods , leisure
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Leisure , Sport


This dissertation is based on four years of ethnographic research of contemporary women-only social formations. Two women-only leisure activities, women’s flat track roller derby and women-only home improvement workshops, were selected as sites through which to explore the research problem: problematizing contemporary women onlyness. The research problem is developed in direct contrast to the dominant (naturalized, essentialized, assumed) approach to women onlyness in the literature. Specifically, taking a fresh look at women-only social formations by problematizing women onlyness, through exploring women’s experiences of and meaning making about women onlyness, calls critical attention to women onlyness. The analysis, informed by a conceptual framework that draws on Connell’s concept of ‘gender regime’ and a CCCS- inspired approach to cultural production, reveals the ways that women participants are active in the production of women onlyness gender regimes. Specifically, women’s flat track roller derby skaters and women-only home improvement workshop participants consistently and constantly negotiate essentialized stereotypes of gender as they “win space” for themselves in traditionally male-dominated and masculine defined activities and settings, and make meaning of their involvement in these women-only leisure activities. Women participants produce women onlyness gender regimes in the ways they make time and space for and gender mark these activities, and in social interactions with each other, men, and other women. They work to produce women onlyness gender regimes that are experienced as welcoming, supportive, and comfortable, and encourage women to develop expertise and relationships with other participants. Emphasizing these processes of production reveals that these women onlyness gender regimes are not the natural result of a women-only group or the exclusion of men. These findings contradict the tendency in the existing literature to naturalize women onlyness, and contribute to our understanding of contemporary women-only social formations.