Dissertation Abstracts

A critical analysis of the development, outcomes and definition of the Women and Sport Movement (W&SM)

Author: Matthews, Jordan J.K., jordan.matthews@chi.ac.uk
Department: Sport Development and Management
University: University of Southampton (Chichester), United Kingdom
Supervisor: Dr Elizabeth C.J. Pike; Dr Sarah Gilroy; Dr Andrea Scott-Bell
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Areas of Research: Sport , Women in Society , Social Classes and Social Movements


It is widely recognised that women encounter barriers to participation and involvement in sport. How these issues have gained recognition and become legitimised within dominant sporting and non-sporting rhetoric is less well understood. The lobbying and activism of women and sport organisations has been relatively overlooked in favour of making sense of the growing awareness of how the structure and practice of sport subordinates women. Based on an interpretive thematic analysis of documents from the Anita White Foundation International Women and Sport Movement Archive and 21 semi-structured interviews with 24 key personnel from women and sport organisations, this thesis uses social movement literature to focus on the processes involved with mobilising and politicising women’s activism in sport, predominantly the period 1949 to 1997.

Over time, uncoordinated groups of disparate women became a collective and formalised into national, regional, and international organisations. The mobilisation of a variety of resources by these groups has helped to affect positive change for women and sport through the publication of major governmental and non-governmental discourse, for example. However, the most substantial work to have focused on this activism also provides a strong critique with regard to whether the white, Western women who have directed global advances for women and sport represented difference through their dialogue (Hargreaves, 2000). This thesis challenges this critique by using social movement literature and postcolonial feminist theory to provide reasons both for why the movement has predominantly grown in Western contexts, and, why it has struggled to connect with some non-Western areas.

The thesis provides the ‘Women and Sport Movement (W&SM)’ as a term to encompass women and sport activism, and includes an analysis of the origins, development, and relations between different women and sport organisations nationally and internationally, the outcomes and impact of their activism, and possibilities for future directions.