Gaining a foothold in football: A genealogical analysis of the emergence of the female footballer in New zealand

Barbara Cox, Richard Pringle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we adopted Foucault's genealogical approach to examine the emergence of the female footballer in the early 1970s. Results from in-depth interviews and document analyses indicated that these female footballers were discursively constructed as submissive, heterosexual, non-feminists, who were supportive of male football and entertainment. We relatedly argue, in a seemingly paradoxical manner, that female footballers emerged into the male domain because they were disciplined by discourses of normalized femininity and, as such, were understood as bodies not worthy of serious consideration. The power effect of this positioning was that female football was not perceived as a threat to the existing gender order and, accordingly, there was no need to invest political concern or future money to their existence. This miscalculation, or accident of history, provided a window of opportunity that allowed the neophyte players to taste the pleasures of 'running with the ball at their feet' and to develop a love of the game. We concluded that the pleasure that these women gained from their involvement in football, plus the prevailing discourses of liberal feminism, acted as productive forces that enabled them to endure and eventually challenge gender inequities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-234
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Foucauldian genealogy
  • social transformation
  • socio-history
  • women's football

Cite this