2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Christine Wegner

University of Florida
Preserving the hegemony: Performance and policing of gender conformity in online autosport fora

Motorsport has traditionally been comprised of heterosexual men, and a space where hegemonic gender norms are reinforced (Pflugfelder, 2009). Although women have participated since the sport’s inception, coverage of these drivers has maintained a condescending tone (Matthews & Pike, 2016). Female promotional models have participated since the 1960s (Saward, 2018), and Danica Patrick began a trend of leveraging feminine sexuality to promote sponsors’ businesses (Ross et al., 2009). Until this century, there were no openly queer drivers (Queers4Gears, 2013), although Mike Beuttler was effectively “out,” in the 1970s (Bailey, 2012). This study examined how norms of gender and sexuality continue to be reinforced in this space through discourse.
We analyzed comments on social media about “grid girls,” racers, and gay athletes. We also performed two online surveys. We conducted surveys to determine overall perception of gender and sexuality at races, and the second to gauge opinions regarding gay athletes’ “coming out” news announcements. 
We found both men and women police adherence to hegemonic gender norms in motorsport. Themes in this behavior include conforming to personal perceptions of behavioral ideals, minimizing or silencing dissenting opinions, and derailing the discussion. In this way, both positively and negatively perceived opinions reinforce hegemonic norms.