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

Deana Simonetto

Wilfride Laurier University
The Public Football Wife: The Performance and Embodiment of Emphasized Femininity in Pro Football

Women married to professional athletes play a public and symbolic role where others will look to these women for cues about their husband. It is not uncommon these days for television cameras to focus in on these women at games, or for them to be asked to volunteer their time for charity. This article describes the experiences that women married to football players from the Canadian Football League (CFL) having a public identity. Drawing on ethnographic research methods (interviews, observations, and media data) and Connell’s (1987; 1995) and Connell and Messerschmidt’s (2005) work on hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity, I explain how women's bodies and gender behaviour are regulated in the context of the relationships of their husbands. In defining the public role of these women, I use the concept emphasized femininity to describe (1) how these women are expected to embody and perform the football wife identity in public, (2) how these expectations are regulated (usually informally) and (3) the consequences for women who deviate from these expectations.  I conclude with a discussion on how this type of informal regulation upholds hegemonic masculinity, contributing to the ideal image of heterosexuality and patriarchy in athletes’ families which reinforces gender hierarchies in sports.