Play Like a Girl: Examining the Stigma of Women’s Health and Menstruation in Sports

Name: Rachel Marie Osterhouse
Major: Sociology
Minor: Political Science
Advisors: Thomas Tierney, Setsuko Matsuzawa

This research paper examines the stigma surrounding women’s health and the menstrual cycle in sports. My study begins by tracing women’s sports history through literature in order to track where the stigma may have started. It then focuses on studies of women’s sports teams and athletes to assess how the stigma manifests itself in the present day. Furthermore, the study draws from Erving Goffman’s theories of stigma and presentation of the self, as well as Dorothy Smith’s feminist standpoint theory. Finally, using a mixed methods approach of interviews and surveys, I collected my own data from female athletes at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. My results indicate that the comfortability levels of female athletes when talking about injuries and menstruation is determined by a number of factors, although there were commonalities in how respondents handled discomfort and self-preservation. Common themes included confiding in teammates, seeking alternative care, playing through injuries, and altering exercise routines. These themes coincide with those found in the literature, and can be traced back to Goffman and Smith’s perspectives.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

3 responses to “Play Like a Girl: Examining the Stigma of Women’s Health and Menstruation in Sports”

  1. Kent Kille says:

    Great to see how far you have come since FYS, congratulations Rachel!

  2. Carina Arnosti says:

    Congrats Rachel! It’s very interesting to see the difference in comfort levels between talking to coaches about injuries vs. periods when they are both part of our bodily functions. What do you think are ways that the stigma with coaches could be reduced?

  3. Brian Luck says:

    Congrats on a fascinating IS, Rachel!

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