Position and Perspective in Ultimate

While researching Ultimate Frisbee, I noticed that there was a common trend in the discussion of masculinity, femininity, and body physique. I noticed that scholars observed and noted differences in the perspectives of different people in relation to their position in this culture – whether they were women Ultimate players, men Ultimate players, or spectators of the sport. Therefore I would like to frame my project around this subject.

My question: how does one’s position within the culture of Ultimate relate to their perspectives on gender and the construction of the body in college Ultimate Frisbee?

The first source I am presenting is a Master’s Thesis that was presented to the University of Florida by Joanna Winn Nevelle. Her entire thesis is about the practice of gendered identities in college women’s Ultimate. She examines the gendered practices of women players in their attire, language, and physicality. She also examines the space in which these women create for themselves. She conceptualizes gender as a social institution and analyzes the specific practices of gender in Ultimate Frisbee while also noting that there are other important structural components to gender. Her research is primarily surrounding the perspectives of women playing college Ultimate, while also noting outside forces and ideologies surrounding women’s bodies and feminine practices. It is to be noted that she was in fact a college women’s Ultimate player herself. She finds that outside of Ultimate, there are hegemonic “standards” for feminine and athletic bodies that are appropriated and deemed “acceptable” to the culture of the sport (32). She suggests that women Ultimate players “incorporate their own ideas of the ‘feminine’ body and physicality into ideas of what their ‘athletic’ body should look like” because she suggests that women’s Ultimate “expand[s] traditional notions of ‘femininity’… despite stereotypes [and] still see their bodies as feminine bodies” (32-33). Her analysis highlights the perspective of women Ultimate players as well as the analysis of what the ideals that outsiders of the sport project on these women.

My second source is a chapter of a book, Understanding Lifestyle Sports: Consumption Identity and Difference, that is written by Andrew Thornton. He analyzes Ultimate players’ struggles over their embodiment and identity. He suggests that Ultimate for women can “generally mean a transgression of dominant feminine identities” while also noting that today “athletic lean and even muscular female bodies have come to be seen as socially acceptable, even desireable, while not necessarily destablishing hegemonic notions of femininity” (180, 182). He suggests that what is generally seen as “correct” and normal gender of Ultimate embodiment is masculine by discussing the aggressiveness and competitiveness of the “layout.” These traits are masculine traits and if a woman were to layout it is seen to masculinize her. His analysis comes from the point of view of outsiders of the sport and hegemonic constructed gender notions in society.

My third source is from the International Review for Sociology of Sport and is written by Hamish Crocket. Crocket examines the performances of elite male Ultimate players and analyzes the performance of multiple masculinities of these men Ultimate players. His observes a men’s Ultimate team for a year and discusses the discursive construction of masculinity in this sport by the denigration of women Ultimate players. The men he analyzed repeatedly used terms to refer to bad playing as feminine traits and traits that women Ultimate players possess. He suggested that these men believed that “being male was seen as a prerequisite for [good Ultimate] skills” (324). These men’s discursive framing “(re)constructed skilled play as a masculine performance and unskilled play as a feminine performance (324). The phrases and discourse that these men players used denigrated women’s Ultimate, thus showing the general perspectives of men Ultimate players about women Ultimate players.

Works Cited:
Crocket, H. “‘This Is Men’s Ultimate’: (Re)creating Multiple Masculinities in
Elite Open Ultimate Frisbee.” International Review for the Sociology of
Sport 48.3 (2013): 318-33. Print.

Neville, Joanna W. OUT OF BOUNDS: COLLEGE WOMEN’S ULTIMATE FRISBEE AND THE PRACTICE OF GENDERED IDENTITIES. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.

Thornton, Andrew. 2004. “‘Anyone Can Play This Game’: Ultimate Frisbee,
Identity and Difference.” Pp. 175-196 in Understanding Lifestyle Sports:
Consumption Identity and Difference, edited by Belinda Wheaton. London:
Routledge.

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One Response to Position and Perspective in Ultimate

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Great question! Your sources provide a nice map of current perspectives and scholarly work on ultimate and gender politics. I find it interesting how they ascribe femininity in very different ways depending on their position. This should be a great base from which to bring your own analysis, evidence, and experience in ultimate for a final paper.

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