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Victorian Era Gender Roles And The Development Of Women’s Football In England

1270 words - 5 pages

The development of women’s football in Britain during the 19th century illustrates the transformation of gender roles in British culture in the context of Victorian era values and women’s football: “‘The Cultures of sport in Britain have been distinctively male, rooted in masculine values and patriarchal exclusiveness’” Through the introduction of female football into British society the system of Victorian values were challenged by expanding gender roles. The institution of women’s soccer in the late 19th and 20th century was supported by the wartime need to reorder gender roles during WWI, and it challenged traditional feminine ideology. Further a growing feminist movement in response to the economic, political and social changes which took place over the course of the Victorian period encouraged women’s organizations and expanding freedom from traditional gender roles. Women's football this way became a focal point for issues and debates in Victorian society regarding, feminine ideology, gender inequality, rigid class structure, and social devotion to the past.
The dominance of the upper-class elite in Victorian England ensured the propagation of traditional gender roles and hegemonic masculinity in British culture. In addition the middle-class established higher social standing, gained wealth and began to enjoy leisure activities that had previously only been reserved for the aristocracy. Consequently widening the gap between the working-class and instigating further class separation. Moreover the staunch gender roles in 20th century British culture are reflective of 19th century Victorian society. This is evidenced by the restrictive female sporting culture:
If a woman participates in a suitably non-contact feminine sport, such as netball or gymnastics, then this does not transgress accepted gender norms. If a woman participates in a defined masculine sport, such as rugby or football, then she is deemed as having, or seeking out, masculine attributes and as contravening her natural gender identity. Men’s normative heterosexual gender identities are confirmed by their involvement in sport. Women’s identity is challenged by sporting prowess.

The development of women’s football in Britain during the 19th century illustrates the transformation of gender roles in British culture in the context of Victorian era values and women’s football. Women’s participation in sports was confined largely fit the mold of traditional gender roles and compliment female femininity:
The Traditional role of women within physical culture was exemplified in the work of the educationalist, G. Stanley Hall, who stated in 1903 that ‘female emancipation was the freedom from masculine ideals rather than the freedom to share them.’ Women had a productive function in society and should dedicate themselves to the ideal of being the very best of what they were destined to be.

The gradual transformation of British sporting culture can be examined through the history of...

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