Sport plays an important part in the lives and lifestyles of many Australians, but the lion's share of attention and funding goes to male sports and sportsmen for a number of reasons which together combine to construct sporting norms and values as masculine. As a result sport becomes implicitly, male sport. Historical analysis of the processes and practices by which sporting activities and spaces have been gendered has the potential to inform quality of life research. The positive relationships between physical activity and enhanced quality of life in late twentieth century Australia are well-known and widely accepted by scholars, professionals and the general public.
Physical activity, including organised sport, contributes to quality of life in several important ways, notably better health, increased self-esteem and improved opportunities for social networking. But since it is a key institution for males to 'do gender', sport is commonly constructed as a masculine sphere. As a consequence the benefits of sporting activities do not accrue in gender-neutral ways. Women's sports tend to be marginalised, sexualised and trivialised, all of which adversely affect potential quality of life issues for females.
Because the human world is one of meanings, historical studies of sporting activities range between two methodological positions: explanation and interpretation. Each is based on a different model of knowledge, the first more commonly found in the natural sciences and social sciences, whereas the second is often used in the human sciences. Although the two are conceptually and epistemologically separate, a combination of both quantitative and qualitative techniques most usefully informs any study of the historical development of gender construction in and through sport. The transdisciplinary nature of the proposed Centre offers exciting possibilities for research in this highly topical area.
Email Dr. Marnie Haig-Muir