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C 2005)

Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 9/10, May 2005 (


DOI: 10.1007/s11199-005-3730-x

Adolescents Perceptions of Masculine and Feminine


Values in Sport and Physical Education: A Study
of Gender Differences
Anne Torhild Klomsten,1,4 Herb W. Marsh,2 and Einar M. Skaalvik3

In present study we investigated possible gender differences in how 357 secondary-school


students valued the importance of masculine and feminine characteristics within sport and
physical education and how their ratings of values were related to their participation in gendered sport. The results indicated that boys rated appearance strength, sports competence,
endurance strength, and masculinity as significantly more important than did girls. Girls rated
appearance good looking face, appearance slender, and femininity as significantly more important than did boys. Further, more boys participated in traditionally masculine sports,
whereas girls to a greater extent participated in traditionally feminine sports. A discriminant function analysis separated the masculine sport group from the feminine sport group,
which suggests that higher scores on the masculine function were indicative of lower value on
appearance slender and flexibility, accompanied by higher value on appearance strength and
masculinity. For the feminine sport group, this pattern was the opposite.
KEY WORDS: adolescence; gender; masculine and feminine values; sports.

Womens sport has made great progress in recent decades. We observe, for example, that women
are increasingly being admitted to types of sports
that have traditionally been perceived as masculine
sports (Pfister, 2000). Thus the argument that sports
and physical activity in general have been considered a male domain (Matteo, 1986; Messner, 1988,
1990; Pedersen & Kono, 1990; Snyder & Spreitzer,
1983) and that the participation of women in sports as
. . . a woman in mans territory (Birrell, 1983, p. 49)
might seem to be rather outdated today. However,
a closer look at sport and physical activities reveals
several gender differences regarding participation,
physical self-concept, and values.

Across many countries in the Western world


(e.g., Norway, Spain, Germany, Great Britain, USA,
France) several studies have suggested that girls and
women are less likely to participate in physical activities and sport than boys and men are (e.g., Eccles &
Harold, 1991; Fredricks & Eccles, 2002; HartmannTews & Pfister, 2003; Pfister, 1993). In cases where
there are as many girls and boys participating in
sport, boys seem to exercise more often than girls
(Hartmann-Tews & Pfister, 2003). This does not necessarily mean that girls are less likely to do regularly physical activity in their leisure time. Many girls,
for example, take dance lessons, or do cheerleading,
yoga, or aerobics. However, many of these activities
are not affiliated members of a sport federation; thus
these girls are neither considered by sport organizations nor by researchers as active in sport.
Although, on a general basis, the gender gap
in sport participation seems to be decreasing, there
is evidence that boys and girls still seem to participate in different sport activities (Eccles & Harold,
1991; Fasting, 2003; Pfister, 1993). Despite cultural

1 Norwegian

University of Science and Technology, Norway.


of Western Sydney, Australia.
3 Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
4 To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department
of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway; e-mail: annetk@svt.ntnu.no
2 University

625

C 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.


0360-0025/05/0500-0625/0 

626
differences, more boys than girls participate in sports
such as boxing, ice hockey, martial arts, bandy, and
football, whereas more girls participate in sports
such as ballet, dance, horse riding, figure skating,
and aerobics (Fasting, 2003; Klomsten, Skaalvik, &
Espnes, 2004). These sports may, based on their characteristics, be defined as masculine and feminine,
respectively.
Certain characteristics and activities in the
sport domain have traditionally been assigned to
boys and others to girls; in essence some sports
have been defined as either having masculine or
feminine characteristics and activities. We regard
these distinctions between masculine and feminine
characteristics and activities in sport to be socialconstructions based upon how people think boys
and girls differ, and not upon how they actually
differ. More specifically, these gender differences
are the result of generally held images or stereotypes
of boys and girls (Connell, 1987; Eccles & Harold,
1991; Eccles, Jacobs, & Harold, 1990; Gill, 2002;
Hargreaves, 1994; Koivula, 1995; Pfister, 1993).
Sports regarded as masculine often consist of
one or more of the following characteristics: danger,
risk, violence, speed, strength, endurance, challenge,
and team spirit (Koivula, 2001). In addition courage
and aggression are traits associated exclusively with
masculine sport (Metheny, 1965). Examples of sports
traditionally classified as typically masculine are:
bandy, baseball, bobsled, boxing, martial arts, football, handball, soccer, ice hockey, motor sport, rugby,
weight lifting, and wrestling.
Feminine sports, on the other hand, are found to
score high on aesthetic features such as gracefulness
(Metheny, 1965), and sports such as aerobics, dance,
figure skating, gymnastics, tennis, riding, and synchronized swimming are regarded as feminine sports
(Klomsten et al., 2004; Koivula, 1995; Matteo, 1986;
Metheny, 1965; Pfister, 1993). In addition, ballet,
which is an art form, is also considered a feminine activity. Being graceful, non-aggressive, and conforming to the stereotyped expectations of femininity,
such as beauty, seem to be traits that have survived
over the years and are still closely tied to womens
sport. The component of beauty as an element of the
sport seems to be an important aspect of the perceived femininity of a sport. This is probably because
it is an important aspect in the general concept of
femininity. The female body continues to be identified as an object; girls and women are also socialized
to use their bodies to please others and to compare
their appearance to that of the dominant feminine

Klomsten, Marsh, and Skaalvik


ideal. Sports that seek to provide beauty and visual
pleasure are thereby not only acceptable for girls but
well in line with stereotyped expectations of femininity (Duncan, 1994; Metheny, 1965; Young, 1995).
Metheny (1965) was one of the first scholars to
identify gender stereotypes in sport. In her classic
analysis of sporting activities she also emphasized
that the aesthetic qualities often recognized in
womens sport are frequently individual activities in
contrast to direct competition and team sports. Although Metheny offered her analysis almost 40 years
ago, gender stereotypes have remained strong. For
example, Kane and Snyder (1989) 24 years later
confirmed the gender stereotyping in sports suggested by Metheny. Other researchers, for example
Matteo (1986, 1988), Ostrow (1981), Ostrow, Jones,
and Spiker (1981) and Csizma, Wittig, and Schurr
(1988), have also confirmed that sports are indeed
gender-typed (most often as masculine).
Many studies have demonstrated that girls score
lower than their male counterparts on physical selfconcept (Crain, 1996; Hattie, 1992; Hayes, Crocker,
& Kowalski, 1999; Klomsten et al., 2004; Marsh,
1989). Klomsten et al. demonstrated in a recent
study that not only did girls score lower on general
physical self-concept than boys did, they also scored
significantly lower than boys on 8 of 9 sub-domains
of physical self-concept: appearance, body fat, sports
competence, physical activity, endurance, strength,
coordination, and health. No gender difference was
found on the flexibility dimension.
Research from sport science has shown that boys
believe that doing well in sports is much more important than do girls (Eccles & Harold, 1991; Eccles,
Wigfield, Harold, & Blumenfeld, 1993; Fredricks
& Eccles, 2002; Jacobs, Lanza, Osgood, Eccles, &
Wigfield, 2002; Wigfield & Eccles, 1994; Wigfield
et al., 1997), and both boys and girls think that it is
more important for boys than for girls to have abilities in sports (Eccles et al., 1993; Eccles & Harold,
1991; Eccles, Midgley, & Adler, 1984). The features
of these studies, however, have been general in
nature. For example Eccles and Harold (1991) asked
adolescents how important is it to you to be good at
sports? It might be fruitful to look at feminine and
masculine values in sport more specifically. From
previous research we know that sport is thought to
be a male domain, but we also know that the number
of girls participating in sport has been increasing.
It might well be that boys and girls rate various
values within sport differently; for example it could
be reasonable to believe that strength and visible

Masculine and Feminine Values in Sport and Physical Education


muscles are more important to boys, whereas girls
are more concerned about being slender and thin.
Previous research has shown gender differences
in general sport values that favor boys (i.e., boys
value being good in sport as more important than
girls). Few researchers, however, have investigated
gender differences in sport values more specifically,
for example masculine and feminine sport values.
Thus, the first aim of the present study was to examine boys and girls perceptions of feminine and masculine characteristics within sport and physical education. The second aim of the present study was to
examine whether ratings of the importance of feminine and masculine values were related to their participation in gendered sport.

METHOD
Participants
Data were collected from 357 secondary school
students, 190 girls (Mean age = 14.34; SD = .71) and
167 boys (Mean age = 14.50; SD = .74). The participants were students in eight to tenth grade in four
different public schools in Trondheim, Norway. All
of the students participated in the organized physical
education (PE) during school time, and 277 (130 =
77.8% of boys; 147 = 77.4% of girls) of the students
participated some sort of organized sport in their
leisure time. Boys and girls participated in different
kinds of sports and also in a variety of combinations
of sports. Some sports were more common among
boys (i.e., soccer, ice-hockey, boxing, martial arts),
whereas other sports were more common among girls
(i.e., dance, handball, gymnastics, horse riding, and
aerobics).

Procedure
Students from four secondary schools participated in the study. After the schools granted permission to perform the study, information letters were
sent to parents by way of the class teachers. The letters briefly explained the purpose of the study. Only
those students who agreed to participate in the study
completed questionnaires. The questionnaires were
filled out during class hours, and information about
the study and questionnaire was read aloud before
we handed out the questionnaires. Participants were
informed that they were to answer the questionnaires

627

anonymously, and they were assured that their answers would be kept confidential. Students were informed that the questionnaire was not a test, that
there were no right and wrong answers, and that
they could stop participation in the study at any time.
They were asked not to talk with anyone during the
questionnaire session, except to ask for help from
the researcher if something in the questionnaire was
unclear. Because of differences in reading and writing skills, participants were allowed to complete the
questionnaire at their own pace, and usually they finished within 3540 min.

Measure
To measure the importance of feminine and
masculine characteristics in sport and physical education, a questionnaire titled Gender Values Scale
(GVS) was developed for the purpose of the present
study. Earlier instruments such as the well known
Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem, 1974) were
found to be too general in nature for our purpose.
The GVS is based upon questions from the Physical
Self-Description Questionnaire (PSDQ) (Marsh &
Redmayne, 1994; Marsh, Richards, Johnson, Roche,
& Tremayne, 1994), which has shown good reliability and validity (Marsh, 1996a,b, 1997; Marsh et al.,
1994). Characteristics investigated in the present
study were: Appearance good looking body (e.g., to
have a great body, to have a nice body); Appearance good looking face (e.g., to be good looking, to
have a nice face); Appearance slender (e.g., to have
a slender body, to have a thin body); Appearance
strength (e.g., to have a powerful body with welldefined muscles, to have big muscles); Strength (e.g.,
to be good at lifting heavy objects, to do well in a
test of strength); Endurance (e.g., to be able to run
a long way without stopping, to be able to run a
long way without getting tired); Flexibility (e.g., to
have a flexible body, to be good at bending, twisting, and turning the body); Sports Competence (e.g.,
to be good at sports, to do well at sports competitions); Masculine traits in general (e.g., to be competition oriented, to be tough/hard); and Feminine
traits in general (e.g., to be caring, to be good with
children). Based on previous research (Eccles, 1987;
Koivula, 1995; Metheny, 1965) the following characteristics were regarded as masculine: Appearance
strength, Endurance, Strength, Sports Competence,
and Masculinity. Appearance good looking face, Appearance slender, Appearance good looking body,

628
Flexibility, and Femininity were regarded as feminine characteristics.
All scales contained three items. Each item was
a simple declarative statement (e.g., How important
is it for you that you: have big muscles, are strong,
have a slender body), and participants responded using a 5-point scale (not important at all to me to
very important to me). The initial step in developing the questionnaire was a pilot study in which
20 students responded to different trait questions.
They were also interviewed about the wording in the
questions and how they interpreted the meaning of
the words in the questions.
The questionnaire also contained six openended questions. The participants were asked to give
(i.e., to write in own words) their opinion about: an
ideal female and male body (What do you think an
ideal male body is like?, What do you think an ideal
female body is like?), whether any sports are more
appropriate for boys than for girls (Do you think any
sports suit boys better than girls? And why is that?),
and whether any sports are more appropriate for girls
than boys (Do you think any sports suit girls better than boys? And why is that?). These written responses were longer and more detailed than those
in the scales, and allowed a better understanding of
the sports world as seen by the respondents. The responses were coded and rearranged into categories.
Participation in sport activities were measured
by the main sport and based upon how much time
each week students spend participating in the actual
activity.

Preliminary Psychometric Support for the Instrument


Based on responses of 357 students the questionnaire demonstrated a good internal consistency
(coefficient alpha) on all dimensions except for the
femininity dimension. The internal consistency coefficients for the 10 factors were: Appearance good
looking face = 91; Appearance good looking body =
.86; Endurance = .88; Flexibility = .71; Sports competence = .79; Appearance strength = .89; Appearance slender = .86; Strength = .86; Femininity = .60;
and Masculinity = 74. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to test the factor structure in the questionnaire using LISREL, version 8.54

(Joreskog
& Sorbom,
1993, 1999). Following the recommendations of Hu and Bentler (1995), several fit
indices were used to test the factor structure: the
chi-square (2 ) statistic, degrees of freedom (df),

Klomsten, Marsh, and Skaalvik


Root Mean Square of Error Approximation (RMSEA), the TuckerLewis index (TLI), and the relative noncentrality index (RNI). For RMSEAs, values less than .05 and .08 were taken to reflect a
close fit and a reasonable fit, respectively (Browne
& Cudeck, 1993). The TLI and RNI vary along a
01 continuum in which values greater than .90 and
.95 are typically taken to reflect acceptable and excellent fits to the data (Bentler, 1992; Bentler &
Bonett, 1980). The results showed a reasonable fit,
with RMSEA = 0.071, df = 360, 2 = 1126.05, TLI =
0.95, and RFI = 0.96. The TLI and RFI indexes further support our assumption that the data fitted the
model.

RESULTS
The first aim in the present study was to examine how the adolescent boys and girls valued
the importance of the following characteristics: Appearance good looking face; Appearance good looking body; Appearance strength; Appearance slender;
Strength; Endurance; Sports competence; Flexibility;
Masculinity; Femininity. All variables were found to
be approximately normally distributed and within 1
in both kurtosis and skewness. Means and standard
deviations for each characteristic as well as results
of the t-tests are reported in Table I. Gender differences were evident in 8 of the 10 characteristics. Boys
had significantly higher means than girls did in Appearance strength, Sports competence, Endurance,
Strength, and Masculinity, whereas means for girls
were significantly higher than those of boys in Appearance good looking face, Appearance slender,
and Femininity.
The boys and girls did not only differ in how they
valued feminine and masculine characteristics, but
also in their involvement in sport activities. Table II
reveals that more boys than girls participated in masculine sports such as soccer, ice hockey, boxing, martial arts, and motor cross, whereas girls to a greater
extent participated in feminine sports such as dance,
gymnastics, horse riding, figure skating and aerobics. The classification of different sports as masculine, feminine or neutral was based upon previous research (Koivula, 1995; Matteo, 1986; Metheny,
1965).
One way to categorize sports as masculine, feminine, or neutral is by traits or characteristics, as
suggested by previous researchers (Koivula, 1995;
Matteo, 1986; Metheny, 1965), but another method

Masculine and Feminine Values in Sport and Physical Education

629

Table I. Differences Between Girls and Boys Scores on the Importance of the Investigated
Characteristics
Girls (n = 190)

Appearance (good looking face)


Appearance (good looking body)
Appearance (slender)
Appearance (strength)
Sports competence
Endurance
Strength
Flexibility
Femininity (general)
Masculinity (general)

Boys (n = 167)

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

11.09
10.46
10.38
5.79
10.18
9.31
8.31
9.75
11.04
8.78

2.89
2.71
3.09
2.25
2.79
2.82
2.36
2.46
1.87
1.87

10.27
10.25
9.01
9.84
11.24
10.92
10.81
9.74
10.36
10.28

2.75
2.86
2.85
3.02
2.77
2.89
2.68
2.54
2.43
2.54

t
2.73
0.74
4.32
14.22
3.60
5.34
9.38
0.04
2.97
5.71

Note. Boys are scored one whereas girls are scored two.
p < .001.

Table II. Main Sports among Gender in Study Sample and National Sample
Participants in different sports
in the present studya
Sport sorted by category
Masculine
Soccer
Ice hockey
Boxing
Motor cross
Martial Artsc
Handballd
Feminine
Dance
Gymnastics
Horse riding
Figure skatinge
Aerobicsf
Neutral
Tennis
Swimming
Skiing
Athletics
Bike riding
Basketball
Archery
Golf
Total
a This

Participants in different sports,


nationally (Norway)b

Boys

Girls

Men

Women

81
8
4
1
13
0

40
0
0
0
2
20

265,538
10,325
3,675
16,076
19,927
30,421

85,680
881
1,237
2,724
8,430
64,637

1
0
0
0
0

42
5
16
2
8

7,685
16,101
4,137
4,861

24,811
56,130
21,929
4,177

3
3
6
4
2
3
0
1
130

4
2
5
0
0
0
1
0
147

13,587
18,583
75,174
30,056
10,985
8,269
2,883
79,651
617,934

8,021
20,004
45,896
21,852
2,362
3,910
886
29,731
403,298

analysis is based upon the students who participated in organized sport in the present study.
collected from Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sports
(NOCCS), December 31, 2002.
c Martial arts is a collective term for sports such as karate, judo, akaido, etc.
d In Norway, handball is considered to be a typical womens sport, based upon participation numbers from NOCCS.
e Figure skating and speed skating are affiliated with the same federation, thus there are no separate
statistic for the figure skating only.
fAerobics is not affiliated with a federation.
bMemberships

630
is to classify sport based upon the number of male
and female participants. The national participation
numbers from a number of sports in Norway (see
Table II) clearly differentiate between sports that
are dominated by men and women respectively. Men
dominate in most sports. More men than women
play soccer, ice hockey, tennis, basketball, and golf.
Men are also involved in boxing, motor cross, martial arts, skiing, skating, athletics, bike riding, and
archery to a greater extent than women are. Women,
alternatively, dominate in handball, dance, gymnastics, horse riding, and swimming. Participation numbers in the present study supported the same pattern,
even though there were few participants in some of
those sports.
To categorize sport as masculine, feminine, or
neutral, a ratio was calculated for the gendered
sport variable (i.e., masculine, feminine, and neutral sport variable), in both the national sample as
well as in the present study sample. The ratio for
each sport was calculated by the use of the following formula: male participants/(male participants +
female participants). Using soccer as an example, the
ratio was computed as follows 265.538/(265.538 +
85.680) = 0.76. The ratio varied along a 01 continuum in which lower values (0.0 <0.4) indicate feminine sports, a value of 0.5 indicates neutral sports,
and higher values (>0.61.0) indicate masculine
sports.
Categorizing sports based upon participation
numbers from Norway, both national and in the current sample, suggested that most sports focused upon
in the present study were masculine. Quite a few
sports were feminine, and few were categorized as
neutral sports.
According to Eccles and her colleagues (Eccles
et al., 1983), activity choice is linked to the importance or the value individuals attach to the available options. If this theory (Eccles et al., 1983) can
be used to explain whether activity choice is linked
to the importance of feminine and masculine values,
then differences in the adolescents perceptions of
masculine and feminine values (see Table I) should
lead individuals to participate in feminine, masculine,
and neutral sport activities at different rates. The
results revealed that the majority of boys (80.8%)
were involved in masculine activities, and quite a few
(17.7%) participated in neutral activities, whereas
a very small percentage (1.5%) reported that their
main sport was feminine. Most girls (60.5%), on the
other hand, reported that their main sport was feminine, 11.6% participated in sports that were catego-

Klomsten, Marsh, and Skaalvik


Table III. Test of Equality of Group Means in Three Groups of
Gendered Sport
Variables

Wilks
Lambda

Appearance strength
Appearance slender
Strength
Masculinity
Appearance good looking face
Endurance
Appearance good looking body
Sports Competence
Flexibility
Feminity

.87
.91
.94
.93
.96
.97
.98
.98
.98
.99

20.41
12.99
9.37
9.82
5.61
4.25
2.08
2.97
2.76
.36

<.0001
<.0001
<.0001
<.0001
.004
.015
.127
.053
.65
.699

rized as neutral, and quite a few (27.9%) were involved in masculine activities.
However, a real test of the Eccles et al. (1983)
model requires a demonstration of the role these perceived values play in shaping the gender differences
in participation in gendered sport. Discriminant
function analysis and path analysis are two techniques that can be used to demonstrate such an
effect. A multiple discriminant function analysis was
performed using 10 variables as predictors for membership in three groups. Predictor variables included
perceived importance of Appearance good looking
face, Appearance good looking body, Appearance
slender, Appearance strength, Endurance, Strength,
Sports Competence, Flexibility, Femininity, and
Masculinity. Membership in the three groups was
based on participation in feminine, masculine, or
neutral sports. There were 277 cases in the analyses
(91 in the feminine sport group, 146 in the masculine
sport group, and 40 in the neutral sport group).
Prior to the discriminant function analysis a test of
equality of group means in three groups of gendered
sport was run. Table III show that the three groups
differentiated significantly in mean scores on the
following variables: Strength, Appearance strength,
Appearance slender, Endurance, Masculinity, and
Appearance good looking face (p < .05). Stepwise
analyses (Criterion-Probability of F to enter: 0.5)
was then used to ensure that only those variables
that contributed substantially to discrimination
entered the analysis. The analysis shows that 4 of
10 feminine/masculine characteristics were able to
discriminate significantly among the three sporting
groups. Two discriminant functions were calculated,
with a combined 2 (8) = 94.15, Eigenvalue = .37,
Canonical correlation = .52, df = 3, p < .0001. After
removal of the first function, there was still an association between groups and predictors, 2 (3) = 8.26,

Masculine and Feminine Values in Sport and Physical Education


Eigenvalue = .03, Canonical correlation = .17, df =
8, p = .04. Even though function 2 is significant at
.05 level, this function is regarded as weak, because
of a low 2 , very low Eigenvalue, and low canonical correlation. The two discriminant functions
accounted for 92.3% and 7.7% respectively, of the
between-group variability. The group centroids indicate that the first discriminant function maximally
separated the masculine sport group (.53) from the
feminine sport group (.81), whereas the neutral
sport group (.09) showed a score close to zero. For
this function a higher score is indicative of a lower
value on Appearance slender, and a lower value on
flexibility, accompanied by a higher value on Appearance strength, and a high value on Masculinity.
The second function mainly discriminated between
the masculine sport group (.09) and the feminine
sport group (.06), on the one hand, and the neutral
sport group (.42), on the other hand. For the second
function a higher score was indicative of a lower
score on Flexibility, accompanied by higher scores
on Appearance slender, Appearance strength, and
Masculinity. The standardized canonical discriminant function coefficients suggest that Appearance
strength (.63), Masculinity (.43), Appearance slender
(.45), and Flexibility (.23) were the most important predictors in function 1, whereas Appearance
slender (.80), Flexibility (.20), Appearance strength
(.31), and Masculinity (.31) were the most important
predictors in function 2. The classification procedure
revealed that 65.3% of the original grouped cases
were correctly classified.
The relations between gendered sport and four
latent variables (Appearance strength, Appearance
slender, Masculinity, and Flexibility) were then examined by the means of path analysis using Lisrel

(Joreskog
& Sorbom,
1993). The model is presented
in Fig. 1. Circles represent the feminine and masculine scales, the rectangle represents the measured
variable (a ratio was calculated for national sport
participation numbers; values from 0.0 <0.4 indicate feminine sports, value of 0.5 indicates neutral sports, and values from >0.61.0 indicate masculine sports). Figure 1 summarizes the path model
with non-significant paths deleted from the model.
Inspection of the standardized path coefficients (beta
weights) in Fig. 1 indicates that Appearance Slender
and Flexibility had a significant direct negative effect
on gendered sport, whereas Appearance strength
and Masculinity had a direct positive effect on
gendered sport. Together these characteristics accounted for 26% of the variance in gendered sport.

631

Fig. 1. Path analysis that illustrates that gendered sport is mediated by feminine and masculine characteristics, p < .01.

In addition to the quantitative scales, the openended questions revealed adolescents thoughts
about an ideal male body and an ideal female body,
as well as about gender appropriate sports. Students
could include as many characteristics about an ideal
male body and an ideal female body, as they liked.
Also, they could include as many gender appropriate sports as they liked. Characteristics are categorized with the most frequent feature mentioned first.
An ideal male body is described by adjectives such as
fit and strong, with well-defined muscles, especially
on the shoulders, upper arms, chest and belly (sixpack). Among girls, 66% (n = 126) included one or
more of these adjectives in their description of an
ideal male body, compared to 49% (n = 81) of the
boys. The majority of boys and girls emphasized that
an ideal female body was associated with the characteristics thin, slender but fit, nice boobs, tight
butt, sexy, and pretty face. Whereas 67% (n = 127)
of the girls included one or more of these characteristics in their description of an ideal female body, 79%
(n = 132) of the boys shared their point of view. Participants had certain opinions of what would be appropriate sports for girls and boys, respectively. More
girls (98%, n = 186) than boys (45%, n = 75) reported that some sports (e.g., dance, ballet, aerobic,
gymnastics, and handball) are more appropriate to
girls than to boys. The reasons for this were that the
girls . . . are graceful, . . . are flexible, . . . have
good rhythm, and they are . . . caring. Many students reported that there were typically boys sports
as well (e.g., soccer, boxing, ice hockey, motor cross,
football, and rugby). The reasons were that boys are
. . . tough, . . . big and strong, . . . boys like to

632
fight, . . . boys have muscles, . . . one could get
injured, and . . . it is nothing for weak females actually. More girls (55%, n = 105) had this point of
view than did boys (45%, n = 76).
DISCUSSION
In the present study girls were involved in sport
at the same rate as were boys, which is contrary to
previous findings. However, the national participation numbers were well in accordance with those of
earlier studies (Eccles & Harold, 1991; Fredricks &
Eccles, 2002; Hartmann-Tews & Pfister, 2003; Pfister,
1993). One explanation for the high percentage of
sporting girls in the present study was the large number of girls involved in dance activities. Most of the
girls who dance in Norway attend dance classes in
private dance studios, which are not affiliated with
the Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NOCCS), and thus they might not be
regarded by NOCCS as active dancers. However, in
the present study they are regarded as sporting individuals at the same level as those who participate in
other sporting activities.
In the present study boys and girls were involved in gendered sport at different rates, thus
previous findings (Eccles & Harold, 1991; Fasting,
2003; Klomsten et al., 2004; Pfister, 1993) were
supported. Girls in the student sample, and women
nationally, dominated in traditional feminine sports
such as dance, gymnastics, horse riding, and aerobics,
whereas boys dominated in traditional masculine
sports such as soccer, ice hockey, boxing, and motor
cross. Responses from the open-ended questions
showed that boys and especially girls do have traditional opinions about feminine and masculine sport
activities. The responses were well in accordance
with gender stereotyping, and indicated that both
boys and girls, not surprisingly, considered boys
tougher, more aggressive, and able to handle more
pain than girls. Girls were regarded as more graceful,
coordinated, flexible, and caring. It must be emphasized that more girls than boys seemed to perpetuate
stereotyped opinions about appropriate sports for
boys and girls. Images of men and women in the
media are documented to be quite different, and
they may provide an explanation as to why boys and
girls have stereotyped opinions. Male athletes are
generally presented in terms of strength and physical
abilities, whereas female athletes more often are
presented according to attractiveness and even to
their sexualized bodies (Messner, Duncan, & Jensen,

Klomsten, Marsh, and Skaalvik


1993; von der Lippe, 2002a). However, boys might be
less concerned about what are appropriate sports for
boys and girls, at least the present study showed that
55% of the boys do not believe that certain sports
are more appropriate for a certain gender. It is also
interesting to find that almost all girls believe that
certain sports are more appropriate for girls than for
boys. It might be that girls do not like the idea of connecting the picture of strong and masculine boys to
feminine sports such as dance, ballet and gymnastics.
Gendered participation in sport is also a question of availability. In Norway there has been, for
example a debate regarding whether girls should be
allowed to participate in ski jumping competitions.
Also, boys, both nationally and internationally, do
not participate in rhythmic gymnastics.
The high percentage of girls in the present study
who participate in masculine sports is in line with observations that there has been a trend in Norway toward an increasing number of girls getting involved
in soccer, which previously has been stereotyped as
a masculine sport (Koivula, 1995; Matteo, 1986). Although this trend of girls entering into the mens
territory has lasted for some years now, it is also
interesting to observe that boys do not seem to
have taken up any traditional girls sports. Thus there
are few boys in feminine activities such as gymnastics,
dance, or aerobics.
In Norway, more girls than boys participate in
handball, which is viewed as a masculine sport when
categorized by traits (Koivula, 1995; Matteo, 1986).
Handball has, since it was implemented in Norway
in the 1930s, attracted women, and it also has been
thought to be a typical womens sport in this country
(Pfister & von der Lippe, 1994). Reasons for the feminization of handball may be found in the fact that in
Norway women started to play the sport when it was
new, and handball was in no way tied to a masculine
identity, which supports the idea that the genderification of sport is socially constructed. Handball is still
perceptuated as a typical womens sport in Norway,
and adolescents in the open-ended questions of the
present study expressed the idea that handball is
more appropriate for women than for men.
Boys and girls differ on a number of feminine
and masculine characteristics in sports. The boys not
only valued being good in sport more than girls did,
as shown in previous research (Eccles & Harold,
1991; Eccles et al., 1993; Fredricks & Eccles, 2002;
Jacobs et al., 2002; Wigfield et al., 1997), but they also
valued Appearance strength, Endurance, Strength,
and Masculinity significantly more than did girls.

Masculine and Feminine Values in Sport and Physical Education


Girls, on the other hand, valued Appearance good
looking face, Appearance slender, and Femininity
significantly more than did boys. These results are
not surprising, and they are consistent with gender
stereotyping. It is interesting that no difference was
found between girls and boys on the Flexibility characteristic, which in previous research has been regarded as a feminine feature of sport. Also there was
no gender difference on the Appearance good looking body characteristic, which may be due to an increasing emphasis on good looking men in advertising and other media (Ward, 2003). Appearance
strength seems to be the dimension that differentiates boys and girls most significantly, as girls place
less value on this dimension. This finding is supported by the written responses in the questionnaire.
Whereas an ideal male body was strong and with
well defined muscles, especially on the shoulders, upper arms, chest, and on the belly (six-pack), an
ideal female body, in contrast, should not have big
bulky muscles. Instead an ideal female body should
be slender with an hourglass figure, tight butt, nice
boobs, and a pretty face. Many boys, in addition,
emphasized that girls should have a sexy look. These
findings demonstrate that the well known stereotypic
picture of a masculine, strong man and a slender,
pretty woman (in Western societies) is still strong.
However, girls seem to perpetuate these stereotypes
even more than boys do. This could mean that girls
are more influenced by advertising, television, and
magazines when it comes to messages about ideal
bodies. Even though there has been an increasing focus on muscle exercise for women in the past 20 years
(Tucker, 1990), girls do not consider Appearance
strength as important. What we see in magazines,
however, is that although a good female body is a
muscular body, extreme muscularity is discouraged,
so the magazines thus encourage women to tone
their muscles, not to build them. It seems that the
message for girls and women is to get strong, but not
bulky, and that girls internalize this message.
The reason why strength has become a substantial stereotype for men can be explained by an analysis of medical texts written by authorities in sport
and health in the period from 18901950 (von der
Lippe, 2000). In general, doctors and other authorities argued that strength training and vigorous sport
activities were to be avoided for women because
the womens physiological functions were inconsistent with hard muscular work. Women were meant
to bear children, and exercises such as strength training were not only useless, but they would cause de-

633

formations and influence the beauty of the body and


womens health in an unfavorable manner (von der
Lippe, 2000, 2000b). Because strength for so many
years has been strongly tied to masculinity, it has almost become a truth that men are the strong individuals with well-defined muscles, whereas women
do not need to be strong nor to have visible muscles.
The finding that girls value Appearance slender,
Appearance good looking face, and Femininity more
than do boys falls well within the stereotyped expectations of femininity and beauty, and it can be understood from a historical perspective. It may be argued that 4050 years ago women worked at home
taking care of children, cooking, and cleaning, and
this meant that they used to be economically dependent on men to a much greater extent than is true
today. Attractiveness was an important characteristic
to be chosen by the other sex for marriage and support, thus appearance meant more to women than to
men. If this argument is correct, beliefs seem to survive, even though the actual situation for women and
men has changed.
Previous authors (Duncan, 1994; Metheny, 1965;
von der Lippe, 2002a; Young, 1995) have suggested
that women are socialized to use their bodies to
please others instead of for their more active qualities. As can be seen in the present study, girls continue to place more importance on passive values,
which can lead other people to regard them as objects instead of as active individuals. In this regard,
it is interesting to observe that in some sports (e.g.,
beach volleyball, gymnastics, and figure skating) men
and women wear different uniforms when they compete. In these sports womens uniforms allow more
of their bodies to be seen than is true for men. For
example, within the trendy sport of beach volleyball
the official uniform rules in tournaments are gendered. Whereas most men wear a singlet and shorts
when playing, womens uniforms usually consist of
two piece bathing suits, which, of course, allow for
their body shapes to be seen. To play beach volleyball in a sparse amount of clothing, such as a two
piece bathing suit, or a bikini, is not believed to improve their volleyball skills to a great extent, thus
there have to be other reasons, such as those mentioned above, which force the women to wear these
kinds of uniforms.
The results further supported the idea that
masculine and feminine characteristics, especially
Appearance slender, Flexibility, Masculinity, and
Appearance strength, are linked to gendered sport.
Individuals who value Appearance slender and

634
Flexibility tend to be involved in feminine sports to a
greater extent, whereas those individuals who value
the importance of Masculinity and Appearance
strength were more likely to be involved in masculine sports. This is reasonable, especially when
gender stereotyping in sport is taken into account.
Even though a high percentage of boys and girls (in
Western societies) participate in sport and physical
activity, there seem to be unconscious truths out
there that influence the link between individuals
values and their sport activities. The results however,
suggest that only 65% of the individuals can be
correctly classified based on these values. Although
this is not a very high percentage, it highlights that
the gender inquiry is complex. Individuals can, for
example, value feminine characteristics and still participate in masculine sports, which were evidenced in
the present study. Many girls participated in soccer,
which is stereotyped as a masculine sport, but still
they rated feminine values higher than masculine
values. Future researchers should examine whether
girls who participate in stereotypical feminine sports
demonstrate different values than those who participate in stereotypical masculine sports, and whether
boys who participate in stereotypical masculine
sports demonstrate different values than those who
participate in stereotypical feminine sports.
In addition to categorizing sports as masculine,
feminine, or neutral by traits (Koivula, 1995; Matteo,
1986), the results of the present study have shown
that categorization into gendered sport also can be
based upon participation numbers. Categorizing of
sports based upon participation numbers, however,
leads to more sports being labeled as masculine. This
is especially true for gender-neutral sports. It is interesting that the same sports fall within the feminine
category no matter whether they are categorized by
traits or participation numbers.
The present study has shown that boys and girls
appear to be stereotyped in sport participation, in
masculine and feminine values, and also in how they
express sports appropriateness for boys and girls.
In conclusion, several questions have been raised in
the present study. What is the reason for boys and
girls to have stereotyped pictures about appropriate
girls and boys sports and to have stereotyped
values within sport and physical education? Are
the male and female physiques so different that
boys are not able to do graceful and coordinated
activities, and girls cannot be tough, hard, and be
able to handle pain? Or do other mechanisms cause
these stereotypic pictures? From the perspective

Klomsten, Marsh, and Skaalvik


of the present authors, although biological factors
may well predispose boys and girls to different
behaviors in sport, the elaborate human cognitive
system, with its attunements to learning, social
expectations, and role models, heavily influences
biological predispositions and frequently overrides
them (Diamond, 1988). Neither gender differentiated beliefs and self-perceptions, nor gender
role beliefs develop in a vacuum. Ample evidence
documents the fact that peers, friends, parents,
television, coaches, and teachers all contribute to the
shaping of these beliefs and self-perceptions over
time (see Eccles & Hoffmann, 1984; Greendorfer,
1983; Horn, 1987; Houston, 1983). The fact that
parents encourage their sons more than daughters
toward sport and physical activity (Brustad, 1993,
1996; Eccles et al., 1990) could very well influence the
adolescents ratings of feminine and masculine values
in sport. Thus, in future studies, adolescents perceptions of significant others masculine and feminine
belief systems also should be investigated to explore
the ways significant others impact the socialization
process regarding sport and physical activities.
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