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Wednesday, July 13 • 15:31 - 17:00
Athlete Self-Presentation on Social Media: The impact of gender and cultural norms

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 314, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Ashleigh-Jane Thompson, Massey University, New Zealand
  • Ann Pegoraro, Laurentian University, Canada


Reflecting the growth of social media (SM), and the widespread adoption in the sports industry, scholarly inquiry has explored their use in a range of contexts. Recently, research has drawn on Goffman’s (1959) theory to explore athletes’ use of SM as a site for self-presentation, examining the nature of content posted to specific social platforms (e.g., Lebel & Danylchuk, 2012), as well as visual imagery (e.g., Geurin-Eagleman & Burch, 2015). Findings from these studies show that athletes’ use of SM appears to align with the existence of gender stereotypes of athletes in media. 

Such gender stereotypes are considered reflective of deeper sociological beliefs about sport suitability and gender in society (Pfister, 2010). Several studies have considered perceptions of sport appropriateness based on gender, categorising sports as male appropriate (e.g., basketball, soccer, weightlifting), female appropriate (e.g., ballet and figure skating) and neutral (e.g., swimming and tennis) (Koivula, 2001; Matteo, 1986). Geert Hofstede has studied national culture norms over several decades identifying four main dimensions of national culture: Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism versus Collectivism, and Masculinity versus Femininity (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010). For the purpose of this study, the last dimension: masculinity versus femininity will be utilized. Hofstede’s multi-year study of 76 nations indicates that masculinity is high in Japan, in some European countries (e.g. Germany, Austria and Switzerland), and moderately high in Anglo countries (e.g. Canada). Conversely, masculinity is low in Nordic countries (e.g. Sweden) and in the Netherlands and moderately low in some Latin (e.g. Portugal) and Asian countries (e.g. Thailand) (Hofstede et al., 2010). While research has considered media portrayals of athletes based on gendered sport categorisations, to date, no known research has explored this in relation to athlete self-presentation and conformity to cultural norms. 


The purpose of this research is to explore whether there is a difference in an athletes’ self-portrayal on Instagram based on the gender-appropriateness (Matteo, 1986) of the sport they participate in and the degree of masculinity found in their respective home countries as measured by Hofstede’s (2013) Values Survey Module (VSM). 


A purposive sample of female and male athletes will be utilised in this study, based upon the following selection criteria. Firstly, using Hofstede’s national culture study, five countries (Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Japan) have been selected based on their ranking on the Masculinity dimension (from 0-100). Secondly, six sports (Rugby, Tennis, Gymnastics, Field Hockey, Volleyball and Weightlifting) were selected due to their gender-appropriate categorisation. The last step involves selecting top athletes meeting these criteria to arrive at a purposeful sample for the study. A content analytic method will then be employed to analyse their photographs, and the visual self-presentation of these athletes. 


Once all photos are collected and coded, descriptive statistics, frequencies, and cross-tabulations will be used to analyse the data. The findings from this study will provide insight into the impact of gender and cultural norms on athlete self-presentation strategies on SM. Analysis will be completed by the 2016 Social Media and Society Conference and the full findings will be presented, along with theoretical and practical implications. 


Geurin-Eagleman, A. & Burch, L. (2015). Communicating via photographs: A gendered analysis of Olympic athletes’ visual self-presentation on Instagram. Sport Management Research. 
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books. 
Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G.J. and Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. McGraw-Hill: New York. 
Koivula, N. (2001). Perceived characteristics of sports categorized as gender-neutral, feminine and masculine. Journal of Sport Behavior, 24, 377-393.  
Lebel, K., & Danylchuk, K. (2012). How tweet it is: A gendered analysis of professional tennis players’ self-presentation on Twitter. International Journal of Sport Communication, 5, 461–480. 
Matteo, S. (1986). The effect of sex and gender-schematic processing on sport participation. Sex Roles, 15, 417-432.
Pfister, G. (2010). Women in sport – Gender relations and future perspectives. Sport in Society, 13, 234-248.  

Wednesday July 13, 2016 15:31 - 17:00 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 314 Goldsmiths University, Building 2