Spandler, Helen and Mckeown, Mick
A critical exploration of using football in health and welfare programs: Gender, masculinities and social relations.
Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 36
ISSN 1552- 7638
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0193723512458930
This article offers a theoretical exploration of the growing trend in the United Kingdom to utilize football (soccer) practices and ideas in various health and welfare programs, primarily as a means of engaging men. Drawing on critical men’s health studies, profeminist critiques of sport, and the notion of hegemonic masculinities, the authors survey the “field of play” to elucidate the perils and possibilities of using football in health and welfare programs. The authors theorize gender as a social relation, inseparable from the way that football operates as a contested and gendered space. The authors outline the way that football acts as a means not only to reassert, but also to reconfigure, dominant gender relationships and hegemonic masculinity. If health and welfare initiatives are to use football to address welfare issues, then the paradoxes of football, masculinity, and health need to be taken seriously when these initiatives are developed and theorized. The authors propose the idea of football welfare programs as potential “paradoxical spaces” where participants might be able to consciously reflect on the conflicts and possibilities of using football as a vehicle to improve welfare.
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