Playing by the Rules? Gender Relations in a Football and Mental Health Project

Spandler, Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0970-5141, Roy, Alastair Neil orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4807-7352 and Mckeown, Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0235-1923 (2014) Playing by the Rules? Gender Relations in a Football and Mental Health Project. The Journal of Men's Studies, 22 (2). pp. 140-154. ISSN 1060-8265

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This paper examines gender issues in relation to a mental health project in England, which is based on football metaphor and aimed at engaging men in therapeutic activity. We use the football related analogy of "playing by the rules" to explore how gender was framed, performed, negotiated and contested in the project. We note three different "games" at play within the project: football, gender, and therapy. We argue that gender had a doubled character in the project. The prevailing rules of gender and football were re-reinforced, for example, through defensive heterosexuality and binary ideas about sex and gender. Yet, at the same time, engaging in the project meant these very same rules were transgressed through the enactment of care, concern and group bonding. We conclude that whilst there probably has been a shift in culturally dominant forms of masculinity, any generalized endorsement of "inclusive masculinity" is probably over-stated.

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