This exploratory study examines the potential of intercollegiate sport participation to empower women at the group and societal levels. Telephone interviews were conducted with 24 women athletes from various sport teams at three Division I universities. Findings demonstrate that at the group level, sport facilitates female bonding and the development of a group identity and common goals. Empowerment at the societal level was noted when athletes indicated that their participation in sport challenged societal perceptions of women as well as making them more aware of gender inequalities in sport. However, the sport context did not appear to be an effective vehicle in enhancing athletes’ consciousness as women or encouraging their activism in support of women’s issues.
Elaine M. Blinde is with the Department of Physical Education, Diane E. Taub is with the Department of Sociology, and Lingling Han is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physical Education, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901.