Research into women in contact sport set to be a game-changer

The incredible surge in popularity of women’s contact sport is a key discussion topic and for a Griffith University academic, it forms the framework of the next phase of her research career.

In November’s Australian Research Council Discovery Programmes Scheme funding outcomes, Dr Adele Pavlidis wasawarded$317,185for the project “Women and the rise of contact sport”, to be hosted by theGriffith Centre for Social & Cultural Research.

Dr Pavlidis, an interdisciplinary sociologist, will look at the rise in women’s contact sport and whether this will shift attitudes towards women from an individual and societal perspective.

“What we are concerned with is the transformation of gender identity through the prism of females now being able to participate in physical sports usually the domain of men.

“Women’s contact sporting pursuits, like the burgeoning AFL competition, rugby sevens and rugby league are now commanding serious media and audience attention and become permanent fixtures on our sporting calendars.

“There has been a stark shift in what is now seen as ‘acceptable’ for women to do”, Dr Pavlidis said. “But it’s clear, people now know it is unacceptable to exclude half the population when it comes to sport.”

Dr Pavlidis said it may become the new normal to see women professionally participate in sports like AFL, blowing away the stereotype that contact sport is the sole reserve of the male.

Dr Adele Pavlidis.
Dr Adele Pavlidis

“My questions are how does this shape our perception of women and young girls, how women think of themselves and what will the subsequent shift in gender politics look like?

“Once considered fragile and vulnerable, women’s bodies are now viewed in a different light and I want to know what happens when that perception changes”.

Dr Pavlidis will also look at the impact of social media and how it supports or impedes women’s participation in contact sports.

Dr Pavlidis is one of five Griffith academics to have received a Discovery Early Research Award (DECRA) in the ARC’s latest funding program.