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Nobubele Phuza is a PhD Student and a New Generation Academics Programme (nGAP) lecturer in the Nelson Mandela University Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She is part of the Albertina-Sisulu Fellowship and remains an activist for gender transformation and gender equity. She holds a MA in Sociology (Research) from Nelson Mandela University. Her study focused on femininity in competitive netball among Nelson Mandela Bay athletes. Her current research interests include protests and social movements against gender injustice within universities across South Africa.
In 2004, Vikki Krane suggested that “sportswomen live in 2 cultures: the sport culture that is inherently masculine and the larger social culture where femininity is celebrated for women”. This paradox of women’s sport was the conclusion of a study on body image and perceptions of muscularity and femininity among elite female college athletes who participate in a North American University league. I engage with this paradox from the perspective of netball to argue with and against Krane for a new paradox, at least for competitive netball. To make my point, I draw from the findings of my Masters thesis and observations of the Australian based, Suncorp Super League. I propose that the participation of Black African athletes in international netball competitions exposes the hierarchy of femininity within netball space which is supported by notions of beauty, sexuality and womanness. Thus, the new paradox for African women’s sport is not only about the incompatibility of femininity with athleticism but the vilification of black femaleness as not feminine enough.
Keywords: netball, femininity, black femaleness, Suncorp Super League