Institutt for sosialantropologi
master's thesis

A Tale of an Officer and a Gentleman: Ambiguous Masculinities Among Young Rugby Players


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2022.

By: Mina Sofie Svendsen
Supervisor: Professor Vigdis Broch-Due

Sports have a great influence on how we as human beings organise us. Many of us take part in club sports when we are younger, or some bring their football out to the park as light amusement. It is not often, however, that we ponder on how sport came to be, or how it influences our very selves. This thesis seeks to examine how the sport of rugby union shapes our own notions of gender. By looking closer the sport’s evolvement from a British folk game, we can see how it has unfolded through elite establishments within Great Britain and then throughout the British Empire, where it was introduced to the colonies by the colonial officers. What I will argue, is that we can still see traces of the twinning masculine figurations of ‘the officer’ and ‘the gentleman’, in the performed gender identities at university rugby club in East Valley. I will illustrate how the sport of rugby reflects the two roles, and the very structure of it is built upon the ambiguity of ‘the rough’ and ‘the gentle’.

Furthermore, in this thesis we will examine the many different elements through which the rugby players self-present. One significant topic is how we as human beings use our bodies to perform gender identities. With a focus on the physical body, we will examine how elements such as speech act and violence plays part in constructing identities. Moreover, the topic of aesthetic preferences and idolised bodies shows to be a rather ambiguous element of the players’ gender performance. We will look closer at the, arguably, androgynous mullet haircut that is fairly popular within the rugby community.

Lastly, we will analyse the topic of alcohol consumption. Alcohol has proven to be a significant part of the lives of young athletes. Initiation rituals is a heated topic in university rugby. Although many university rugby clubs arrange these rituals, the players in East Valley have chosen to pass on the infamous activities. We will see how alcohol serves as a medium that social identification and categorisation is shaped through.