Being a female elite orienteer: A comparison of Sweden and France


Noan Bouvier
École Normale Supérieure de Rennes

This study examines the performance and articulation of gender identities among elite female orienteers in Sweden and France, within the context of enduring gender inequalities. Despite orienteering’s reputation as a gender-neutral sport, it remains influenced by societal norms. Employing feminist theories, particularly Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity, the research delves into how female orienteers navigate and challenge traditional gender roles both in their athletic pursuits and digital self-representations.

The investigation reveals how national differences in cultural and organizational structures impact women’s experiences and representations in the sport. Through social media analysis, particularly Instagram, the study explores how these athletes construct their online identities, balancing traditional femininity with the demands of elite athleticism.

Key findings indicate that Swedish female orienteers are more active on social media, even though both nationalities engage with two gender performances: participating in activities and maintaining an appearance that is sometimes more feminine, while displaying a more masculine presence through their active engagement with sponsors, nature, and risk. The research also highlights ongoing disparities in organizational roles and competition structures, with men predominantly occupying decision-making positions and longer race courses for men suggesting inherent biases.

Through interviews and social media content analysis, this study provides a nuanced understanding of the gender dynamics within elite orienteering. It underscores the importance of digital platforms in empowering female athletes and reshaping societal perceptions. This work contributes to the broader discourse on gender equity in sports, advocating for systemic changes to achieve true inclusivity.

Download the Orienteering article as a full-text pdf

NOAN BOUVIER, born in 2001 in Rennes (France), is a Master’s student at the École Normale Supérieure de Rennes in the Department of Sport Sciences and Physical Education. Currently undertaking a six-month research internship at Malmö University in the Department of Sport Sciences, her primary interests include the sociology of sport, focusing on social inequalities, particularly gender and class, in orienteering and outdoor sports.


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