It's a man's game : managing identities in ambiguous contexts
This research examines the ways in which people manage ambiguous or problematic identities. I argue that the strategies of identity-management used are based on the ways in which different identities are performed in particular contexts. A case study of a women's rugby team located in Bordertown, on the English-Scottish border, is used to examine this. These women possess two ambiguous identities. First, by playing a 'man's game', they find themselves both integrated into and excluded from a masculine context. Second, by virtue of their location, they belong to and are rejected from both the English and Scottish national communities. The gender ambiguity is found to be irreconcilable. They are, however, able to reconcile their national ambiguity by asserting their membership of a recognisable third group - their local community. By asserting the shared bond of problematic nationality, they diminish the marginalisation caused by their gender ambiguity, and distract observers from their problematic gender identity. The performance of an ambiguous national identity, then, masks the continuing difficulties caused by the gender ambiguity. Thus strategies of identity management are found to be dependent on the social context of the individuals and identities involved, and their ability to use the interactions between different social contexts and identities to mask the ambiguity. As a result of this research, a greater understanding of the ways identity is formed and performed is reached.