Publication Date

Spring 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Ann K. Ferrell (Director), Michael Ann Williams, and Kate Parker Horigan

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In this thesis, I explore how bowling frames a gendered understanding of the world. I examine style, ball weight, and relationships, and others areas to discuss the ramifications of a binary understanding of gender as it is conceived in bowling centers. To complete this examination, I use interviews and personal observations from a year of fieldwork in Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky. I also rely on my personal experiences with the sport to provide contextual information. Drawing primarily on scholarship from Judith Butler, Richard Bauman, and Ann K. Ferrell, I theorize about gendered performances occurring in the bowling center. These performances regularly highlight the disparities between men and women; not only are there two distinct genders, but performing outside one’s ascribed gender has negative social ramifications. I conclude with an examination of the current state of the sport and the reinstitution of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, which occurred in 2015. Taken together, this thesis questions the binary gender system and offers insight into the ramifications of a traditionalized gender performance. This work also provides a necessary examination of recreational folklore, as that area of scholarship is not explored academically to the same degree that it is a predominant factor in the lives of many people.


Folklore | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sports Studies