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“I Was with Him before He Was Anything”: The Identity Talk of Football Wives

The Interaction Order

ISBN: 978-1-78769-546-7, eISBN: 978-1-78769-545-0

Publication date: 5 February 2019


Drawing on interviews with football wives from the Canadian Football League (CFL), this article examines how these women define their personal identity through their talk about being married to a pro football player. Using the concept of courtesy identity and Anderson and Snow’s (1987) conceptualization of identity talk, this chapter explains the processes in which these women claim a courtesy identity of a football wife. I identify two strategies these women use to construct their identity: distancing from stereotypes and envisioning self as his teammate. I argue that women performed this verbal identity work in pursuit of legitimizing their courtesy identity of a football wife. They accomplish this by distancing self from a stereotypical, anticipated social identity of the football wife as a “gold digger” or naïve woman and then working up another socially positive and normative one that they are supportive women who have worked alongside their husband and are part of their career. I conclude by summarizing the findings and argue that by constructing themselves as devoted football wives, they uphold these idealized images of traditional masculinity and femininity in professional sports.




I would like to thank all the women who shared their stories with me. I am grateful for the comments and insights William Shaffir, Dorothy Pawluch, and Philip White in writing various drafts of these ideas. I would also like to thank Christopher Schneider for encouraging me to publish this work.


Simonetto, D. (2019), "“I Was with Him before He Was Anything”: The Identity Talk of Football Wives", The Interaction Order (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 50), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 181-196.



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