Experiencing the Blue Curtain: The Effects of Tokenism on Masculine Identities Among Male Baton Twirlers



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Previous research has investigated men in effeminized positions as “tokens,” finding patterns that suggest they receive privileges in their skewed position. Using data from 30 semi-structured interviews, I investigate how male baton twirlers who competed in one or both of the two largest American baton twirling organizations perform masculinity within the baton twirling world. Specifically, I analyze whether and how the status of men in competitive baton twirling as tokens contributes to the formation of their masculine identities within this effeminized sport. I draw upon the concept of tokenism from the work and occupations literature and apply it to an effeminized sport to compare how males fare in a females’ world. I find that men in baton twirling experience tokenism differently than what has previously been observed in the work and occupations literature. In what I call the “Blue Curtain,” male twirlers experience the effects of both the “glass ceiling” and “glass escalator” within the competitive twirling community. Further, as a result of intensified stigma because of twirling’s place as a youth sport, outside of the twirling community (i.e., beyond the blue curtain) men must negotiate their masculine identities in ways that incorporate both inclusive and hybrid masculinities, but do little for gender equality. I further posit a new way of categorizing sports and occupations in such a way that stigma may be further explained and introduce the concept of the “effeminized space.”



Men, Masculinity, Tokenism, Baton twirling, Sports, Work, Occupations