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Cowboy up : gender and sexuality in Calgary’s "gay" and "straight" rodeo Hanvelt, Jonathan


This thesis addresses varying constructions and expressions of masculinities in two of the rodeo communities in Calgary, Alberta. For this work, I focus on the rodeo produced by the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association and the one produced by the Calgary Stampede. Using a combination of participant observation and textual analysis, I examine the ways in which the institutional bodies of the rodeos, as well as some of the community members, construct and communicate definite ideas about gender and sexuality. Using Connell's concept of 'hegemonic masculinity,' I describe the Calgary Stampede as a place where the major tenets of that masculinity are represented, enacted, and thereby reinforced. This includes ideologically divided gender roles, a privileging of whiteness, and a compulsory heterosexuality. Conversely, I found the gay rodeo to be a site of great resistance to that hegemonic construct in terms of both gender and sexuality. At an institutional level, the gay rodeo produces a space that refuses to confine itself to the strict confines that are dictated in straight rodeo. This subversion is quite extensive and can even be seen as an arena in which gender is detached from the sexed subject. That is to say that under these circumstances, the broad concept of masculinity is one that is accessible to everyone, regardless of physiology. On the individual level however, we can see how the ideas that guide the production of the gay rodeo are not fully assimilated by all of the people who attend the rodeos. Within gay rodeo culture, there remains a strong presence of hyper-masculinity complete with its sexism and homophobia. This presence limits the transformative possibilities that the gay rodeo otherwise holds.

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