More Than a Kick: A Liberal Feminist Analysis of Instagram Commentary on Sarah Fuller’s Historic Kick-off

Molly Harry – University of Virginia

In November 2020, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to compete in a Power Five football game as she kicked off for Vanderbilt University. Fuller’s kick-off was widely covered across the country. However, her decision to enter into one of the last male-only sanctums was met with much scrutiny and criticism. Using liberal feminist theory this paper analyzes social media commentary about Fuller on Vanderbilt’s Instagram accounts on the day of her first game. Instagram posts related to Fuller were collected from Vanderbilt’s football (n = 9), women’s soccer (n =12), and general athletics (n = 6) accounts. Results indicate that of the total 3,052 collected comments, 50.9 percent were negative, 39.6 percent positive, and 9.5 percent were unrelated to Fuller. Of the unsupportive remarks the majority objectified Fuller or were related to her appearance. This category was followed by oppressive, stereotypical, patriarchal, and negative comments not fitting into the feminist codes. Supportive comments on Vanderbilt’s social media focused on countering oppressive language, challenging patriarchy, countering stereotypes, countering female objectification, and other remarks not matching the codes. Implications and recommendations for athletics scholars and practitioners are discussed.