Doing femininity and respectability: social networks and social capital among female members of Dutch student organisations

Maartje Roelofsen, Karin Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This research explores the complexities that underlie the formation of women’s social networks at traditional social student organisations in the Netherlands, advancing theory on the intersectionality of gender and class in leisure space. Building on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social capital it investigates if these social networks are segregated, and to what extent their divisions depend on previously acquired economic, cultural and symbolic capital. It analyses the hierarchical structures and ‘ranking’ of women’s year clubs within student organisations, and examines how the enactment and achievement of femininity determines women’s ability to move through social space. Finally, it investigates the use of social capital for women’s career progression. Semi-structured interviews were held with 20 women who were current or former members of one of the most traditional Dutch student organisations, the corps. Their accounts were used to gather information about the meaning women gave to their membership, and shed light on the role of previously acquired capital in the formation of clubs. Our findings show that women’s previously acquired social capital allowed them easier access to corps’ space and advanced their ability to navigate it. The establishment and ranking of year clubs and their members demonstrate the power dynamics that operate within the corps and the way class underlines network formation. Femininity was deemed one of the important markers of respectability and the enactment and achievement of ‘proper’ femininity determined women’s recognition and position in corps space. Despite the hierarchies of placement in the corps, most women profit from the social capital they acquired during membership, and can use it in selective ways for career progression and acquisitions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-356
Number of pages16
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • femininity
  • social class
  • social capital
  • social club


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