Every body has a dream : a social inquiry into the relationship between the pursuit of physical fitness and conceptions of the self

MacNevin, Audrey L. (1999) Every body has a dream : a social inquiry into the relationship between the pursuit of physical fitness and conceptions of the self. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This dissertation explores women's self-reported perceptions of identity vis-a-vis their experiences of embodiment within the context of engaging in various forms of body work. Accounts of the embodied self as stable and/or modifiable through the course of participation in body improvement regimens are examined against the claim made in postmodernist literature that the female body is 'the' site of construction and elaboration of identity, particularly through the altering of physical appearance. This social-theoretical assertion is explored by examining the motivations women voice for engaging in physical fitness regimens and the reported consequences of continued participation for female identity. -- Owing to the interpretive, discursive character of this undertaking within two privately owned fitness centres, the research phase employed an initial three month participant observation period, followed by the formal data collection phase. Individual interviews of thirty-four women took place, guided by a semi-structured interview schedule; two separate focus group discussions were also conducted on the subject of women and the body, one in each research setting. Women who participated in this study varied by age, social class of origin (middle or working class), level of commitment to body work and type(s) of activities preferred; they were virtually homogenous by ethnic background (Anglo-Celtic) and sexual orientation (heterosexual). -- Findings show that while the social advantage of the well-managed female body as a form of cultural capital is acknowledged by all women, motivations for engaging in self-improvement through physical fitness regimens grant primacy to such things as the need to manage psychological stress, the desire to devote some private time to 'productive' self-care, and ultimately, the goal of achieving 'holistic' balance or integration among life elements through the pursuit of health/beauty/fitness. Individual accounts overwhelmingly reference a foundational quality to female corporeality, such that puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and the experiences of chronic disease and ageing are discerned as physical realities imposed-from-without, as limitations ordained by nature.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1162
Item ID: 1162
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 293-308.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: 1999
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Self-perception in women; Women--Health and hygiene--Sociological aspects; Physical fitness for women; Exercise for women

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