A qualitative exploration of the pressure female athletes experience with regards to the feminine ideal
Lewis, Ffion Haf
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Females in Western society are under immense pressure to adhere to the feminine ideal and meet specific requirements regarding beauty, behavior and body shape. The complexity of the issue increases in the case of female athletes as they have to meet society’s ideal whilst also maintaining their sporting performance. This creates an obvious tension as there is a contradiction between the feminine ideal and the increased masculinizing in sport. This study aims to examine the sociological pressures female long distance runners experience regarding the feminine ideal and the difficultly they face trying to balance society’s demands with their sporting requirements. This study will be using Focault’s panopticon framework and conceptualization of power as a theoretical framework of analysis in to the relationship between bodily ideologies and female athletes. A sample of four female long distance runners were recruited in order to partake in interviews regarding their body image, competition preparation and perceived pressures. Results found that athletes were subconsciously more concerned about adhering to the feminine ideal regarding beauty and weight as opposed to the requirements needed for their sport. Fear of gaining weight, too much muscle and not appearing attractive enough on race day were all major concerns for the participants. Participants felt a constant need to self- survey and compare against others, which highlights the implications of a panopticon gaze. Results from this study would reinforce the complexity of female’s participation in sport as they try to balance sporting demands with society’s feminine ideology.
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