Learning to leisure: Femininity and practices of the body

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Within this paper I conceptualise the multitude of preparations and body pedagogies that are grappled with, mastered, and deployed as ‘technologies of femininity.’ These are ‘technologies’ that are engaged by young women in ways that allow them to (re)construct their subjectivities and ‘adopt practices that represent both conformity and resistance to dominant power and discursive relations’ (Pavilidis, 2012, p. 169) as well as ‘negotiate a physical sense of themselves’ (Garrett, 2004, p. 223). Therefore this paper begins by discussing the theoretical framework within which the analysis of femininity it couched. It focuses on power, as conceptualised by Foucault, performativity (Butler 1990 [1999, 2006]) and the notion of technologies of femininity. Drawing on the data collected from workshops and focus groups, I locate beautification, consumption and body management as constituents, and simultaneously constitutors of leisure time. I thus offer insight into the ways in which a group of twenty thirteen year old girls who attended a private (fee paying) school in the West of England, account for, maintain, develop—and in places resist—localised appearance cultures. Structured around the theorisation of certain leisure activities—from reading magazines, shopping for clothes, through to controlling calorie intake, engaging in physical activity, applying beauty products, makeup and hair styling—alongside the ways they are experienced every day this paper aims to highlight the contemporary governance of girlhood. By way of closure I draw attention to the ways in which wider cultural discourses are having embodied effects and are being consumed, not without consequence, as commonplace everyday preoccupations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-597
Number of pages18
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number6
Early online date5 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • aesthetic recreation
  • femininity
  • practices of the body


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