Young Girls' Embodied Experiences of Femininity and Social Class

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The ‘absent presence’ (Woodward et al., 2014: 427) of social class within sociological discussion and policy spheres of health, leisure and sport—regulated as they are by the economic and political trajectories of neoliberalism—has been met by reinvigorated debate about the conceptualisation of social class (Bradley, 2014). Within this paper, we aim to contribute to these debates by centralising the lived experiences of young middle-class females and considering how femininities are embodied and discursively reconstructed in class-based ways. Drawing on data collected from 12-13 year old girls, we will explore the way that class was stripped of any structural or structuring properties, instead imparted to the fleshy sinews of the (in/active) body. In so doing, we explore how the exposure of excessive flesh became understood as an expression of class. Superfluous flesh was considered to be a corporeal confession of femininity gone bad, embodiment at its most ‘inappropriate’: working class femininity. Similarly, class was inscribed on the young female body through the adornment of sporting attire (the tracksuit, for example, operated as a site for the conspicuous display of, and discrepancies between, class-based femininities). Thus, in explicating the ways in which girls embody middle-class femininity we highlight how, in turn, ‘others’ (‘chavs’) were pathologised. We contend that the stigmatisation of the body—its shape, size and what it wears—in class terms is as important as ever; this is not just an issue of individual bodily and emotional experience(s), but impacts upon policy related to obesity, health and physical activity and the promotion of equitable body cultures that enhance wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventInternational Sociology of Sport Assocation World Congress - Paris, France
Duration: 9 Jun 201512 Jun 2015


ConferenceInternational Sociology of Sport Assocation World Congress


  • social class
  • Femininity
  • embodiment
  • Health
  • Wellbeing


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