Running embodiment, power and vulnerability: Notes towards a feminist phenomenology of female running

In P. Markula & E. Kennedy (eds.), Women and Exercise: The Body, Health and Consumerism (2010)
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Introduction: Over the past twenty-five years the sporting body has been studied in a myriad of ways including via a range of feminist frameworks (Hall 1996; Lowe 1998; Markula 2003; George 2005; Hargreaves 2007) and gender-sensitive lenses (e.g. McKay 1994; Aoki 1996; Woodward 2008). Despite this developing corpus, studies of sport only rarely engage in depth with the ‘flesh’ of the lived sporting and exercizing body (Wainwright and Turner 2003; Allen-Collinson 2009) at least from a phenomenological angle, and in relation to female embodiment. It seems that a more corporeally-grounded, phenomenological perspective on women’s sporting embodiment would be a welcome addition to extant studies. In this chapter I suggest that employing a feminist phenomenological framework can provide a powerful lens through which to explore the subjective, richly-textured, lived-body experiences of sport and exercise. Phenomenology of course offers only one of a multiplicity of avenues to investigate the body in sport, and this chapter provides just a small glimpse of its possibilities. To-date studies of sporting experience employing a phenomenological theoretical framework remain surprisingly under-developed (Kerry and Armour 2000), as do those using its ethnomethodological offspring (Coates 1999; Burke et al. 2008). Further, as Fisher (2000) notes, the significance of the interaction between phenomenology and feminism has only relatively recently begun to be explored. It seems timely, therefore, to address this intriguing, potentially productive, but sometimes uneasy nexus, focusing upon female running embodiment in this case.

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