Superwomen? Young sporting women, temporality, and learning not to be perfect

International Review for the Sociology of Sport (1) (2020)
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New forms of neoliberal femininity create demanding horizons of expectation for young women. For talented athletes, these pressures are intensified by the establishment of dual-career discourses that construct the combination of high-performance sport and education as a normative, ‘ideal’ pathway. The pressed time perspective inherent in dual-careers requires athletes to employ a variety of time-related skills, especially for young women who aim to live up to ‘superwoman’ ideals that valorize ‘success’ in all walks of life. Drawing on existential phenomenology, and in-depth interviews with 10 talented Finnish sportswomen (aged 19-22), we explored their experiences of lived time when pursuing dual-careers in upper secondary sport schools. Exploring participants’ bodily experiences of inhabiting the achievement life-world, we analyze how these sportswomen either learned ways of living up to this ambitious script or came to understand the detrimental effects of the script, necessitating other ways of being. For those who experience a disjuncture between the ‘perfect’ and their embodied experience, self-care practices are needed to restore life-world harmony, and orient to alternative futures.

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