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Exploring the Contribution of Sport And/or Physical Activity to the Social Construction of Gendered Embodiment

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This assignment will be exploring the contribution of sport and/or physical activity to the social construction of gendered embodiment. Our identity is embodied; we read who we are partly through our bodies. Kirk (2008) states that we are all embodied in that we have physical bodily form throughout our lives. We know our own body and how it will behave in particular circumstances, it is experienced and behaves in stable and predictable ways in which we take for granted. However, even if we take this for granted we are not always satisfied with our bodies' appearance, because we have ideas that have been socially constructed about how our bodies should look, and do bodywork. This is especially important when status and role are increasingly differentiated by how our appearance in relation to the meanings attached to age, class, ethnicity and gender categories and role expectations.

We all do bodywork to maintain and regulate our bodies, and the body is highly commodified through the consumption of rapidly growing diet, exercise, cosmetic and beauty, clothing and surgery industries and services. Consumption refers to the using, and thus, consuming, of commodities - both goods and services - as part of meeting needs and desires. Modernisation has involved the growth of consumption into a central social activity embedded in cultural practices. Our consumption choices are key elements in the construction of a sense of self. Our choices reflect our tastes and these help to communicate to others where we fit in relation to such social matters as status positions and role expectations. Commodification describes how our social practices and self identity become subject to markets and consumerism. Lifestyles can then be understood as involving the grouping together of commodity consumption patterns which act as symbols or codes through which we can be culturally located (Bocock 1992). Gill et al (2005) stated that the male participations of their study having discussions with seemingly trivial questions such as whether to have one's nose pierced or whether to join a gym, were actively engaged in constructing and policing appropriate masculine behaviours and identities, regulating normative masculinity.

Bourdieu (1984) states in his work that the body has become so commodified in modernised societies to the extent that the body itself is a form a capital known as physical capital. 'Bodies are seen as holding value in various 'social fields' and this physical capital can be converted into different other forms of capital (economic capital [various sorts of wealth], cultural capital [various sorts of validated knowledge], social capital [social networks] and symbolic capital [prestige, social honour]).' It is due to the bodies physical capital and ability to provide an individual wealth and income that Shilling (2003) argues we engage in body projects. By this he means the body is never finished and we always do work on it as it is constantly in a state of becoming, and this is how we achieve self identity, and achieve individual perfection in the form of 'ideal' bodies.

In late modernity 'we have become responsible for the design of our bodies' (Giddens, 1991: 102). By taking part in sport and physical activities carefully chosen individuals are able to try to commodify their bodies in relation to age, class and gender categories,

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