(Dis)ability sport as an opportunity for empowerment or a reproduction of gender stereotypes? A life history of a female Paralympian

Brighton, J. and Sparkes, A. (2014) (Dis)ability sport as an opportunity for empowerment or a reproduction of gender stereotypes? A life history of a female Paralympian. In: Sporting Females: past, present and future 2014, 4th September 2014, Leeds Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Participation in (dis)ability sport is male dominated (DePauw and Gavron, 2005) and in spite of a few notable exceptions (Dashpner, 2010; Peers, 2012), academic analyses in this area has failed to listen to the voices of female athletes themselves in enlightening the construction and negotiation of athletic identity. Drawing on data generated from a wider four year ethnographic study into wheelchair sport in England we illuminate the experiences of Jenny, who after acquiring a spinal cord injury (SCI) in a car crash aged 17, became a two time Paralympian in wheelchair rugby and athletics. Taking a life history approach, we narrate Jenny’s journey from the rehabilitation clinic to professional athlete and fully fledged ‘supercrip’. In doing so, we outline on the pressures she faces embodying the ‘double bind’ minority status of being both (dis)abled and a woman (Hardin and Hardin, 2005) in relation to: 1) how she constructs her gendered and sexed identity in hegemonic masculine sporting environments 2) how she negotiates the tense relationships between (dis)ability and contemporary ideologies of feminine bodily perfection and 3) her responses to medicalising and sexualising media representations of her ‘supercrip’ identity. Reflections are provided that reveal the oppression female athletes are faced with in overtly dispelling dominant stereotypes of both (dis)ability and femininity. We argue that although participation and excellence in sport can be empowering, providing (dis)abled women opportunity for physical, social, emotional, and economic benefit, it is also dangerous, contributing to narrowly defined understandings of the self and reinforcing dominant gender/sex ideologies.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV0558 Sports science
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV0706 Sports psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV0706.5 Sports sociology
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > Sport Science, Tourism and Leisure
Depositing User: James Brighton
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 09:50
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2014 09:50
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/12890

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00