The Art of Concealment in a Culture of Display: Aerobicizing Women’s and Men’s Experience and Use of Their Own Bodies

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Nina Waaler LolandThe Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education

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Inspired by Shusterman’s (1997) theory of somaesthetics, this study explores gender differences between aerobicizing individuals. Based upon semistructured interviews and participant observation, the study examines how aerobicizing men and women experience and use their bodies. Findings revealed that men as well as women used aerobics as a means to attain a belter bodily appearance, and both men and women expressed positive and negative experiences of their bodies in the aerobic context. Few of the men but many of the women used aerobics to attain a stronger, healthier, more powerful body. Several of the women felt empowered and in a position to challenge traditional femininity ideals in terms of bodily appearance and use. Most of the men seemed insecure and felt that they were under critical scrutiny during training. It is argued that Shusterman’s theory of somaesthetics can complement more traditional sociological theories in the study of physical activities like aerobics.

N.W. Loland is with The Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, P.O. Box 4014, Ullevaal Stadium, N-0806 Norway.

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