‘I’m a woman who can kick ass!’ Practices, meanings, and corporeality in female gym-goers

by Aexis Sossa Rojas


Vol. 13 2022, pages 1–27
Published February 1, 2022

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to understand how frequent female gym-goers work out in different gyms in Amsterdam, how they understand and live their bodies, and what working on their bodies means to them. Based on a qualitative study, data were collected from twelve months of fieldwork with eight women from different nationalities. My findings contribute to the work of Physical Cultural Studies by arguing how gym-going for these women form a complex and diverse cultural practice through which both personal and bodily experiences, meanings, and subjectivities become dialectically connected to, and negotiated through, broader socio-cultural contingencies, where gender stereotypes are not only reproduced but, at the same time, are also negotiated and subverted. The women in this article help us to understand that they are not necessarily victims of social pressures, nor are they in search of the perfect body since their adherence to training can also re-enact a space of agency and empowerment. Gym-going for them is not necessary liberating nor oppressive. It is related to the social context and to the individual’s awareness of their agency in negotiating their actions and perceptions at the gym.


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About the Author

ALEXIS SOSSA is a fellow researcher at the Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), hosted by the University of Amsterdam. In 2021 he received his PhD from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His PhD dissertation focuses on gym culture and embodiment. Alexis is a sociologist with expertise in qualitative studies. His research interests concern the development of interpretive sociological/anthropological understandings of the body–self–society relationship in different fields, but mainly of sport and physical culture.