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Boarders, Babes and Bad-Asses: Theories of a Female Physical Youth Culture

Young women occupy unprecedented space in contemporary society. Their professional ambitions, educational achievements, practices of cultural consumption, and participation in sport and leisure all offer evidence of a new position for young women. This thesis analyzes female snowboarders as exemplars of young women in contemporary society and popular physical culture. Many young women today play sport and engage in physical activity with a sense of enthusiasm and entitlement unknown to most of their mothers and grandmothers. Against this background the female snowboarder is an excellent barometer of the nature of contemporary youth and popular culture, of the changes in those cultures including the development of niche female cultural industries, and of the emerging opportunities available to middle-class women in Western society. Women's snowboarding, however, is a complicated and multidimensional phenomenon interwoven with numerous political, cultural, social and economic events and processes. In this thesis I set out to capture the complexity of female snowboarding by systematically contextualizing and interrogating the lived experiences of female boarders through drawing upon six critical social theoretical perspectives: Marxist political economy, post-Fordism, feminism, hegemonic masculinity, Pierre Bourdieu's theory of embodiment, and Foucauldian theorizing. In applying these theories, I select key concepts and engage them in conversations with my insider cultural knowledge of snowboarding, numerous periods of fieldwork, and an extensive base of artifacts and sources collected over five years. In this thesis I extend academic understandings of female youth culture via the case study of women in snowboarding, and offer a valuable critique of contemporary social theories used to explain many different social phenomena that involve tensions and power relationships between the genders. While no single theory or concept proved adequate to deal with the multidimensional phenomenon of the female boarder, each having its shortcomings and offering quite different insights, several reveal important commonalities in relation to some key concepts in critical sociology, viz, structure, agency, culture, the body and embodiment, gender and power. These commonalities, I argue, offer future directions for theorizing about, and advancing our understanding of, young women in popular physical culture.
Type of thesis
Thorpe, H. A. (2007). Boarders, Babes and Bad-Asses: Theories of a Female Physical Youth Culture (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2576
The University of Waikato
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