Undoing age, redefining gender, and negotiating time: Embodied experiences of midlife women in endurance sports

Suzy Ben Dori, Adriana Kemp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the increasing participation of midlife women in sports, and biomedical and consumerist discourses encouraging physical activity, research on intersections of age, gender, and the body in sports is lacking or fragmentary. Based on in-depth interviews with Israeli women aged 40–60 years participating in marathons, ultramarathons, and triathlons, we explore how they experience their participation and how these experiences correspond with normative socio-temporal assumptions about midlife transitions, gender, and the body. Findings reveal that endurance sports enable midlife women to challenge dominant discourses on the “decaying” and “menopausal” body by undoing age and formulating gender narratives that include new identities and negotiations of temporal orders. The interplay between undoing age and redefining gender operates through two mechanisms: “embodied experiences” that introduce the body as a material reality and a source of critical knowledge, and the liminality of mid-age as a life-course transition characterized by the absence of institutional and symbolic anchors. We make a twofold contribution to the critical literature on gender and life course. First, we develop the concept of embodied experiences as a vantage point for understanding the intersections of age and gender. Second, we highlight the potential of participation in endurance sports for negotiating temporal orders and formulate new narratives of femininity and aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1127
Number of pages24
JournalTime and Society
Volume29
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Endurance sports
  • embodied experiences
  • life course
  • menopause
  • redefining gender
  • undoing age

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