Older Sportswomen: Personal and Cultural Meanings of Resistance and Conformity

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The interdisciplinary nature of 'sport-as-leisure' and ageing studies is highlighted in this qualitative examination of older sportswomen. This paper explores the multiple meanings that a group of older women attached to their experiences in Masters sport. The research takes an interpretive approach, drawing on post-structural theories of resistance and empowerment in sporting contexts and interdisciplinary studies on women, leisure and ageing. Masters sport (also known as Veteran's or Senior sport) has developed into a sophisticated form of competition that provides space for older people to begin, continue or re-start participation in a range of individual and team events. The women in this study were competitors of the 2001 Australian Masters Games (N=15, aged 60-82 years) or the 2009 World Masters Games (N=23, aged 56-90 years) in events such as track and field, swimming, cycling, weightlifting, triathlon, marathon, tennis, badminton, hockey, basketball, netball and softball. The analyses of in-depth interviews and observations from the two sets of data revealed that these female athletes resisted traditional stereotypes of ageing and gender and experienced a sense of personal empowerment in the form of identity management, belonging, engagement and bodily competence. Simultaneously, however, the words and practices of these older sportswomen reflected and reproduced other dominant cultural ideals and philosophies, such as those commonly associated with youthfulness and/or competition. For example, many women celebrated and valued success in sport, the able and performing body and being selfish. Therefore, this study shows how the personal meanings, actions and talk of older sportswomen interweave broader cultural discourses of sport, ageing and gender.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-408
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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