Connotations of female movement and meaning: The development of women's participation in the Olympic Games

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Loy, John, McLachlan, Fiona and Booth, Douglas (2009) Connotations of female movement and meaning: The development of women's participation in the Olympic Games. Olympika, XVIII (2009). pp. 1-24. ISSN 1188-5963


The modern Olympic Games are the world’s largest sporting event, drawing more participants and attracting more spectators from more diverse places worldwide than any other sporting competition. The Olympic Games are also significant in that they highlight international competition for sportswomen. However, female Olympians have yet to achieve parity with male Olympians in respect to the number of participants or the number of sporting events. Long excluded from many sports within the Olympic Games, women have not had equal opportunity to pursue the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger). In this article we extend the now largely accepted political accounts for women’s restricted Olympic competition by offering a more nuanced sociological explanation for the slow increase of female participation and evolution of new sport forms in the summer Olympic Games. Our sociological explanation combines the insights of Eleanor Metheny and Pierre Bourdieu concerning the connotations of movement and meaning in sport for females, and highlights the relationship between embodiment and empowerment in sporting practices. We follow John Hargreaves who contends that the body constitutes the “most striking symbol” and “core of sporting activity” as well as “a major site of social struggles” around power and gender.1

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Item type Article
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Keywords ResPubID25124, equity, legitimation, Metheny’s principles, socially sanctioned female sport, elite sport, Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence, International Olympic Committee, IOC, changing gender relations, institutionalized sexism, patriarchy, androcracy, fratriarchy
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