A Hobby or a Job?: A Multi-sited Examination of Gender and Labour Relations in Professional Women’s Road Cycling

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Ryder, Suzanne Elize (2021) A Hobby or a Job?: A Multi-sited Examination of Gender and Labour Relations in Professional Women’s Road Cycling. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Women’s road cycling is one of the oldest professional sports for women, yet current professional cyclists experience precarious labour conditions that relate to sexism, and lack of respect, recognition, and inclusion. Issues and challenges for women cyclists are often overshadowed by the sport’s much-celebrated progress of professionalism, for example, their inclusion in elite men’s races and a mandated minimum wage. My research questions are about how professional women cyclists and their labour are shaped and constrained by gender relations. This feminist ethnography includes two and a half years of fieldwork. The collected data consists of fieldnotes of participation in the local Melbourne, Australia road racing scene, and seven months of observations at the highest level of competition in elite road cycling in Europe – the Women’s World Tour. The voices of 15 elite and professional cyclists are included via the presentation of interview data. This data forms the backbone of this explicitly feminist study on professional women cyclists’ lived experiences. The methods and analysis were shaped by critical feminist theory and Raewyn Connell’s (1987, 2021) social constructionist gender framework. My findings show how the power of gender relations in the different sites of women’s cycling socialises women into a dominant masculine structure and culture that leads to the internalisation of socio-cultural norms that reinforce the current gender order. Women’s participation – even their progress in professional cycling – does not challenge the superior position of men in the field of cycling. This thesis explores the gender regimes of local and professional road cycling, women cyclists’ construction of labour, their suffering in the sport, and progress narratives that dominate the field. While resistance agency of women is also identified, gender and labour relations continue to be dominated by masculinity which constrains the impact of such practices. This research offers in-depth analysis of complex gender and labour relations that underlie the socio-cultural conditions that professional women cyclists are constantly exposed to.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/42975
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4405 Gender studies
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4410 Sociology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords gender; labour relations; road cycling; women; professional cyclists; gender relations; ethnography; Melbourne; Australia; Europe; critical feminist theory; social constructionist gender framework
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