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Title: Feminism in new sporting spaces : gender, subjectivity and the female surfer in Britain
Author: Roy, Georgina
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2013
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The popularity of 'lifestyle' sports like surfing has risen exponentially since the 1990s (Booth, 2004; Wheaton, 2010). The female interest in surfing has been a particularly pronounced feature of this growth; evident not only in terms of participation, but in terms of consumption and visibility across forms of popular culture worldwide (Corner, 2010). This so-called 'boom' of interest in surfing amongst women in Britain is an important topic for feminist analysis. In its contemporary form, the sport has particularly strong links to standards of white heteronormativity, and the heterosexy image of the 'surfer girl' is a central aspect of surfing's commercial mainstreaming. At the same time, surfing is still a relatively ' new', and so-called 'alternative' sporting space, particularly amongst women in Britain. As such, it has the potential to challenge dominant discourses of femininity. Taking a post-structural feminist perspective, this research focuses on the ways in which females who surf are experiencing, negotiating and challenging issues of gender, sexuality and subjectivity in British surfing spaces. I draw on 32 in-depth interviews with females who surf, and ethnographic fieldwork conducted in four coastal locations; Brighton, Newquay, Newcastle and South Wales. I also offer self-reflexive insights as part of this ethnographic journey. The theoretical approach adopted is informed by the philosophical ideas of Deleuzel and Guattari , post-structural and post-modern feminisms and some aspects of queer theory. This 'meshwork' of influences makes for a unique epistemological and ontological perspective which I argue facilitates different and emergent ways of thinking about sport and space. In this thesis I weave these theoretical influences into an analysis of the lived experiences of females who surf in Britain. What emerges from the stories of the women and girls in this research is that surfing and surfing culture does in many ways reproduce the narrowly defined cultural norms connected to gender and sexuality. Importantly however, there are also various ways in which female surfers are disrupting these norms. This is made evident in the ways that female surfers are interpreting (sub)cultural values, emotionally negotiating surfing spaces, experiencing feminine body ideals, challenging spatial heteronormativity, and creating 'female-only' spaces. My research demonstrates that gendered power relations in surfing remain contested, and that challenges to dominant power relations are often transient and subtle in nature. However, I argue that because surfing is not as spatially and temporally located as most other sports, the power relations which infuse surfing spaces are less fixed, and thus remain open to more mobile and subtle forms of political agency. It is my contention that women and girls who surf in Britain are actively instigating ruptures in the heteronormalising of spaces, and that 'paddling out' is emerging as a powerful and potentially feminist way of exploring, experiencing and embodying female subjectivities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available