The aim of this paper is to propose an analysis of the relationship between sports’ practice and adolescents’ gender identity construction. In particular, I will focus on the relation between the practice of oriental disciplines and gender socialization.
This contribution should be framed within two pieces of research that I have been conducting since 2008. The first one was my PhD research, whose goal was to describe and analyze the processes of gender/sexual identity construction among adolescents. The second research focused on the role of the oriental disciplines (in particular martial arts) in the construction of the body-identity of the practitioners.
Using these two pieces of research as a basis, I will introduce some features of the contemporary dynamics of socialization, explaining the role of the traditional and the “new” agents of socialization. I will then introduce the role of sport as a means of gender socialization. This will lead the reader directly to the last and most important part of this paper, that is, the case study: oriental disciplines and gender identity construction. I will focus on the paradoxical role of oriental disciplines, proposing a dialectical socialization environment, swinging between a holistic approach to the body and the tendency of those disciplines to reflect the hegemonic conceptions of masculinity and femininity.