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Sport and Gender Identity Construction. The Case of Oriental Disciplines

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Abstract

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.

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... Adolescents' sexuality: imaginary, images, practices, stories". It was held between 2008 and 2011 at the PhD School in Human and Social Sciences, University of Turin. 2 And I crossed the results of my PhD research with some of my new research topics: martial arts practice (Porrovecchio 2015), risky behaviour and socio-spatial segregation (Porrovecchio et al., 2014a;Porrovecchio et al., 2014;Ladner et al., 2016), anomy . diversity". ...
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Sport practices of French teenagers : a gender differenciation The sexual identity of the subjects influences the value they concede to the activities (Eccles, Adler, Futterman, Goff, Kaczala, Meece, et Midgley, 1983). The purpose of this study is to examine whether the choice about sports activities of 858 teen-agers (403 boys and 455 girls) is linked to their gender-role (Bem, 1981). Statistical analysis (Chi2, MANOVAs, Multiple Components Analysis) were conducted from the answers of the subjects to : (a) the French short version of the BSRI (Fontayne, Sarrazin, et Famose, 2000), (b) a questionnaire where the subjects have to indicated their sex, their sport activity, and the type of this practice (competition / non-competition). The results show that the gender-based schematic processing affects the choice of the sport practice. The « masculine » and « feminine » subjects prefer sex-appropriate and avoid sex-inappropriate sports. The « androgynous » and « undifferenciated » subjects are more engaged in cross-sexual or « neutral » sports than the sex-typed subjects.
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A new interest in various forms of spirituality is emerging in some subcultures of the Information Age. This tendency can be seen as an indicator of an orientalization process that affects everyday life and lifestyles. The change brought by orientalization can be read as a symptom of a crisis in the paradigm of Western Modernity. This crisis is changing the relationship between culture and nature, the central role played by the rational positivist paradigm, and the ideas of space, time, and life. Oriental disciplines are a significant case study for the purpose of analyzing the on-going orientalization process. These highly ritualized practices have become part of many people’s daily lives and have affected their way of dressing, the way they arrange furniture at home, and other major changes that involve diet and body care. These practices may also affect people’s biographies by changing their ethics and morality. To explore the orientalization process and the concomitant new ideas of body, space, and time, I decided to focus my research on the role played by the body among the oriental disciplines. I performed ethnographic research, analyzed interactions within some online communities, and carried out several in-depth interviews with masters, beginners, and therapists within oriental disciplines.
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The aim of my paper is to propose a model that illustrates the adolescents’ gender socialization process. This work moves from my doctoral research held at the University of Turin. The research path was based on: a quantitative and qualitative methodological approach; an online and offline research field and a syntagmatic and paradigmatic axis model. In particular, I gathered 20 in-depth interviews, I conducted some focus groups and built a web ethnography. As Marshall McLuhan suggested, I tried to “surf” through the adolescents’ imaginary, analyzing different kinds of pop culture’s documents (magazines, movies, novels, etc.) that made me breathe the “spirit of the time” typical of the adolescents that I met on the field. Through this approach I gave some teenagers the opportunity to “capture their speech”, trying to bypass the adults’ point of view, and to define the teenagers’ gender socialization process. The socialization model emerging from this research, clearly shows the rising of a multiple channels of socialization, based on four pillars: family, peer groups, old and new media. I will focus mainly on the third and the fourth pillars, namely the role of media as fields where a fertile imaginary grows, a starting point from which the individual builds his gender identity and builds his socialization experiences.
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