Muscularity, the habitus and the social construction of gender: towards a gender-relevant physical education

T. Gorely, R. Holroyd, D. Kirk

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124 Citations (Scopus)


This paper begins to develop the concept of gender-relevant physical education, combining the work of Pierre Bourdieu and his notion of the habitus and feminist philosopher Iris Marion Young's analysis of feminine motility. It draws on data generated from a study of young people's articulation of the relationships between muscularity, physicality and gender. The social construction of the body has been of central importance to the construction of femininities and masculinities, and has formed an enduring meta-theme through much of the research on physical education and gender. We build on the young people's insights to argue that Bourdieu's notions of the habitus and the exchange of physical capital provide a useful means of conceptualizing issues of embodiment and gender in school physical education and sport. We conclude by sketching an outline of gender-relevant physical education as a process of interrupting the habitus.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-448
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • gender
  • muscularity
  • habitus
  • social construction
  • physical education

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