Everyday geographies of girls' experiences of physical activity
: gender, health and bodies

  • Morgan Windram-Geddes

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    As part of the UK government focus on health and concern over girls’ drop out from and lack of participation in physical activity (PA) and physical education (PE) policy makers are funding girl-specific school-based programmes of physical activity. Despite the addition of girl-specific and girl-only programmes and initiatives within school-based physical activity and extensive contributions from both the field and the academy, revealing some important reasons for why girls disengage and stop participating, gendered trends of drop out continue. Children’s geographies argue that young peoples’ voices must be heard and their stories must be told as young peoples’ experiences matter to their own and to our collective life. Geographers studying embodiment demonstrate how bodily materiality, conceptualisation and regulation are crucial to understanding spatial relations at every scale (Longhurst, 2005a). Until recently, children’s geographies have ignored the body and geographers studying the body have ignored young people as research subjects. Contributing to this gap, my study identifies some overlooked connections between children’s geographies, geographies of the body, sociology and feminist studies which are vital for answering the question of what else matters to girls’ experiences of physical activity. Adopting a qualitative feminist ethnographic approach, the research explores the geographies of gender and health through girls (aged 10-14) everyday embodied experiences of physical activity (physical education, Fit for Girls and a Primary School Keep Active Club) in Scotland. Research findings show that the everyday embodied geographies of PA and PE, when reflected on in respect to five themes: scale, space(s), gender, health and aging—and the links between them—matter to girls’ experiences. Through spaces such as physical education which are underpinned by gendered understandings of embodiment and informed by contemporary health and obesity discourses, girls’ experiences are relational. The thesis concludes by suggesting that political and pedagogical understandings of health and gender are reframed—by paying attention to how girls’ feel their own—socially inscribed and fleshy—bodies and negotiate understandings of health when doing physical activity. Such reframing would provide the spaces necessary for girls to experience healthier and more uninhibited relationships with their bodies, allowing them to participate and engage in a more positive manner with spaces of physical activity.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorFiona Smith (Supervisor)

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