She’s fast for her age! Older women and running culture
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, running was the exclusionary sport of younger men. Women, particularly older women, were discouraged from participating in competitive running up until the 1970s. In seeking to understand the reasons for this interdiction, this study employs Foucault’s concept of discourse to explore the ways in which medicalized notions about the female body have mitigated women’s involvement in running from the early 1900s until present day. The paper begins with a targeted literature review that identifies relevant biomedical and moral discourses. Findings are then presented from in-depth interviews with four elite women runners over the age of fifty. The analysis of these participants’ accounts of their running histories reveal that while women runners have gained new freedoms, a discriminatory discourse remains, one that sexualizes and commodifies the female athletic body.
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University of Victoria