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Goldsmiths - University of London

Fitness, fatness and healthism discourse: girls constructing ‘healthy’ identities in school

Clark, Sheryl. 2016. Fitness, fatness and healthism discourse: girls constructing ‘healthy’ identities in school. Gender and Education, 30(4), pp. 477-493. ISSN 0954-0253 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Drawing on longitudinal, qualitative research into girls’ participation in physical activity and sport in the UK, this article will explore girls’ embodied constructions of ‘healthy’ identities. My research with girls (aged 10-13) found that over the transition to secondary school, classed and gendered healthism discourses had come to powerfully frame girls’ sports participation by condoning the achievement of slender embodied femininities through physical activity. The findings suggest that while neoliberal indictments of self-care through physical activity can usefully frame girls’ individual ‘body projects,’ these discourses also contribute to a hierarchisation of bodies within physical activity settings and to increasingly narrow standards of acceptable bodies able to take part in physical activity. Within the article I consider how healthism discourses both regulate and are resisted by the girls as they work to construct physical identities within their school settings.

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Identification Number (DOI):


physical activity, sport, friendships, girls, healthism, health

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


11 July 2016Accepted
8 August 2016Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Aug 2016 11:44

Last Modified:

28 Feb 2019 10:27

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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