Vulnerable bodies and gendered habitus: the prospects for transforming exercise

Ruyters, M 2012, Vulnerable bodies and gendered habitus: the prospects for transforming exercise, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Vulnerable bodies and gendered habitus: the prospects for transforming exercise
Author(s) Ruyters, M
Year 2012
Abstract My thesis is a contribution to research on the embodiment of identity. Using the work of Pierre Bourdieu, in particular his concepts of habitus and practice, I explored women’s embodiment of their identity, in particular, aspects of their identity that relate to feelings of weakness and vulnerability in physical contexts. Women may be at risk if they respond in these ways to threats of assault and harassment. My focus was the possibility that women can transform these aspects of their identity through the pedagogic practice of self–defence training. I drew on Bandura’s work on self-efficacy and my research in two Victorian secondary girls schools where I observed the delivery of two self-defence training courses including one in which I was also an instructor. I interviewed 30 students as well as one member of the teaching staff. The pedagogic approaches of the two courses were different. The course at School A focused on simulated assaults and striking practice on targets. The course at School B focused on a wide range of self-defence techniques but did not include simulations or striking practice. I explored how girls embody their identities, including girls’ perceptions of their physical capabilities, and the kinds of self-protective behaviours they engage in to compensate for feelings of vulnerability and weakness. I found that many of the young women in my research had acquired an understanding of their bodies as relatively weak and vulnerable through strongly gendered habituses. Most of the young women did not experience significant changes to these aspects of their identities as a result of participating in self-defence training. A small number experienced transient dispositions of empowerment and capability, which were more evident in students at School A. In general, students struggled with the complexity of the techniques they learned, memorising the necessary movements, and the time available for practice. I concluded that further research is required to explore the transformative effects of self-defence training on women’s gendered habitus.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies Social Science and Planning
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Created: Mon, 17 Sep 2012, 14:36:42 EST by Brett Fenton
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