The construction of gendered bodies within competitive swimming: A Foucauldian perspective

Kate Russell, Brittany Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the study was to understand the processes by which athletes construct their gendered body within competitive swimming through a Foucauldian framework. The study identified a number of discourses central to this process, extending our understanding of how sport can regulate acceptable forms of gender through discipline and surveillance. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a sample size of six competitive swimmers in New South Wales, Australia. The findings revealed a number of Foucauldian concepts playing a fundamental role in gendered body construction. The findings emphasise the concealment and invisibility of the swimming body, rendering it hidden and perhaps resistant to substantial gendering processes in the swimming context. Yet in the social context, these processes are far more active. Other key findings suggest various technologies, including surveillance, discipline and physical modifications which help to classify the swimmer as an acceptable sporting body by employing a ‘swimmers gaze’. Foucault enabled the researcher to gain a comprehensive understanding of how competitive swimmers come to construct their gendered body.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Women Section Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • swimming
  • Foucault
  • women

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