An Integrative Review of Women, Gender, and Leisure: Increasing Complexities

By Henderson, Karla A.; Gibson, Heather J. | Journal of Leisure Research, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

An Integrative Review of Women, Gender, and Leisure: Increasing Complexities


Henderson, Karla A., Gibson, Heather J., Journal of Leisure Research


Research on women and leisure emerged as a body of knowledge approximately 30 years ago (e.g., Deem, 1982; Glyptis & Chambers, 1982). This literature has evolved in content and epistemology. The research about women and leisure in the past five years has continued to highlight leisure and its meanings for women from emerging cultural, theoretical, and methodological perspectives. This evolving research builds from the past to create a broader understanding of human behavior not only for girls and women, but also for other marginalized groups and for boys and men. Newer and established researchers have continued to contribute to this body of knowledge through exploring emerging topics and expanding previous findings.

The purpose of this paper was to extend four past integrative reviews (Henderson, 1990, 1996; Henderson & Hickerson, 2007; Henderson, Hodges, & Kivel, 2002) about women's leisure to include research issues and themes from the past five years (2006-2010). The integrative review was a strategy for analyzing literature focused on inferring generalizations about substantive issues from a set of studies that addresses these issues 0ackson, 1980). Topics and themes associated with theories in the literature were uncovered and described as a means for demonstrating how research related to women and gender is maturing and contributing to a broader discourse about leisure behavior.

Previous Reviews

Henderson (1990) concluded in the first integrative review that covered 1980-1989 that frameworks for understanding women's leisure had emerged using a variety of approaches with a focus on empowering women generically to experience leisure. The content of that literature suggested that commonality existed for women and that a meaning of leisure for women was emerging. This analysis demonstrated that women (a) shared a common world in their inequality regarding opportunities for leisure (e.g., Glyptis, 1985), (b) sought social relationships in leisure (e.g., Dixey, 1987), (c) had fragmented leisure time (e.g., Shaw, 1985), (d) found the preponderance of leisure in the home and through unstructured activities (e.g., Bialeschki & Henderson, 1986), and (e) lacked a sense of entitlement to leisure (e.g., Shank, 1986).

The second integrative review (Henderson, 1996) included research published from 1990-1995 and broadened the basis of understanding to address multiple meanings of leisure with the notion that "one size doesn't fit all" (p. 139). This body of literature of the early 1990s challenged the idea that a common world of women existed beyond the recognition that women lived in a patriarchal world. Henderson suggested themes were emerging related to (a) gender explanations (i.e., the cultural connotations associated with an individual's biological sex; e.g., Deem, 1992), (b) continua of meanings associated with leisure that were sometimes contradictory for different groups of women (e.g., Karsten, 1995), and (c) a focus on the diversity that existed among women who live in Western cultures (e.g., Harrington, Dawson, & Bolla, 1992). Henderson (1996) recommended that leisure researchers interested in addressing women and gender continue to explore all possible dimensions of women's and men's lives. She also recommended that although individual empowerment was important, collective action might be an important focus if leisure for girls and women was to be better facilitated.

Henderson et al. (2002) summarized the literature about women and leisure from 1996-2000. This integrative analysis resulted in topics that were divided into two broad categories: dialogue (e.g., Aitchison, 1997; Deem, 1992; Kay, 2000) and context (e.g., Dupuis & Smale, 2000; James, 2000; Russell & Stage, 1996). Dialogue referred to the foundations and patterns regarding how women and leisure were studied and understood. Context applied to the emerging research topics and questions (e. …

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