Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport: Male Identity and Rock Climbing

Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport: Male Identity and Rock Climbing

Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport: Male Identity and Rock Climbing

Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport: Male Identity and Rock Climbing


Rock climbing is one of today's most popular 'extreme sports.' Although many women are involved, the sport retains a particularly male image and culture. Everyday Masculinities and Extreme Sport presents the first in-depth study of rock climbing in the UK, analysing what it reveals about the contemporary construction and performance of masculinity through sport.One of the key concerns of the book is the relationship between everyday masculinity and the pursuit of the extraordinary through sport. Drawing on insights from sociology and gender studies, the book challenges traditional approaches to the analysis of sport.


Writers on gender issues all too often think they have found the “One True
Source” of all the mischief.

R.W. Connell, 'Foreword', in L. Segal, Slow Motion:
Changing Masculinities, Changing Men

Sport is, indeed, not the source for all such 'mischief', although it is one vital source. However, in thinking about how we might conceive of sporting masculinities in different ways we open up both masculinity and sport to new questions and areas for research. Specifically, this empirical study of the extreme sport of rock climbing in the uk investigates male identities by considering the routine and extraordinary practices and relations in a sporting culture. Furthermore, the wider context for sporting participation, defined as the everyday cultures and experiences outside of the sporting sphere, is also viewed as fruitful and necessary to explore. in this way, any potential shifts in masculinity and gender relations can be identified and finely scrutinized.

Theoretical and empirical work on alternative sports such as rock climbing, windsurfing, skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding to name but a few, has emerged from the 1980s to the present. Activities as diverse as Ultimate frisbee, adventure racing, extreme ironing and extreme skiing have also been referred to as alternative sports as the category has expanded and diversified. in this study, I will refer to the diverse body of this literature, which focuses especially upon European and North American writing, throughout this volume. I will also, in Chapter 3, explore the meaning and classification of extreme sports in detail. However, it is important to acknowledge initially that there are different terms that have been used to define such sports. There are also debates about which terms describe these sports better and capture the diversity of participants' experiences. For example, Wheaton (2000b and 2004b) uses the term 'life style sports'; 'whizz sports' is preferred by Midol and Broyer (1995); whereas 'extreme sports' is the definition used by Rinehart and Sydnor (2003); Lyng (1990, 2005) prefers the term 'edgework' to describe a number of diverse, high-risk activities, including sport, and these are seen as sites where norms and boundaries are transgressed. Other terms used, sometimes generically in the field and in this book, include the notions of 'risk sports', 'panic sports', 'alternative sports' or 'new' sports (see also Laviolette 2007).

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