Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender Identity, Leisure Identity, and Leisure Participation

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Gender Identity, Leisure Identity, and Leisure Participation

Article excerpt

Identity theory has provided broad insight on a diverse range of behavior in contemporary social science, cutting across psychoanalysis, psychology, political science, sociology, and history (Burke & Stets, 2009; Cast, 2003; Stryker & Burke, 2000). An underlying assumption of the research on the self and identity is that the self is a primary motivator of behavior (Stets & Burke, 2003). In order to explain why and how individuals behave in a certain way, we need to understand the identities they embrace and the corresponding meanings of these identities for the individual (Stets & Biga, 2003). Consistent with the work of identity theorists, leisure researchers have long asserted that the essence of an individual's commitment to leisure lies in the opportunity to express and affirm the self (e.g., Buchanan, 1985; Havitz & Dimanche, 1990; Kyle, Absher, Norman, Hammitt & Jodice, 2007; Pritchard, Howard, & Havitz, 1992; Scott & Shafer, 2001; Shamir, 1988). According to Shamir (1988), "In full sense, internal commitment exists when the person defines himself or herself in terms of the line of activity, role or relationship he or she is committed to" (p. 244). Shamir (1992) defined identification as a feeling of 'oneness' with the object of identification or as self-definition in terms of that object. When the object of identification is a social subject or a social role, identification is the incorporation of a certain identity into the self-concept. This implies that people can incorporate recreational activities and the meanings associated with these activities into their self-definitions, defining themselves in terms of the activity. Consequently, leisure identity drives leisure conduct.

In the context of gender, identity theorists also maintain that individuals pursue behaviors that are consistent with their gender identity (i.e., the degree to which they embrace masculinity and/or femininity) and avoid behaviors that violate the meanings associated with their gender identity. Western culture also defines personal attributes and behaviors as appropriate or inappropriate for each gender (Anderson 2005; Henderson, Stalnaker, & Taylor, 1988; Messner, 1998, 2002; Messner & Sabo 1990; Ross & Shinew, 2008; Shaw, 1994; Snyder & Spreitzer, 1983). Consequently, many social activities, including leisure, are often labeled masculine or feminine. Traditional masculine attributes (e.g., independent, mastery, and inner-directedness) are considered to be compatible with values of the experience in leisure while feminine features (e.g. dependence, passive, and otherdirected) are associated with values thought to indicate a 'lack of leisure' (Kane, 1990). Thus, individuals' behavior and identity in the context of leisure needs to be understood in relation to their gender identity.

To date, there has been scant effort devoted to understanding how gender identity and leisure identity function together to guide leisure behavior. Identity theory that is rooted in sociology asserts that identity is a primary motivator of behavior (Stets & Burke, 2003) and a person has multiple identities - one for each position s/he occupies in society. Research has illustrated that behavior is the product of the interplay of multiple identities. With this in mind, we adapted identity theory to explore the relationships between gender identity, leisure identity, and leisure participation in the context of recreational golf. We also examined these relationships separately for men and women.

Past Work

Identity Theory

According to Burke and Tully's (1977) conceptualization of identity theory, an identity is defined as the set of meanings applied to the self in a social role or situation, defining what it means to be who one is in that role or situation. This set of meanings serves as a standard or reference that guides future behavior. In Western democracies, people are thought to act in a self-regulatory manner with the goal of achieving consistency between the meanings of their identity, which define them in a specific role, and what they perceive to be the meanings for that specific identity in any situation (Burke, 1991; Burke & Stets, 1999; Cast & Burke, 2002; Smith-Lovin, 1995; Stets, 2006; Stets & Tsushima, 1999). …

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