Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Perspectives on Analyzing Gender, Women, and Leisure

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Perspectives on Analyzing Gender, Women, and Leisure

Article excerpt

My first encounter with gender and recreation was in the late 1950s when I was eight years old. I was a good playground baseball player. When I asked the coach if I could play on the Little League Pee Wee team, he told me it was "for boys only" and that when I got to high school, I could play girls' softball. It seemed to me something was wrong with the world if I couldn't play on that team, but I didn't overtly question the structure at that time. I was fortunate later to have the benefit of the contemporary women's movement to help me begin to understand what had happened when I was eight years old. Although I read much of the popular literature about women's political issues during the 1970s, it was not until I completed my doctoral program in 1979 that it dawned on me that the leisure research literature by, for, or about females was not visible. So, I have spent the past 13 years studying, researching, and writing about women and leisure and trying to make sense of my Little League disappointment. I've learned something in researching women and leisure, but I've also learned how much we do not know yet about gender and the meaning of leisure.

The intent of this integrative review is to provide perspectives on how research can be conducted and gender can be used to inform our interpretations of leisure behavior. These perspectives begin with the premise that ideas emerge from particular social and historical settings and that this social structural context shapes, although does not determine, interpretations of reality (Andersen, 1993). An understanding of the sociology of knowledge of gender construction can generate ideas for better understanding female and male leisure behavior. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to describe how research has been conducted about gender, women, and leisure; to show how this research has changed over the course of the contemporary women's movement of the past 30 years; and to offer suggestions for how future leisure scholarship might be conceptualized with gender as a possible organizing framework. To examine how leisure research has been conducted and its potential for the future, it is necessary to examine the frameworks that gender offers for helping understand behavior and the implications that "difference" makes in conducting research.

Feminism provides the world view for this integrative review. In the late 1960s when feminism was synonymous with equality, the term was easier to understand than it is now. No single conception of feminism exists today, but more accurately, there are "feminisms." These feminisms incorporate distinct and overlapping theoretical, philosophical, methodological, political, and pragmatic assumptions. Feminist analyses have been sharpened, however, by increasing recognition of women's subordination which has emerged in the study of gender relations, and a sensitivity to the diversity and differences among women in terms of relative power and disadvantage associated with aspects such as class, race, occupation, and education (Henderson & Bialeschki, 1992). As many perspectives exist as there are feminists. Further, depending upon the perspective taken, feminism can mean equality or difference, liberal or radical, personal or political. For example, what it means to be female is the basis of feminism, yet feminism also arises out of a desire to escape the experienced inequality due to being female (Gordon, 1986). The breadth and depth of feminism and its goals, along with the multiplicity of perspectives that can be taken about the construction of gender in society offer an opportunity for broader discourses about leisure research. Despite the contradictions and the lack of agreement concerning how feminist goals can be reached, feminism has given me perspectives for examining the meaning and construction of gender pertaining to leisure behavior.

Although the term gender has been commonly used for a number of years and is used today where "sex" would have been used in the past, the relationships between sex and gender require further discussion. …

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