International Sports Studies (ISS)

ISSN: 1443-0770

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International Sports Studies

Girls, women and physical activity: the limits of choice and opportunity

Richard Bailey

International Sports Studies 40 No. 2 (2018)     pp: 47-55     2018-12-20
Girls, women and physical activity: the limits of choice and opportunity

Stichworte/keywords: Sport and physical activity, participation, gender differences, intervention strategies

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Bailey, R. (2018). Girls, women and physical activity: the limits of choice and opportunity. International Sports Studies, 40 (2), 47-55. doi:10.30819/iss.40-2.05
doi = {10.30819/iss.40-2.05},
url = {},
year = 2018,
publisher = {Logos Verlag Berlin},
volume = {40},
number = {2},
pages = {47-55},
author = {Richard Bailey},
title = {Girls, women and physical activity: the limits of choice and opportunity},
journal = {International Sports Studies}

Gender inequality has been a persistent cause for concern in sport and physical activity contexts. Even when confronted with considerable efforts and funding, inequality seems rather robust, partly expressed by patterns of lower participation rates in sport and lower general physical activity levels around the world for girls and women than for boys and men. This presentation argues that the standard strategies employed – increasing girls’ choice and opportunity to be active – are doomed to failure because they operate within existing patriarchal social systems. I consider a more radical solution, and in doing so I borrow the language of physical literacy whilst drawing (albeit briefly) on the ideas of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the Indian economist Amartya Sen, and the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum. I try to explain why changing girls’ and women’s experiences of sport and physical activity is difficult and I tentatively suggest the sorts of actions necessary to make change happen.
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