‘Men fall like boiled eggs. Women fall like raw eggs.’ Civilised female bodies and gender relations in British National Hunt racing

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Abstract

This purpose of this article is to contribute to the existing research on the gendered nature of equestrian sports by discussing how power relations continue to position females on the margins of National Hunt (NH) racing. In the UK, NH racing is the most male-dominated form of racing; at the time of writing, 100 males hold a professional jockey licence, compared to just 4 females. In this article we draw on figurational sociology, specifically the concepts of the civilised body, interdependence and habitus to offer a critical analysis of the gendered experiences of eight amateur and professional female jockeys. The experiences of female jockeys cannot be understood without considering their networks of interdependencies with trainers, owners, male jockeys, breeders and the wider racing industry. We argue that early involvement in the figuration through family ties supports the development of a gendered racing habitus that influences the social identities of female jockeys who normalise their own limitations. Civilised female bodies are positioned in the figuration as weaker than males and needing protection from potentially risky horses. We argue that because safe horses are chosen by trainers and owners, these limit the opportunities and number of rides for female jockeys, these (gendered) decisions obscure issues of power that enable male jockeys to dominate in the NH figuration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-37
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Volume54
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2017

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figuration
gender relations
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experience
sociology
industry

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title = "‘Men fall like boiled eggs. Women fall like raw eggs.’ Civilised female bodies and gender relations in British National Hunt racing",
abstract = "This purpose of this article is to contribute to the existing research on the gendered nature of equestrian sports by discussing how power relations continue to position females on the margins of National Hunt (NH) racing. In the UK, NH racing is the most male-dominated form of racing; at the time of writing, 100 males hold a professional jockey licence, compared to just 4 females. In this article we draw on figurational sociology, specifically the concepts of the civilised body, interdependence and habitus to offer a critical analysis of the gendered experiences of eight amateur and professional female jockeys. The experiences of female jockeys cannot be understood without considering their networks of interdependencies with trainers, owners, male jockeys, breeders and the wider racing industry. We argue that early involvement in the figuration through family ties supports the development of a gendered racing habitus that influences the social identities of female jockeys who normalise their own limitations. Civilised female bodies are positioned in the figuration as weaker than males and needing protection from potentially risky horses. We argue that because safe horses are chosen by trainers and owners, these limit the opportunities and number of rides for female jockeys, these (gendered) decisions obscure issues of power that enable male jockeys to dominate in the NH figuration.",
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