Sport and Gender Identity Construction. The Case of Oriental Disciplines

By Alessandro Porrovecchio

The aim of this paper is to propose an analysis of the relationship between sports’ practice and adolescents’ gender identity construction. In particular, I will focus on the relation between the practice of oriental disciplines and gender socialization.
This contribution should be framed within two pieces of research that I have been conducting since 2008. The first one was my PhD research, whose goal was to describe and analyze the processes of gender/sexual identity construction among adolescents. The second research focused on the role of the oriental disciplines (in particular martial arts) in the construction of the body-identity of the practitioners.
Using these two pieces of research as a basis, I will introduce some features of the contemporary dynamics of socialization, explaining the role of the traditional and the “new” agents of socialization. I will then introduce the role of sport as a means of gender socialization. This will lead the reader directly to the last and most important part of this paper, that is, the case study: oriental disciplines and gender identity construction. I will focus on the paradoxical role of oriental disciplines, proposing a dialectical socialization environment, swinging between a holistic approach to the body and the tendency of those disciplines to reflect the hegemonic conceptions of masculinity and femininity.


  • martial arts
  • oriental disciplines
  • gender
  • socialization
  • adolescence
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