Feminine identity in a muscular frame : re/shaping bodies, self and desire

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


This thesis is framed as an inquiry into bodybuilding women's altitudes to their bodies and to body image, how these relate to health and fitness and the contribution these make to women's constructions of self, gendered identities and meanings. I explore how these meanings relate to wider social attitudes regarding 'feminine' identity, body image, health, strength, fitness, beauty, issues of control and selfcontrol, safety and risk-taking, transgression, resistance and desire. My approach was to adopt autoethnographic research methods informed by feminist thought and poststructuralist philosophy. This involved a return to the life of bodybuilders where I re-immersed myself in a gym environment as a participant in body-building/figure fitness competition. This autoethnographic approach involved me engaging with my self as bodybuilder and academic researcher while also engaging with bodybuilding women in their social world. This approach reflects my ontological position in that as a researcher I cannot separate my own experience, thoughts and feelings - my life - from the research process. Participants for the study included ten women who reside in Western Australia and who have competed in body-building or figure fitness competitions at state, national and/or international levels. Data collection included observations and descriptions of the bodybuilding culture in which I became embedded, both in the gym and at competitions, and descriptive narratives of lived experiences from guided in-depth interviews lInd informal conversations.

Access Note

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Access to this thesis is restricted. Please see the Access Note below for access details.