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Speaking up: a feminist analysis of the possibility of cultural change in women’s artistic gymnastics in Australia and England.

Jaquelyn, O., Litchfield, C. and Kavanagh, E., 2023. Speaking up: a feminist analysis of the possibility of cultural change in women’s artistic gymnastics in Australia and England. In: Bridges, D., Lewis, C., Wulff, E., Litchfield, C. and Bamberry, L., eds. Gender, Feminist and Queer Studies: Power, Privilege and Inequality in a Time of Neoliberal Conservatism. Abingdon: Routledge.

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DOI: 10.4324/9781003316954


The contemporary (conservative) culture of gendered politics in both Australia and England has resulted in several examples of women speaking out against sexism and harassment in the workplace. In doing so, these women have gained media (and public) interest and support as evidenced by the recent Ms Represented (2021) television series, where Australian female politicians, past and present, spoke of their experiences in parliament house and politics. However, some men, in positions of institutional power, repeatedly debunk the idea of cultural or systemic sexism and harassment, despite evidence revealing the devaluing of women’s opinions, a victim-blaming mentality and an overall subordination of women. It is within this politically and socially conservative environment that women athletes also have been challenging equally concerning issues within sport. The neoliberal ideology which currently underwrites Australian and British society, facilitated by the tool of social media, has given rise to a women’s movement which is pointedly individual but potentially collective. This chapter centres on the ‘fight back’ culture that has developed in women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG) over the past five years, where athletes, past and present, have revealed the sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered as part of the ‘accepted’ culture of gymnastics. Recently released reports in Australia (Change the Routine, 2021) and England (The Whyte Review, 2022) point to a ‘toxic culture’ within women’s artistic gymnastics that includes such abuses. These investigations, along with the precedence set by the prosecutions resulting from the USA Gymnastics inquiry, have empowered these women to not only speak out about their experiences, but also to challenge the status quo. An analysis of investigative sport and government reports (such as those listed above), policy and media articles are used here to articulate how these athletes have challenged perceptions and practices in gymnastics, using social media and by contributing to investigations of the sport. This chapter will explore the nature of the challenge to the ‘toxic’ culture of women’s gymnastics in a climate of cultural and gendered conservatism in both Australia and England and realistically consider the possibility of change.

Item Type:Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords:Power; Abuse; Gender; Sport
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:38576
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:25 May 2023 14:07
Last Modified:13 Jul 2023 09:22


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