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The gendered experience of body image in physical activity spaces

There is a growing concern over young people’s body image and the detrimental impact that a negative body image can have on well-being, including physical activity participation. Although there is a tendency for body image research to focus on adolescent females, emerging evidence suggests that levels of body dissatisfaction in males and females are approximately equal. However, there are clear gendered processes in the development and experience of body image.

The regulation of bodies occurs in hetero-normative physical activity spaces, including those inside and outside of school. These spaces provide opportunities for young people to engage in practices that challenge or reinforce socially constructed ideas of physical attractiveness. Physical activity spaces can also promote body exclusivity, whereby, certain bodies are valued in certain spaces and others are not. This can lead to the avoidance of physical activity in spaces that do not promote body inclusivity or environments that reinforce notions of body uniformity through organisational structures.

Using a range of innovative qualitative methods, this project will build on existing evidence by focusing on the embodied gendered geographies of both males and females in physical activity spaces, across a range of public, private and digital spaces. The project will consider different spaces within educational institutions, including the formal curricular spaces (e.g. physical education) and the ‘hidden’ geographies of education where physical activity takes place. The resistance of social norms and the regulation of bodies within formal and informal physical activity spaces outside of education will also be explored. This project aims to develop understanding into how physical activity spaces can be structured to support body inclusivity for both adolescent boys and girls.  

Applicants interested in pursuing the project would ideally have backgrounds in sports sociology, social psychology, sports geography, physical education, sports science or any other related subject.


How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.