Moving thresholds : body narratives within the vicinity of gym and fitness culture

Sammanfattning: This thesis investigates thresholds that impede bodies from moving to, and within, gym and fitness sites. Thresholds are here understood as gendered social constructs and norms, which direct bodies in certain ways, and thus circumscribing potential movements and capabilities. The study’s initial entry point was at a gym, here referred to as The Club which had in its statutes proclaimed to work in a norm critical way. This was an attempt to promote a more inclusive environment, and thus lowering certain thresholds for movement, in that members otherwise discouraged to enter other general gyms, found this particular gym open and “chill”. By conducting participatory observations, interviews, and collective memory exercises, this study is an effort to identify experiences otherwise seen as mundane and ordinary, such as working out at the gym, as conditioned under certain power relations.Aided by a theoretical framework combining poststructuralism and phenomenology, a narrative and deconstructive approach directed the analysis of the empirical material. The results showed that the specific case of the Club entailed how the work for inclusiveness, and thus lowering certain thresholds, entailed other forms of thresholding, in that in order to insure an inclusive environment, a certain amount of emotional work from the members of the Club was required. This meant that the cost of an inclusive and open environment is a balancing act on an emotional tightrope, which in turn indicated that the work to be norm critical entailed vulnerable inclusiveness. Further, even though participants were critically aware of repressive gender norms circumscribing their range of movement, the possibility of other movements were still at a threshold. This was due to their corporeal historic background of experiences of hierarchical binary gender norms, which still lingered under the skin. In this thesis, this corporeal background is referred to as body narrative, an attempt to displace a binary gendered framing of the perception of bodies. However, despite the participants’ reflexive stance towards repressive gender norms, their range of motion were still at a threshold, colored by past experiences, which in turn binds our eyes to what is perceivable, signifying how emancipation can never reach an end, but is rather a continuous process, always aiming, little by little, to displace thresholds of movement.