Unique or double standard to aging in sports? Case of retired gymnasts
Mara Stan 
|Abstract: The study aims to capture a socially constructed analysis of gendered media representations on retired Romanian gymnasts. The theoretical input discusses gendered representations, body projects, discursive tactics applied to gender within the context of sports, kinetic performance and contributions extracted from feminist critical discourse analysis. The overall approach views desistance, resistance and conformity as inextricably intertwined concerning gendered representations of sports participation. Discursive cues from the 20 selected media articles anchor meaning as points of reference for connecting ideas to broader networks of significance within an integrative analytical framework. The analysis of empirical findings dwells on discursive strategies for conformity and othering, empowerment and victimization. Media portrays women gymnasts in the post-retirement phase as de-centring from competition and assuming supportive roles that are thought as more becoming, typically feminine practices, whereas men are represented as remaining strong and competitive. From a somatic culture perspective, male gymnasts act more as role models for successful aging, being portrayed as maintaining desirable body attributes such as grit, strength, energy and vitality. In exchange, female gymnasts remain ambassadors of sports and community participation to physical exercise, but are expected to display disturbing or debilitating somatic signs of aging as negative repercussion of high-performance gymnastics.
Keywords: Gendered aging, double standard, physical self, gender subjectivity, critical discourse analysis
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