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Stratification of Women's Sport in Contemporary China

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Since economic reform in the 1980s, Chinese sport has undergone an extraordinary transformation. The most distinguishing phenomenon is the rapid growth of mass sport at the grassroots level with increasing demands for physical activities in women's daily lives. The rapid growth of women's sports participation at the grassroots is deeply embedded in the process of social stratification as a result of the urbanisation of Chinese society. The purpose of this paper is to use the socialist, feminist and theoretical framework to explore how Chinese women's different economic, educational, domestic and cultural situations shape their sports values and patterns of participation, marking social boundaries in Chinese urban communities. Semi-structured interviews and observations were conducted with 60 female physical exercisers in sports clubs, parks and neighbourhood playgrounds. Documentary research was also applied as a complement method to the interview. The findings indicate that within different classes (middle class, working class and a group who were unemployed), many different opportunities for and limitations on women to participate in sport are noticed. Chinese women have not fully and equally utilised sports opportunities created by urbanisation. Most Chinese women still live within patriarchal arrangements. Consequently, they do not completely fulfil their ambitions in sport.
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Keywords: China; gender inequality; stratification; urbanisation; women's sport

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College Cork, Ireland

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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