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Gendering Sport and Health in Victorian Periodicals for Boys and Girls

Day, David (2019) Gendering Sport and Health in Victorian Periodicals for Boys and Girls. In: Sport and Literature Association Annual Conference, 19 June 2019 - 22 June 2019, University of Limoges, France. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Socialisation into the gendered sporting world of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in Britain occurred most obviously through family and school but other, more subtle, mechanisms were also employed to reinforce definitions of masculinity and acceptable femininity. Literature provided a critical means of transmitting what was expected of a young woman or a young man and popular accessible material in the form of periodicals was especially effective in constantly emphasizing the qualities that boys and girls should be aspiring to. This research paper utilises The Boy’s Own Paper (BOP) and its sister version, The Girl’s Own Paper (GOP), to explore the way in which appropriate gender behaviour with respect to health and sport was presented. Examination of these periodicals from 1879 to 1905 for BOP and between 1881 and 1905 for GOP suggests that the values ascribed to sport and leisure were tailored to the audience and designed to reproduce existing social attitudes regarding male and female roles and responsibilities. While still in its early stages this research project is already beginning to identify significant differences in how sporting topics were presented. The September 1905 edition of GOP, for example, includes an article on hints for croquet players but this is immediately followed by an article on marriage and a discourse on contemporary tennis fashion rather than the game itself. By contrast, the corresponding issue of BOP begins with a stirring tale about a fort siege in the British Empire before an article on saving life using artificial respiration.

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