Healthism, Girls’ Embodiment, and Contemporary Health and Physical Education: From Weight Management to Digital Practices of Optimization

  • Emma Rich


This chapter offers a critical exploration of contemporary forms of healthism within health and physical education, and girls’ subjectivities and bodies. I suggest that health and physical education (HPE) is being reshaped by a complex assemblage of health and emerges as a pedagogical site through which new health imperatives circulate. Drawing on various feminist contributions to this research agenda, I explore two contemporary public health priorities that are the result of this assemblage and are shaping the policies and pedagogies of HPE in ways that have significant implications for girls’ subjectivities and embodiment. First, whilst healthism has long held a presence in the curriculum and practices of HPE, I outline how it has been intensified by an obesity discourse (Education, disordered eating and obesity discourse: Fat fabrications, Routledge, 2008) and its accompanying moral panic. Second, I examine the shift towards digitization within HPE whereby commercial digital health technologies are increasingly being used to track and monitor students’ bodies and health. Throughout, I indicate the numerous contributions of feminist research in helping to frame the critical analysis of healthism within HPE and its impact on girls’ experiences of their bodies and subjectivities. Reflecting on these contemporary features of HPE, I argue that feminist research might be at a critical juncture in responding to these challenges and addressing the complex gendered relationalities within these contexts. As such, this may warrant future discussions focused on the exploration of new conceptual, empirical and methodological approaches.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Rich
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BathBathUK

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