The Frailty Myth proposes that the female body can be frozen, restricted by the ever present negative gendered narrative perpetuated by society. Embodiment occurs when the female body is thawed. The opposite can be argued for boys. Boys are taught to live their bodies, that is they have a sense of embodiment. Therefore, boys do not have to concern themselves with thawing their bodies as they already experience their bodies in strong and liberal ways. In this study, I compare how girls and boys live their bodies utilizing participant observation. Six themes emerged: being the instructor, gendered discourse in action, body proximity and movement, The Invincibility Effect, the grade six and seven/eight divide and lived body moments. The implications of these observations suggest how activities such as self-defense have the potential to create a lived body, that girls can work toward a lived body and gender can be observed through everyday lived experiences. Though research exists within the literature; it does not seem to address the performance of the lived body within this population, utilizing a comparative approach.


gender, self-defense, participant observation, middle school students

Author Bio(s)

Giovanna Follo is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Wright State University – Lake Campus. As a sociology generalist, she has several areas of research focus such her work examining the sandwich generation, retention and the Wright State Faculty strike. However, her central focus of research lies in the area of women and girls in martial arts and self-defense. Understanding the importance self-reflexivity, she embraced autoethnography, participant observation and the general qualitative approaches to discover the nuances within her research. Please direct correspondence to giovanna.follo@wright.edu.


I would like to acknowledge those that helped in the preparation of this manuscript.

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