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Critical Encounters with Social Media in Women's Sport and Physical Culture

Kim Toffoletti (Deakin University, Australia)
Nida Ahmad (Independent Researcher)
Holly Thorpe (University of Waikato, New Zealand)

Sport, Social Media, and Digital Technology

ISBN: 978-1-80071-684-1, eISBN: 978-1-80071-683-4

Publication date: 13 April 2022



The purpose of this chapter is to assess the social significance of digital technologies for researching and understanding active women's bodies, identities, practices, and politics. In critically surveying the rapidly expanding body of literature on women's social media use for sport and physical activity, the chapter highlights the multidisciplinary nature of much of this work and its feminist and social justice orientation toward understanding the uneven impacts of platformed engagement for women, particularly those who are socially marginalized.


The chapter synthesizes the current literature to identify feminist and sociological approaches to analyzing sporting women's social media use. It draws on the authors' own research as case study illustrations of key developments.


Findings identify opportunities and challenges for women navigating the complexities of social media encounters in their sporting and physical cultural lives, focusing on self-presentation, branding and digital labor, community-building, and activism. It proposes theoretical, methodological, and ethical directions for sociological interventions in this area of study.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should investigate the rapidly evolving digital landscape, issues of social justice and marginalized voices, and the social conditions that sustain gender inequalities in sport and social media spaces.


The chapter contributes original insights on emerging directions in the study of women, sport, and social media. Furthermore, it addresses the challenges for social researchers responding to the uptake of new social media platforms by female athletes and physically active women.



Toffoletti, K., Ahmad, N. and Thorpe, H. (2022), "Critical Encounters with Social Media in Women's Sport and Physical Culture", Sanderson, J. (Ed.) Sport, Social Media, and Digital Technology (Research in the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 15), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 29-47.



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