WiSe 17/18: Ladies of Leisure: Gender and Recreation in the US, 1945-Now
“To have leisure is one of the earliest dreams of human beings: to be free to pursue what we want, to spend our time meaningfully in pleasurable ways” writes Ruth V. Russell in Pastimes: The Context ... read more
“To have leisure is one of the earliest dreams of human beings: to be free to pursue what we want, to spend our time meaningfully in pleasurable ways” writes Ruth V. Russell in Pastimes: The Context of Contemporary Leisure (2013: 4). And yet, the ways in which these dreams of leisure are put into practice vary greatly depending on a range of socio-cultural and economic factors. In 2015, for instance, men spent almost an hour a day more on recreational activities than women—and this gap in time use is only one aspect of leisure that is gendered. Attitudes, expectations, and access to recreational activities alike are informed by gender, as Sheila Scraton and Samantha Holland point out: “Women’s leisure [can] only be understood within the context of unequal structural power relations and the persistence of dominant ideologies of domesticity, motherhood and femininity” (236). -----
In this seminar, we explore various facets of women’s leisure in the United States during the second half of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. We follow an intersectional approach in which gender is the primary focus, but one that is always informed by other variables, such as race and ethnicity, class and status, age and health. In order to map the vast landscape of gendered leisure in contemporary America, we draw on an array of different materials, ranging from advertising, travel guides, and magazines to literary and audiovisual negotiations of women’s recreation (e.g. Parks and Recreation, a political sitcom exploring the nexus of leisure, bureaucracy, and small-town America). -----
Building on two introductory sessions that theorize and historicize the basic concepts of leisure, play, and recreation in America, we will examine a range of activities pursued by women, alone and in groups, actively and passively, in structured and spontaneous ways: book clubs and hiking, shopping and fitness, rugby and crafts, but also illicit or stigmatized forms of taboo leisure activities. These explorations take us through a number of contested public and private spaces, ranging from the national park and the public swimming pool to the suburban home and the gambling hall. In addition to the changing trajectory of gender politics, the seminar traces the development of the leisure industry in the emerging neoliberal era and interrogates the notions of amateurism, affective labor, and semi-professionalism, in particular in the sphere of social media.