Forever ‘becoming’? Negotiating gendered and ageing embodiment in everyday life

Katy Pilcher*, Wendy Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Drawing upon 62 participant-produced visual diaries and accompanying interview narratives, this article explores the significance of everyday body work for people in mid- to later life. Departing from previous work that has explored the intersections of gender and age in relation to a single embodied practice, this article highlights the salience of a myriad of bodily practices for the everyday ways that gender and ageing identities are constituted, specifically hair styling, beauty work, clothing, and dieting. We argue that women negotiate a gendered pressure to age well, which results in an in/visibility paradox, in which they are at one and the same time seen, but not seen. Consequently, we question whether women are thus forever ‘becoming’ – attempting to become embodied subjects, alongside subjecting to ‘becoming’ – aligning with normative discourses. The article examines the competing ways that ageing and gendered bodies are constructed, together with participants’ embodied resistance to negative normalising discourses.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological research online
Early online date25 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Funding: ESRC (RES-061-25-0459)


  • ageing
  • body work
  • embodiment
  • everyday life
  • gender
  • visual methods

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