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

Katy Pilcher*, Wendy Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
Pages (from-to)698-717
Number of pages20
JournalSociological research online
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 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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