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Freedom through constraint: Young women's embodiment, space and wellbeing during lockdown

Harding, S.; Mazzoli Smith, L.

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Sarah Metcalfe
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy


Following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown restrictions in March 2020, young people were suddenly faced with a reduction and reconfiguration of the spaces in which they could ‘be’. This paper explores how in this lockdown context, young women (aged 10–20) experienced their bodies and wellbeing, where traditional social connections (particularly school and physical connections) were not possible. Based on qualitative responses (n = 511) from an online, open-ended survey on wellbeing, physical activity, body image and social media usage, we explore how a reduction and reconfiguration of space, understood relationally, contributes to an individual's wellbeing. Using abductive reasoning and taking a phenomenological approach, we concentrate on the embodied experience of wellbeing and how this links to the spaces in which the body is lived. We suggest that the removal of spaces during lockdown, which on the one hand can be seen as problematic for maintaining wellbeing, also enabled many young women to experience new connections – with their bodies, family, and the environment and nature, that supplemented previous connections and fostered positive relationships and wellbeing. The removal of specific performative modes of judgement associated with the school environment was a positive influence on many young women's relationships with their own bodies and their wider construction of wellbeing, but increased use of social media spaces were found to reconstitute these performative experiences. The benefits of the specific and newly delimited freedoms associated with the forced lockdown have implications for an understanding of embodied wellbeing that is not individual, instead embedded inextricably in relations of connectedness with others in space and the nature of these intersubjective experiences.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 16, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 17, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 13, 2022
Journal Wellbeing, Space and Society
Print ISSN 2666-5581
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Article Number 100101
Public URL


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