"Sem Medo De Ser Feliz!": Brazilian Horsewomen, Cowgirls and Equestrian Leisure

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Miriam ADELMAN , Social Sciences, Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil
Equestrian sport and leisure activities are often praised for their ability to “democratically” integrate different types of people. Women and men of all ages, with differing levels of physical ability and often from different social backgrounds, may find a place for themselves within equestrian cultures, which include a wide range of modes of practice. In Brazil, although people often associate equestrian activities with elites or well-off members of urban middle classes who take part in dressage and show jumping, our own research has shown popular equestrian traditions engage people from across the social spectrum, men and women, girls and boys, in activities that range from casual leisure riding to rodeo competition. Furthermore, the ideas that are so often expressed in popular international literature – whether fact, fiction, or lying somewhere in between - claiming women’s special connection to horses, or women's “empowerment through horses” - are also disseminated in Brazil. In this research, we focus on women and leisure riding activities. Taking off from our own previous researches looking at three different Brazilian equestrian milieu and gendered interactions therein, this paper works with the life stories of women who vary in terms of class, generation, educational, occupational and marital status, looking at what horses represent in their lives, and what kinds of conflicts they face as they negotiate access to the time and resources their equestrian activities demand. Their struggles are poignant testimony of both persistent inequalities and prejudice, and current gains relating to gendered structures of leisure and the pursuit of happiness and well-being.