Pierre Bourdieu & Gym Culture

The Perfect Male Body

This is a common and hegemonic conception of what is generally expected to be the perfect male body. No one is born with or develops naturall, this perfect body. One must acquire a habitus of bodily inferiority to begin the process of going to the gym to reach this goal. Having a body like this, or being well on the way to having a body like this is an example of Bourdieu's idea of social capital within the field of the gym.  

The Perfect Female Body

Here we have a hegemonically 'perfect' female body. This kind of body is unattainable by many women, yet the drive to conform to this bodily norm is abundant. We see this in the numbers of women who attend gyms to flatten their stomach, tighten the abdominal muscles and tone and shape arms and legs. Women take residence in a different internal field to men in gym culture. In most gyms, there is a separate area for cardio-vascular work out and olympic weight training. males tend to take up the field of the weight rooms and females tend to stick to cardio machines located elsewhere. These internal differences in field are hierarchical and are maintained through symbolic violence.

Fields in Gym Culture

Fields within the context of the gym are generally different for men and women. Men tend to stick to olympic weight rooms to build muscle in an effort to conform to a muscular body image. The image above depicts a typical field for men in a gym environment.


A cardio work-out will help women who aspire to a typically hegemonically perfect female body. Female gym-goers typically attend gyms to burn off excess fat and tone areas such as the legs, buttocks and arms. Women are confined to cardio areas through tacit symbolic violence, and the fact that they may feel out of place, or overly judged by males in a male-dominated weight room setting.