Constraints for women leisure

Besides work and family, leisure becomes another important part of life. Leisure is a desirable way to get rid of stressful work and household and it is good for getting life back on track. However, even though leisure is free-choosing or self-determined, constraints still keep people especially women from enjoying leisure. Generally, temporal constraints, economic constraints, and lack of opportunities or facilities (Jackson, 1988) are common constricts for both men and women, while women are particularly disadvantaged with regard to these constraints.

Early studies of leisure constraints tended to focus on “objective” leisure constraints (e.g., time, money and facilities), and reported that these constraints typically affected both men and women. Then other types of constraints which particularly affect women show up. The most popular constraints thought to be women specific maybe the ethic of care. This notion was first proposed by Gilligan (1982). It suggests that women often provide for the needs of others first, and neglecting their own leisure needs. The second common constraint for women specific and linked to ethic of care is the lack of a sense of entitlement to leisure. Various studies have shown that not only do women often have little access to personal leisure, but that they also can’t feel they have a right to leisure for themselves (Green et al., 1990). The ethic of care is also linked to women’s role as the primary caregiver in the family and thus helps to explain how family commitment and family structures constrain women’s leisure.

Other constrains of women’s lives include women’s fear of violence both in the home and in out of home leisure settings, and the power of the “beauty myth” for women (Wolf, 1991), which leads to insecurity and concerns about physical appearance. Fear of violence is indeed an important factor constraining women’s leisure choices. Recent research on constraints associated with participation in aerobics activities also suggests that body image problems constrain women’s enjoyment of leisure, at least in some activities .

In china, leisure differs within gender. Huang & He (2007) studied the leisure activities of men and women in Nanjing China and the results are showed as following. There is slightly average leisure time gap between women and men. However, household like taking care of children would be seen as leisure time of women which means the gap between genders should be much larger. Leisure activities out of family, especially public places, are more preferred by women while men like quiet and independent spaces more. Watching TV is most popular leisure activities for both men and women, while for the other activities, shopping and chatting with friends is specific for women wile men’s leisure time distributed much more equally on different leisure activities. Comparing the consumption we will find that women shows up far more less than men in higher consumption places and women tend to consume on the good for self-improvement like make-up, clothes, while men on social interaction.


Notes:X-axis of fig.1: <1 hour, 1-2 hours, 2-4 hours, >4 hours; X-axis of fig.2: relatives and friends’ home, park, shopping mall, bar or coffee house, restaurant, fitness club, bath center, karaoke, night club, playground, others; X-axis of fig.3: dining, bathing, fitness, going to club, shopping, watching movie, chatting, others; X-axis of fig.5: grocery, clothes, make-up, beauty or health, fitness, culture and education, party, tourism, others


Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Green, E., Hebron, S., & Woodward, D. (1990). Women’s leisure, what leisure? Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan.

Huang C X, He L. (2007). Research on women’s daily leisure behaviors: a case study in nanjing. Economic Geograghy, 27(5): 796-799.

Jackson, E.L. ( 1988). Leisure constraints: A survey of past research. Journal of Leisure Research, 10(3), 203-215.

Wolf, N. (1991). The beauty myth: How images of beauty are used against women. New York, NY: William Morrow.




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