Feminizing fighting sports?

By Jasmijn Rana
Fouzia (the trainer) told us that we were not training hard enough, because she never saw anyone vomit in Ladies-Only kickboxing training. Naima, with whom I was training, responded: “But we’re girls, right? We don’t have to do exactly the same as they do in the men’s training?”   Fouzia answered elaborately by sharing a personal experience. One day, she was training with a new male pupil, who told her she could punch and kick as hard as she wanted because she was a girl. So, she did and she said she “totally destroyed him.” Naima just nodded and we continued the exercise. Then she whispered: “Well I don’t want to vomit. Do you?” I shook my head and we continued taking it easy. 
The phenomenon of Ladies-Only training contests the masculine practice of thai-/kickboxing by challenging the aggressive, competitive and painful nature of the sport. Participation of girls and women in this sport is often initiated as a form of ‘empowerment,’ both by local governments, incited by national policies, and by the gyms. The wider public tends to view kickboxing negatively as an overly aggressive sport. Yet in the case of women, kickboxing is perceived as emancipatory enskillment and as a form of self-defense. My research on female kickboxing practices in the Netherlands demonstrates how ideas of masculinity and femininity are contested and reproduced in sports.
Read the rest: http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/489-sports-provocation

Cite as: Rana, Jasmijn"Sports: Provocation." Fieldsights - Field Notes, Cultural Anthropology Online, February 10, 2014, http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/489-sports-provocation