“Some Women Are Born Fighters” : Discursive Constructions of a Fighter’s Identity by Female Finnish Judo Athletes
Kavoura, A., Kokkonen, M., Chroni, S., & Ryba, T. V. (2018). “Some Women Are Born Fighters” : Discursive Constructions of a Fighter’s Identity by Female Finnish Judo Athletes. Sex Roles, 79(3-4), 239-252. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0869-1
Published inSex Roles
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017
Martial arts and combat sports have been traditionally associated with masculinity, and a range of contradictory meanings have been attached to women’s engagement and experiences. The present study draws on cultural praxis and feminist poststructuralist frameworks to explore how female martial artists are subjectified to dominant cultural discourses surrounding fighting and competition. Interviews with nine female judoka (judo athletes) were gathered in Finland and analyzed using Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA). The FDA revealed that in female judoka talk, judo was constructed as a sport for all, but also as a male domain and a manly sport with fighting and competition as innate masculine qualities that are not learned. Two sets of wider, competing discourses provided the dominant structure for participants’ constructions of judo: (a) a mass sport discourse versus an elite sport discourse and (b) a gender equality discourse versus a female biological inferiority discourse. Drawing on this discursive context and in seeking to make sense of their experiences, participants constructed a “naturally born fighter” identity. Although this might be an empowering identity for female judoka, it does not advance the agenda of gender equity in martial arts because it constructs “ordinary” women as biologically incapable of competitive judo. Our findings reveal that even in the relatively egalitarian culture of Finland, gender hierarchies persist in judo and that it is only by disrupting prevalent constructions of fighting and competitiveness as masculine that progress toward gender equity can be made. ...
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