femininity

Two women prepare to fight one another in a mixed-martial arts competition.
Cris Cyborg (left) fights Leslie Smith at an Ultimate Fighting Championship event. (photo via Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)

In recent years, the sport of women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) has gained substantial popularity in North America. Many have viewed this increase in popularity as indicative of progress toward gender equality, as women have traditionally been discouraged from participating in sports that place a heavy emphasis on so-called “masculine” traits, such as physical strength, aggression, and dominance. Scholars, as well, have viewed the increased participation of women in combat sports optimistically, with some even discussing WMMA as a new “feminist frontier.”

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Photo by Chris Phutully.

The X League is an arena women’s tackle football league where women pay to play full contact, scantily clad, televised, football. Arena football has slightly different rules than traditional football with no field goals or extra-point kicks. Several arena football leagues exist, but the X League has one unique quality. In the X League, players wear bikini-like “performance apparel” and modified equipment, such as hockey helmets, less leg padding, and modified shoulder pads that do not cover their chests

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Image from Barbies and Robots.

For many women, bodybuilding (i.e., sculpting one’s body through rigorous diet and training to develop muscle size) is an empowering activity. Heavy weightlifting increases muscular strength and size, and enhances one’s physical capacity. For women, bodybuilding can be empowering because a muscular female body defies our traditional understanding of a feminine body as a one that is small, weak, fragile, and limited. A female bodybuilder – someone who has, through years of strength training, gained a considerable amount of visible muscularity – challenges these stereotypes of femininity, forcing us to critically examine and reconsider our taken-for-granted knowledge of the female physique and its capabilities. Bodybuilding allows women to push against and break free from these societal boundaries, providing a space for empowerment.

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