Young Muslim women in kickboxing in The Netherlands: choosing ladies-only
Paper short abstract:
This paper on female kickboxing practices in the Netherlands explores how ideas of masculinity and femininity are contested and reproduced in sports and how the choices of participating in sports are conditioned and situated on personal and political levels.
Paper long abstract:
In the large cities of the Netherlands, young women are increasingly active in Ladies-Only kickboxing. Ladies-Only training contests the perceived masculine practice of Thai-/kickboxing by challenging the aggressive, competitive, and painful characteristics of the sport. The participation of girls and women in the sport is often motivated as a form of 'empowerment' both by the gyms and local governments, incited by national policies. The wider public tends to hold negative views of kickboxing as an excessively aggressive sport. Yet in the case of women, kickboxing is perceived as emancipatory enskillment and a form of self-defense. This paper will explore how the choices of participating in sports are conditioned and situated in personal and political levels (Abu-Lughod 2013, Butler 2011). My research on female kickboxing practices in the Netherlands explores how ideas of masculinity and femininity are contested and reproduced in sports. How are ideas of what is healthy, beautiful, and feminine influenced by extant structures? And how does the potentially empowering and emancipating ideal of young Muslim women participating in kickboxing, and sports in general, square with the heteronormative foundation of their actual involvement in sports? While taking my own body as the main tool of investigation in participant observation, I will analyze the changes in the practice of kickboxing (via gender segregated spaces, feminizing movements and discourse, and slacking) and in notions of self.
Innovation and continuity in the anthropology of gender and sexuality (Network for the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality)