Rhythmic Gymnastics vs. Boxing: Gender Stereotypes From the Two Poles of Female Sport
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In recent decades, women have begun to take up types of physical activity traditionally considered masculine. They appeared in previously one-gender team sports such as football or water polo, and nowadays they are also involved in ice hockey, canoeing, and are active in numerous combat sports as well. On the other hand, men have entered sport fields previously only available to women, such as rhythmic gymnastics. By this, sport can be regarded not only as a scene of gender stereotyping, but also a scene of redefining the concepts of masculinity-femininity in the negotiating of gender relations. Owing to these phenomena, there has been an emergence of studies analyzing sports from a gender aspect as well as the generalizations related to athletes involved in these sports. These studies have primarily focused on the constructions of gender identities and gender roles of women participating in traditionally masculine sports (football, weightlifting, and bodybuilding). This paper presents the results of empirical research designed to explore the opinions of top athletes involved in sports considered to be the most masculine and most feminine by the public and by sport experts: rhythmic gymnastics and boxing. They discussed their own sport and each other’s sport. With the information obtained from the structured interviews (n=22), it became possible to compare their social background, sport socialization and sport selection, as well as their conceptions of gender roles, femininity, and masculinity. As a conclusion of the research, it can be stated that from the aspects examined differences could mostly be observed in the circumstances of sport selection, but representatives of the two sports also diverged remarkably in their judgments about each other’s sport. While female boxers did not voice extreme opinions about rhythmic gymnastics, representatives of the sport regarded to be the most feminine reflected on boxing in a stereotypical and prejudiced way, even given their lack of experience.
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