Skip to main content

Girl Power Figures, Mythic Amazons, and Neoliberal Risk Performers: Discursively Situating Women Who Participate in Mixed Martial Arts

Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)

Abstract

The advent of women MMA combatants suggests that opportunities have broadened for women to engage in sporting activities hitherto monopolized by men. We discern three discourses through which women’s MMA performances can be read. First, a "Girl Power" discourse claims that women’s inherent power permits them to move easily into men’s realms. Second, a discourse positioning women combatants as mythic Amazons depicts women as long-standing participants in institutionalized violence. Third, a risk discourse posits that gender is irrelevant, and that what matters is individual merit, expressed in skilful risk management and moral fortitude in the risk society. Although each discourse celebrates women’s capacities as cage fighters, each neutralizes criticism of the more common historical reality of women’s experiences of violence at the hands of men.

Keywords

  • Hegemonic Masculinity
  • Risk Society
  • Combat Sport
  • Beauty Ideal
  • Gender Performance

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-45797-4_14
  • Chapter length: 20 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   64.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-1-137-45797-4
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    Throughout the sport literature, various terms have been used such as alternative sports (Laviolette, 2007), edgework (Lyng, 2005), and extreme sports (Rinehart & Sydnor, 2003). Some resist using ‘extreme’ as a way to describe a sport, as they see the term as a ploy by popular media and industry to advance a feeling of excitement in fans, ultimately to be resolved through consuming. We have decided to employ the term ‘extreme’ as it is arguably the most recognizable to people less familiar with the culture of the sport. We also consider ‘extreme’ an appropriate label for MMA simply due to way it uniquely endorses violence, but also how for many participants of MMA, this culture of violence is a “way of life” (Spencer, 2012, p. 8).

References

  • Abramson, C. M., & Modzelewski, M. (2011). Caged morality: Moral worlds, subculture, and stratification among middle-class cage-fighters. Qualitative Sociology, 34(1), 143–175.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Barthes, R. (2010). The preparation of the novel: Lecture courses and seminars at the Collège de France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Toward a new modernity. (M. Ritter. Trans.). Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bledsoe, H. G. (2009). Mixed martial arts. In R. Kordi, N. Maffulli, R. R. Wrobble, & W. A. Wallace (Eds.), Combat sports medicine (pp. 323–330). London: Springer-Verlag.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Blok, J. H. (1995). The early Amazons: Modern and ancient perspectives on a persistent myth. New York, NY: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boudreau, J., & de Alba, F. (2011). The figure of the hero in cinematographic and urban spaces. Emotion, Space and Society, 4(2), 75–85.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Brauning, A. (2014, July 8). Hail the queen: Ronda Rousey is on fire. Fightland. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from http://fightland.vice.com/blog/hail-the-queen-ronda-rousey-is-on-fire

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (1999, May 11). [TV programme] The WB.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Channon, A., & Jennings, G. (2014). Exploring embodiment through martial arts and combat sports: A review of empirical research. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, 17(6), 773–789.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Chase, C. (2012, November 30). UFC’s Ronda Rousey tries to ‘have as much sex as possible’ before her MMA fights. USA Today. Retrieved April 24, 2013 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2012/11/30/ronda-rousey-sex-before-fights/1737683/

  • Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coppermine Gallery. (2013, October 10). Underarmour_2013_03.jpg. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.ginacaranofan.com/gallery/displayimage.php?album=lastup&cat=9&pid=1002#top_display_media

  • Davis, A. (1999). ‘These viragoes are no less cruel than the lads’: Young women, gangs and violence in late Victorian Manchester and Salford. British Journal of Criminology, 39, 72–89.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, E. (1897[1951]). Suicide: A study in sociology. New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Early, F., & Kennedy, K. (2003). Athena’s daughters: Television’s new women warriors. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fightnews. (2014, July 2). UFC Ultimate Media Day to be broadcast LIVE on UFC Fight Pass tomorrow. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.fightnews.com/Boxing/ufc-ultimate-media-day-to-be-broadcast-live-on-ufc-fight-pass-tomorrow-251439

  • Foucault, M. (1988). Technologies of the self. In L. H. Martin, H. Gutman, & P. H. Hutton (Eds.), Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault (pp. 16–49). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fuller, L. K. (Ed.) (2006). Sport, rhetoric, and gender. Historical perspectives and media representations. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Giddens, A. (1999). Runaway world: How globalization is shaping our lives. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Giesler, C. M. (2012). Performances of gender and sexuality in extreme sports culture. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of South Florida, Dept. of Communication College of Arts and Sciences.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grimal, P. (1965). Greece: Myth and logic. In P. Grimal (Ed.), Larousse world mythology (pp. 97–176). New York, NY: Hamlyn.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guérandel, C., & Mennesson, C. (2007). Gender construction in judo interactions. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 42(2), 167–186.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Guthrie, S. (1995). Liberating the Amazon: Feminism and the martial arts. In J. Ochshorn & E. Cole (Eds.), Women’s spirituality, women’s lives (pp. 107–119). New York, NY: The Hawthorn Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haas, J. (2012, August 4). Gina Carano in ESPN “The body issue”. Senatus. Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://senatus.net/album/view/7574/

  • Hardwick, L. (1990). Ancient Amazons—Heroes, outsiders or women? Greece & Rome, 37(1), 14–36.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hargreaves, J. (1997). Boxing and related activities: Introducing images and meanings. Body & Society, 3(3), 49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heinecken, D. (2004). No cage can hold her rage? Gender, transgression, containment and the World Wrestling Federation’s Chyna. In S. A. Innes (Ed.), Action chicks: New images of tough women in popular culture (pp. 181–206). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hess, A. (2014, July 21). Ronda Rousey mad women’s MMA. Will she be its downfall? Slate. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/07/21/ronda_rousey_and_women_s_mma_a_new_yorker_profile_questions_the_future_of.html

  • Hirose, A., & Pih, K. (2010). Men who strike and men who submit: Hegemonic and marginalized masculinities in mixed martial arts. Men and Masculinities, 13, 190.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hopkins, S. (2002). Girl heroes: The new force in popular culture. Annandale, NSW, Australia: Pluto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Innerarity, D. (2008). Le future et ses ennemis, de la confiscation de l’avenir à l’espérance politique. Paris, France: Climats.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jenefsky, C., & Miller, D. (1998). Phallic intrusion: Girl-girl sex in Penthouse. Women’s Studies International Forum, 21(4), 375–385.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jennings, L. A. (2013, December 31). Ronda Rousey and the feminism of the bitch. Fightland. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://fightland.vice.com/blog/ronda-rousey-and-the-feminism-of-the-bitch

  • Kimmel, M. S. (1994). Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame, and silence in the construction of gender identity. In H. Brod & M. Kauffman (Eds.), Theorizing masculinities (pp. 119–141). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kimmel, M. S. (1999). Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame and silence in the construction of gender identity. In J. A. Kuypers (Ed.), Men and power (pp. 84–103). Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laviolette, P. (2007). Hazardous sport. Anthropology Today, 23(6), 1–2.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lebrun, J. P. (2007). La perversion ordinaire; Vivre ensemble sans autrui. Paris, France: Denoël.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipsyte, R. (2004). Surviving jock culture. In M. Cart (Ed.), Rush hour: A journal of contemporary voices (pp. 177–195). New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Livi-Bacci, M. (2010). El Dorado in the marshes: Gold, slaves and souls between the Andes and the Amazon. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lökman, P. (2011). Becoming aware of gendered embodiment: Female beginners learning aikido. In E. Kennedy & P. Markula (Eds.), Women and exercise: The body, health and consumerism (pp. 266–279). London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lyng, S. (2005). Edgework: The sociology of risk-taking. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCarter, N. (2014, August 1). Ronda Rousey vs. Gina Carano: Why the UFC is right to book the fight. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from Bleacher Report website, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2148665-ronda-rousey-vs-gina-carano-why-the-ufc-is-right-to-book-the-fight

  • McClure, A. I. (2004, August 14). Girl Power ideology: A sociological analysis of post-feminist and individualist visions for girls. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p108568_index.html

  • Mennesson, C. (2000). ‘Hard’ women and ‘soft’ women: The social of identities among female boxers. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 35(1), 21–33.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Messner, M. A. (2007). Out of play: Critical essays on gender and sport. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Messner, M. A., & Sabo, D. (Eds.) (1990). Sport, men, and the gender order: Critical feminist perspectives. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morrison, T. G., & Tallack, D. (2005). Lesbian and bisexual women’s interpretations of lesbian and ersatz lesbian pornography. Sexuality & Culture, 9(2), 3–30.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Olstead, R. (2011). Gender, space and fear: A study of women’s edgework. Emotion, Space and Society, 4(2), 86–94.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • O’Malley, P., & Mugford, S. (1994). Crime, excitement and modernity. In G. Barak (Ed.), Varieties of criminology (pp. 189–211). Westport, CT: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Owen, S., Vande Berg, L., & Stein, S. (Eds.) (2007). Bad girls: Cultural politics and media representations of transgressive women. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paechter, C. (2006). Masculine femininities/feminine masculinities: Power, identities and gender. Gender and Education, 18(3), 253–263.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pender, P. (2004). ‘Kicking ass is comfort food’: Buffy as Third Wave feminist icon. In S. Gillis, G. Howie, & R. Munford (Eds.), Third Wave feminism: A critical exploration (pp. 164–174). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pryal, J. (2014, April 21). History is made with the first male vs. female UFC fight. Empire Sports News. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from http://www.empiresports.co/history-is-made-with-the-first-male-vs-female-ufc-fight/

  • Rinehart, R., & Sydnor, S. (Eds.) (2003). To the extreme: Alternative sports, inside and out. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rose, N. (1999). Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York, NY: Vintage Books Edition.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sandberg, B. (2004). ‘Generous Amazons came to the breach’: Besieged women, agency and subjectivity during the French Wars of Religion. Gender & History, 16(3), 654–688.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Scambler, G., & Jennings, M. (1998). On the periphery of the sex industry: Female combat, male punters, and feminist discourse. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 22(4), 416–430.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, D. (2012). Ultimate fighting and embodiment: Violence, gender and mixed martial arts. London, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • St. Martin, D. (2014, February 24). Morning Report: UFC octagon girl Arianna Celeste doesn’t believe Ronda Rousey is a good role model for women. MMAFighting. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.mmafighting.com/2014/2/24/5441112/morning-report-ufc-octagon-girl-arianny-celeste-ronda-rousey-dana-white-mma-news

  • TMZ. (2011, January 19). Dana White—Women will never fight in the UFC. Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http://www.tmz.com/2011/01/19/dana-white-ufc-women-fighters-cris-cyborg-santos-gina-carano-mma-female/

  • UFC. (n.d.). Rules and regulations: Unified rules and other MMA regulations. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from http://www.ufc.ca/discover/sport/rules-and-regulations

  • Velija, P., Mierzwinski, M., & Fortune, L. (2012). ‘It made me feel powerful’: Women’s gendered embodiment and physical empowerment in the martial arts. Leisure Studies, 32(5), 524–541.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Weaving, C. (2014). Cage fighting like a girl: Exploring gender constructions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 41(1), 129–142.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wertheim, L. J. (2007). The new main event. Sports Illustrated, 106, 52–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wheelwright, J. (1987). ‘Amazons and military maids’: An examination of female military heroines in British literature and the changing construction of gender. Women’s Studies International Forum, 10(5), 489–502.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • White, M., & Arp, R. (Eds.) (2008). Batman and philosophy: The dark knight of the soul. Oxford, UK: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilding, J. (2014). UFC champion Ronda Rousey reveals why she should be WONDER WOMAN instead of Gal Gadot. ComicBookMovie. Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://comicbookmovie.com/fansites/JoshWildingNewsAndReviews/news/?a=105753

  • Young, I. M. (2005). On female body experience: Throwing like a girl and other essays. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Young, K., & White, P. (2000). Researching sport injury: Reconstructing dangerous masculinities. In J. McKay, M. Messner, & D. Sabo (Eds.), Masculinities, gender relations and sport (pp. 108–126). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Copyright information

© 2016 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Chisholm, R., Weaving, C., Bischoping, K. (2016). Girl Power Figures, Mythic Amazons, and Neoliberal Risk Performers: Discursively Situating Women Who Participate in Mixed Martial Arts. In: Thorpe, H., Olive, R. (eds) Women in Action Sport Cultures. Global Culture and Sport Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-45797-4_14

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-45797-4_14

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-137-45796-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-137-45797-4

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)