Pretty Strong Women: Ingenious Agency, Pink Gloves and Muay Thai

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Women now compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship for which Muay Thai is a feeder discipline. It is timely to analyze how the tools of this pugilist trade, women’s bodies, are lived and discursively positioned. We explore how bodily attributes (strength and beauty) are positioned vis-a-vis women fighters by drawing on 17 interviews with women Muay Thai fighters. We argue while women are in control of their bodies and proud of their strength, normative narratives of fighting being unfeminine must be combatted. Theoretically, we expand discussion of gender and the body by deploying the ‘pretty imperative’ to examine how women’s quotidian practices open space for other women fighters and by engaging the notion of ingenious agency to reveal women’s strategic efforts for inclusion and acceptance.

Davies and Deckert are with the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

Address author correspondence to Sharyn G. Davies at sharyn.davies@aut.ac.nz.
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