Undoing Gender or Overdoing Gender? Women MMA Athletes’ Intimate Partnering and the Relational Maintenance of Femininity

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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Recent scholarship suggests that women in martial arts and combat sports have increasingly begun to undo gender by challenging gender norms and constructing new femininities. Most of this research, however, has focused on gender dynamics within martial arts and combat sports settings, rather than outside of them. For this study, I conducted semistructured interviews with 40 professional women’s mixed martial arts athletes to examine the extent to which these women challenged gender norms in their intimate relationships. My data revealed that because they possess traits that are traditionally interpreted as masculine, many of the heterosexual women in my sample actually oversubscribe to gender norms in their intimate relationships to combat feelings of feminine insecurity. I argue, therefore, that rather than undoing gender, these women overdo gender in their intimate relationships. This study provides a cautionary tale to the celebrations of undoing gender for women combat sports athletes.

The author is with the Department of Sociology, University of California, Riverside, CA, USA.

Address author correspondence to Justen Hamilton at jhami008@ucr.edu.
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