Negotiating the Funhouse: CrossFit Women and the Looking Glass Athlete

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 Georgia Southern University
  • | 2 Augustana College
  • | 3 University of South Alabama
  • | 4 Augusta University
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While there have been dramatic increases in women’s participation in sport and physical activity following the implementation of Title IX in the United States, many women still face challenges negotiating societal expectations of femininity with the muscularity developed through exercise. In this study, the authors used focus group interviews with 47 women who participate in CrossFit to explore how female athletes understand their developing athletic identity through social interactions. Even as the participants expressed high levels of self-confidence and personal growth, which they attributed to their instrumental involvement with CrossFit, their discussions of what other people think of their nontraditional fitness activities and concomitant body changes were a constant source of frustration. Using the identity-building framework of Cooley’s theory of the looking glass self, the authors find that women are faced with not merely reflections, but distorted funhouse mirrors; reflections that are heavily warped by gendered patriarchal societal norms. Surrounded by an array of potentially confusing and distracting “funhouse” mirrors, these female athletes used CrossFit’s local and expanded community, as well as their own burgeoning self-efficacy, to navigate their changing bodies and identities.

Malcom is with the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, USA. Edmonds is with Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, USA. Gipson is with the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology, Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA, USA. Hauff is with the University of South Alabama, AL, USA. Bennett is with Augusta University, Augusta, GA, USA.

Malcom (nmalcom@georgiasouthern.edu) is corresponding author.
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