- Noelle Brigden
- Melissa M. Forbis
- Katie Rose Hejtmanek
Traditionally, strength sports, which focus strictly on the development and individualized application of physical power, were reserved by public perceptions and athletic institutions as a masculine domain. However, strength sports have seen an exponential growth of women’s participation in the past decade. These sports have also diversified beyond gender to include LGBTQ, people of color, older and disabled athletes and practitioners. Interdisciplinary sports scholars have noted that sport can both reinforce and reimagine identities, including gender. As such, athletic forums and the athlete’s own body become sites of political struggle, and of capitalist commodification. Since strength sports are tightly linked to the exercise of power and the performance of conventional understandings of masculinity, they are a particularly potent platform for insurgent gender practices.
This edited volume argues that this exponential growth of strength sports in the contemporary moment is no coincidence. Across the globe, increased hostility toward racial, ethnic and gender difference, and setbacks in rights and demands for equality mar the contemporary political moment. This hostility responds to and reinforces a deepening cycle of economic precarity, environmental injustices, mass incarceration and police targeting of racial minorities, societal and border militarization, the War on Terror, the withdrawal of economic protections for vulnerable peoples, and a reassertion of control over women’s bodies and sexuality. In the face of this oppression, sports have become a critical site of resistant practices. Despite sports being a powerful site of social control and resistance in most parts of the globe throughout modern history, they have too often been ignored by scholars. Situated within this context ongoing political struggles, and building on a literature that explores the intersectional politics of embodied practice and physical culture, this edited volume takes up the importance of sport, and analyzes the unique potential of strength sports as a site of gender contestation to the existing order.
Some women athletes and strength sports communities embed their notion of empowerment in a larger critique of crosscutting socio-economic and political structures of continued colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism. Rather than simply celebrate their own freedom to defy gender stereotypes, these athletes self-consciously link their struggle for athletic recognition and body positivity to that of others, as well as to racialized and class constraints on choice, as well as the ableism inherent in responsibility/rights discourse that celebrates individual athletic achievement without acknowledging political context. The geographic and social reach of strength sports has been expanding with its newfound popularity and projection on social media, including athletes from increasingly diverse and historically marginalized global locations.
Call for Chapters
Recognizing the importance of this radical understanding of empowerment for the future of strength sports and its potential to disrupt white supremacist patriarchy, we welcome intersectional feminist analyses of gender in strength sports, beyond a singular focus on women’s participation. This volume defines strength sports as activities in which the competition outcomes depend exclusively on the individual capacity to move weight, including but not limited to: functional fitness training, powerlifitng, weightlifting, kettlebells, strongman/woman, highland games, and historic feats of strength. A key thread running through all contributions, including work in historical perspective, should be their engagement with the contemporary political moment.
We invite the exploration of a diversity themes related to feminist issues, such as:
- the impact of women’s athletic participation on broader political and social questions
- re-envisioning femininity/masculinity through sport
- the role of fat liberation movements in the growing popularity of strength sports
- the relationship between heteronormativity and sport
- the impact of social media and technological change on various aspects of sport
- racism and racialization in and through sport
- the political economy of sport
- negotiations of ableism and fitness discourses in strength sports
- discourses of genetics, nationalism, and superiority in strength sports
- the politics of performance and body enhancing drugs
- the impact of class on athletic opportunity and participation
- the political significance of transgender athletes
- embodiment and phenomenology in strength sports
- the concept of strength in the politics of sport and its relation to feminist theory
We are seeking submissions across disciplines and are open to local, global and transnational scope. Thus, from a variety of vantage points, this edited volume will map the ideological landscape of strength sports to understand its potential for insurgent gender practices and the importance for studying sport for feminist social change.
- Interested contributors should provide a 250-word abstract of chapter and short bio by June 15, 2019 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Notification of acceptance: July 15
- Submission of full chapter: September 30