When looking at women within sport many people tend to see females in the ‘girly’ type sports such as gymnastics, dance, and ballet and tend to think of the female body being feminine and sculpted to perfection which is stated briefly in Guttmann, A(1991) Coakley, J, J(1994) Hanson, S, L and Kraus, R, S (1999) and Hargreaves J (1994) & (2000). So what is the case when women go past these norms of society and participated in the more ‘manly’ activities and sports? Guttmann (1991) states that “daily sports participation for females aged between 16-19 is 0% and that males is 2.8% and is a slight increase with females aged between 21-29 at 0.3% and males being 3%”, so as these percentages are very low for women it would most defiantly be lower for females participating in the male dominant sports. But telling a woman they are week only makes them stronger athlete and person, telling women they are not good enough pushes them harder in whatever they do. Women athletes are an impassioned, hardworking, and dedicated group of females who will persevere no matter what society’s hand should deal them.
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A history of kickboxing
Martial arts are one of the most confusing sporting disciplines in the world, totally distinct from all other sporting events. You can only play football one way, tennis, rowing, running, gymnastics, and virtually every other sports discipline is practised to a universal conformity. Whereas the Martial arts which are a generic term generally used to cover combat forms from all over the world, is broken down into many various styles and forms of fighting. WKA (world kickboxing association) states that “the term martial art as used today is meant to indicate fighting formats that originated in South East Asia. There are many colourful and exciting disciplines encompassed within these indigenous fighting arts.”There are many different styles from many different countries in Japan we have Karate, jiu jitsu, judo, Aikido. From Korea there is Taekwon-do, Hapkido, Kuk-Sool -Won. From Thailand there is Muay Thai or Thai Boxing. From China there is the generic term Kung fu that encompasses at least five hundred different styles of empty hand fighting. The list is endless, and then in the West they have the many various forms of wrestling and boxing, all fighting styles and competitions come under different methods and ruling systems. Almost overnight various formats were developed to formulate a competition link between ancient fighting disciplines and modern sporting concepts. Unfortunately at world level there was no infrastructure, no set format of rules, the elements of danger were still included in the combat forms. As the martial arts disciplines grew in popularity mans urge to meet his/her peers on the competition floor demanded conformity, a universal rules system, and a method that would ensure the practitioners safety whilst competing at sporting level. This was the undergoing of elias civilising process to make the disciplines more civilised so that people could watch the sport more safely. In the 1970’s WKA (world kickboxing association) was formed and is still going today to make the sport better every day but this is not the only association that deals with kickboxing there is many different ones which have different rules and regulations.
Women in sport
“Feminism is about freedom: the individual and collective liberty to make decisions. Sports have freed women, and continue to free women, from restrictive dress, behaviours, laws and customs-and from the belief that women can’t or shouldn’t achieve or compete or win” (Nelson, B, M (1998)
Women have been in sports for many centuries’ and competed in more highly expensive sports in earlier centuries such as horse riding, archery, shooting and crocket. These types of sports were participated by the higher class women. In Guttmann (1991) he states that “women who tend to participate in more feminine sports assumed a critical attitude towards competitive sports and the craze for records and medals, which were considered typically male” but Guttmann also states about his seven characteristics to classify a sport and this state’s about records so the statement about is incorrect as all sports should include a quest for records. The importance of studying women in sport is inarguably one of the most influential and overlooked topics of the women’s movement. In the sports arena women are given the opportunity to level with men. To be given the opportunity to succeed is a landmark milestone in itself throughout women’s history. Due to changes in the Victorian era also influenced sports participation, some of these changes were that women were slowly being allowed to participate in a sport experience. The constraints that most closely inhibited women’s sport participation were “women’s physiology, fashion, and social expectations” (Powell, B, R (1981)
Women athletes play and challenge men athletes in almost any sport these days. The typical female athlete is an empowered woman who is competitive, strong and enjoys taking risks. The future for women in sport seems very bright with all of the innovation and talent on the horizon. Women are ever more empowered by their sporting ability in fact; women are a dominating force in some sports such as running and bodybuilding. Nelson (1998) states that, “Women use their bodies to do as they please. If in that process female bodies look unladylike-if they become bruised or bloody or simply unattractive-that seems irrelevant.” Women today use their bodies for whatever purpose they want. They enjoy working out not with the fears of looking “manly” but with the desire for health and power.
I found a quote to focus my dissertation on which is “Although women have been participating in sport for hundreds of years, specifically ball games and contact sports tend to be named masculine preserve and viewed as a place for masculine identity” from Elias and Dunning (1986) this is a really great way to discuss this topic and issues surrounding it as it states that only ball games and contact sports tend to be played by men but many women participate in these types of sports and they need to be shown to the modern society of nowadays. So the purpose of this research is to explore and explain the ‘lived experience’ of female kick boxers because until now they have been neglected from social research.
When looking at the literature to back up this area and its surrounding issues there isn’t really a lot of journal articles or books that are focused mainly on kickboxing. So I found 7 different journal articles that were similar, 2 on women in body building and the others are journals which involve fighting and have some reference to kickboxing. These journals are publications of gender studies and sports sociology which gave the best information to back up my issues with women in kickboxing. Although these journals have some knowledge and information, the actual relevant material was very little but using both my own knowledge of the sport and books to back this up was very difficult to make it appropriate. With this journal information and many different books which were from gender to actual kickboxing magazines and some general sport books to try and critically analysis the issues. Also taking into account many theoretical aspects to increase the analysis and backed up with female kickboxing experience knowledge with this.
In the literature review by Gregory, (2007) he looked at women in the Fatal Femmes Fighting Championship, an all-female mixed martial arts (MMA) event, this is a sport where you can punch, kick, elbow and knee even when on the ground. His opening sentence to this journal was, “You DON’T kick a girl when she’s down, right? Not if you can pound her face instead” Now in local society people don’t see women as doing this type of thing they are seen as elegant people who only compete in female types of sport like dancing. Cage fighting is the worst and most violent type of sport when it comes to mixed martial arts and brings many mixed emotions to men never mind women. When comparing this to a statement by Thing, (2001) he states that “The norms of women are tending to participate in womanly sports that are graceful and elegant. To see women as aggressive is neither appropriate, nor expected. It is carved in memories that women ought to be in control of their emotions and be caring mothers all day long.” He was basically stating that if women do participate within the sporting environment that it should be within the more womanly sports. My personal views of women in this type of sport is like when men were doing the same type of thing back when the Roman’s were round, people didn’t like to see men fighting due to all the blood and aggression so it went through a civilizing process from Norbert Elias and changed so people enjoyed watching it more. Once people agree more with women taking part in the more manly sports like kickboxing, it will go through a civilizing process and people will enjoy it but until then it is going to be frowned upon within modern society until people realize how much it is a good sport due to the many positives of it.
Hargreaves (1994) states “If you go to your local library and look at the sports books, they will almost certainly be predominantly about men. If you go to a university library, the bulk of the writing in sports history and sociology assume males standards. Switch on your television to look at sports programme’s and it’s the same story 90% of performers are male to females”. This is very true statement no matter what country you go to men seem to be the dominant sex when it comes to sports participation and it’s the same when looking at the sport kickboxing. This system is called patriarchy in which a system of power relations in which men dominates over women. In each of the journals looked at each of them mention about women who participate in the more manly sports were questioned about their sexualities.
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Hargreaves (1994) argues that “The dominant pressure in sports feminism is the desire for equality of opportunity for women to comparison with men.” also stating that “The most common form of women’s struggle in sports was trying to get equal opportunities with men” This equality comes from gender denial as Creedon (1994) says “Women were portrayed as ‘Feminine’ and fashionable, health conscious in their leisure pursuits, as goddesses rather than as athletic heroines. The small number of women who took part in aggressive, muscular, traditional male sports had their sexuality denied and were labelled ‘Manish’ and ‘freakish.'” If the community keeps labelling people like this women will end up getting sick of the negative comments and stop participating and this is wrong as we should have to not participate because someone doesn’t like you doing it, everyone should be equal and have equal rights to make up their own mind on their personal interests no matter if it is a manly sport. Hargreaves (2004) backs up this statement by stating “certainly throughout the history of modern sport, there has always being a small amount of adventurous women who have transgressed gender roles, taken up ‘manly sports’ such as boxing. She also states further along in her book that, “today women are bending mainstream definitions of gender and taking part in all types of sport, including masculinised sports in dramatically increased numbers,” this statement from a women’s point of view is very true that women shouldn’t have to on participate in ‘womanly sports’ and that the increasing numbers of women participating in the more ‘manly sports’ is making them more become more acceptable in society.
In a film review by Boyle, Millington and Vertinsky (2006) on the review of the blockbuster film ‘Million dollar baby’ about a female who loved to box, they talk about pushing the truths and myths about women’s boxing and refers to Frankie’s refusal to train women and refers to them as “the latest freak show” even thought this statement was negative about women in boxing it is actually incorrect to says as women boxers have increased in training over the past 30 years. The problem with these films is that there is an understatement of women’s presence and participation in boxing and football is that it nourishes a male-centric mythology of these sports being exclusively male dominant. This type of review has both strengths and weaknesses which make this type of review positive and negative. The positives of this film review is that it shows the world of female boxing and how hard it is for women who are pushed back in a sport they love but this is not just in boxing it is in quite a lot of sports that are more masculine. The films also gives the viewers knowledge of the emotions women feel when being told they are not good enough to participate in a certain sport because of their gender, but it also gives viewers many contradictions between what we know and what we see on screen as many sports that are more masculine have many female competitors. Some of the weaknesses of this film are that it shows the gym being a masculine atmosphere but in reality women have increasingly amount of numbers now training over the past 30 years. Maggie the main character in the film is a strong open minded women who just wants to participate in something she enjoys and the film show how she has a really strong relationship with her coach who becomes like a father figure to her and she feels she has to perform to her best every time she enters the ring; Boyle, Millington and Vertinsky (2006) says “Doing it for daddy,” this is like saying because she doesn’t have a father figure in her life that the next man she gets close to is like having a father again and a role model or just someone to look up to as her family doesn’t agree with her participation.
Another journal which was looked upon was by Mennesson (2000) and she looked at a group of 12 female boxers and their male coaches. The literature focused on female boxers, 7 took part in French boxing & 5 competed in harder styles such as kickboxing and muay Thai. The study was taken over a long period of time and the Mennesson actually became a part of the club so she could take accurate readings and so that the participants didn’t act differently towards her. She then done semi structured interviews to find out about how they got into and stayed in the sport but this depended on disposition and situation of the females. The females had a lot of respect for the Christine mennesson as she took part in the sport for two years before conducting the interviews with the other females of the club. This way of doing interviews is very reliable as the students would be in a relax environment and not feel as though she was intruding on their lives and give more true feelings. Within the interviews some of the women participants consider themselves as tomboys or dressed like a boy when they were younger. They all confirm themselves as women but also ‘women unlike other women’ this type of research method is can be unreliable if participants felt uneasy and just say what they want you to hear and not give true statements.
In another journal by Thing (2001) he looked at females who took part in football, ice hockey and basketball. This study was to see how emotional these female were and if aggression from their sport made them more emotional. This study argues that because a sport is aggressive doesn’t mean that the athletes taking part are violent and should not be seen negatively if they are either female or male. This study used ethnography methods to find the issues using both in depth semi structured interviews and observing the elite players over an 18 month period. The study showed that the females seen sport as a place where emotions were not involved and so called left in the changing rooms.
Brief insight of different methods
There are many different ways to gain data when looking at research methods for qualitative research. Qualitative research allows the subjects being studied to give much ‘richer’ answers to questions put to them by the researcher, and may give valuable insights which might have been missed by any other method. Not only does it provide valuable information to certain research questions in its own right but there is a strong case for using it to complement quantitative research methods. They are three main ways to collect data for qualitative research these are; focus groups this is where the researcher brings together a small number of subjects to discuss a certain topic of interest. The group size is kept quite small maybe 5-6, so that its members do not feel intimidated but can express opinions freely. The discussion is frequently tape-recorded, then transcribed and analysed. You may also look at observations this information can be collected by an external observer, referred to as a non-participant observer. Or the data can be collected by a participant observer, who can be a member of staff undertaking usual duties while observing the processes of care. Lastly there are in-depth interviews which use the same principle as a focus group, but subjects are interviewed individually, ideally in their own home or somewhere they feel comfortable. Interviews in qualitative research are usually wide ranging, probing many issues in detail, this way of interviewing encourages subjects to express their views at length, and this can reveal more about beliefs and attitudes and behaviour. The researcher may also be able to obtain more detailed information for each subject, but loses the richness that can arise in a group in which people debate issues and exchange views. Looking at the different types of methods used to gather results the best ones to use for this dissertation were the in-depth interviews. The interviews were the best to look more into this issue and to get the best and most amount of information from the participants. The interviews were overt as the participants knew what the study was about and where told why the study was been taken. The interviews were semi structured with about 10 set questions to ask the subjects and lasted between 6-10 minutes. “The downside of qualitative research is that, invariably, only small numbers of subjects can be studied because data collection methods are so labour intensive. It is also often criticised for: being subject to researcher bias; the difficulties in analysing qualitative data rigorously; the lack of reproducibility of the findings (i.e. findings may not be applicable to other subjects or settings).” Ewings (2003)
So once seeing this problem within society there was a gap in the literature so to investigate this problem more and look at ‘The lived experience of female kick boxers in the male dominant sport’ and focused the data collection around the sport,(which was kickboxing) their home life and the society around them.(basically the issues surrounding them) The base’s of this study is to look at these different elements and see how women are treated differently in the chosen areas that are stated above and to give an insight of their lives. This could potentially show how hard it is to train, compete and live normal lives, showing that even thought they are in the more manly type sports that they are still females and have feelings like the rest of us. As there is not much literature surrounding this issue doing this topic was a great to research and discussing will give many people a much deeper insight around the area. There was a lot of information on gender equality, the wrong assumptions of female athletes and females taking part in sport but they didn’t really look at the women’s point of view. The study basically got within the community and 8 semi-structured interviews were taken with females aged between 16-23 from 2 different kickboxing clubs in the Middlesbrough area of South Bank and Pallister Park. Once gathering the data from the interviews a literature review on the surrounding background of the areas and issues was best to understand all the information from the interviews. Unfortunately due to the sport being relatively new within the media finding literature was quite difficult but seen as thought there were many other types of sport similar it made it easier to relate similar sports to the topic such as boxing, mixed martial arts and weight lifting. Once all the information was gathered, the discussion shows what was said and gives an in depth insight of women kick boxers which holds a lot of information for readers.