Fighting Sports, Gender and the Commodification of Violence: Heavy Bag Heroines offers a glimpse into the cultural terrain of women’s boxing as it manifests in everyday gyms for novice boxers. Taking an ethnographic approach, Victoria E. Collins examines broad understandings of gender, violence, self-defense, commodification, and health and fitness from the point of view of women who engage the sport. Collins unpacks dominant assumptions about gender and the sport through her participants’ understandings of gender norms, social assumptions about physicality, sexuality, as well as challenges to masculine and feminine performativity. Central to this study is the appropriation and marketing of the boxers’ work out in cardio-boxing gym spaces (i.e., fitness boxing), where the sport has increasingly been packaged, commodified, and sold to predominantly middle class, white female consumers as a means to not only improve their health and fitness, but also to defend themselves against a would-be attacker. The body project for women in the sport of boxing, therefore, should not only be framed as a form of resistance, but one of physical feminism.
Victoria E. Collins is associate professor and graduate program coordinator in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University.
Chapter One: Finding Boxing in a Strip-Mall
Chapter Two: From Amazonians to Cardio Classes: Women, Consumerism, and Combat
Chapter Three: Commodifying and the Woman Boxer: Popular Culture, Media, and the
Chapter Four: Fighting Tough…but Not Too Tough
Chapter Five: There are Only Three Rules of Fight Club, “No Spectators, No Social Media
and No Boob Shots!”
Chapter Six: Sparring Like Men? Gender Maneuvering and the Emotional Work of Getting in
Chapter Seven: Violence, Safety, and Self-defense: Unpacking the Narrative that Boxing is
Chapter Eight: The Female Fight: Sport and the spectacle
In Fighting Sports, Gender and the Commodification of Violence: Heavy Bag Heroines, Victoria Collins crafts a foundation of attentive ethnography in which her voice and the voices of her subjects ring through. On this foundation she develops an elegant, nuanced analysis of gender performance, amateur fighting, physical fitness, and marketed experience. Her prose floats like a butterfly; her analysis stings like a bee.
Victoria Collins is a skillful writer whose ethnography is as intimate as it is insightful. Fighting Sport, Gender, and the Commodification of Violence offers a rich analysis of women in combat sport; a valuable read for students, educators, and fans alike.