1st Edition

Gender and Power in Strength Sports Strong As Feminist

    242 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores strength sports as a site of political contestation and a platform for insurgent gender practices. It contributes to our understanding of key themes in the study of sport, such as feminism, power, the body and identity.

    Drawing together interdisciplinary work spanning political science, sociology, gender studies, and biological and cultural anthropology, the book argues that in the face of ongoing embodied precarity, strength sports have become a complex form of both resistance to, and reproduction of, patriarchy. This argument also challenges traditional understandings and definitions of “strength.” Covering recreational-level participation and elite athletics, across experiential/individual, local, national, transnational, and global scales, the book explores diverse topics such as the pregnant strength athlete, the status of trans women in strength sports, and the gendered dimensions of online fitness communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In so doing, it traces power dynamics and the interplay among multiple oppressions.

    Showcasing important empirical and activist research, this book is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in women’s sport, women’s studies, gender studies, the sociology of sport, strength and conditioning, feminist politics, or cultural studies.

    Introduction - Strong A(s) F(eminist)

    Noelle Brigden, Katie Rose Hejtmanek and Melissa M. Forbis                                

    Interlude: Bulky Is Not the Worst Thing a Woman Can Be

    Sohini Sen                                     

    Part I: The Public Body 

    1          Strength Over Gender? Discussing and Presenting the Ambivalent Female Strength in the CrossFit Games 2019

                Riikka Turtiainen and Usva Friman 

    2          Lingering Muscles, Latent “Threats”: Contesting the Exceptional and Threatening Status of Trans Women in Strength Sports

                Valerie Moyer 

    3          Fit to Mother: Risk and Self-Care in the Pregnant Strength Athlete

                Lorin Shellenberger 

    Interlude: Deep Analogies and the Power of Heavy Lifting

    Marisa Escolar 

    Part II: The Disciplined Body 

    4          Women’s Empowerment through Strength Sports—and Its Limits: The Case of the German American Turners, 1880s–1920s

                Alison Clark Efford 

    5          On Death and Fitness: Hero Workouts, US Militarism, and the Necrosociality of CrossFit

                Katie Rose Hejtmanek 

    Interlude: “Be Careful, If You Lift Too Heavy Your Boobs Will Shrink”

    Cara Ocobock 

    Part III: The Social Body                                                                                                                  

    6          Transformative Writing and Naming: Gimnasio Elba y Celina

                Elsy Aracely Argueta and Noelle Brigden 

    7          Between My Breaths: CrossFit as a Depathologizing Healing Strategy for Sexual Trauma Survivors

                Alessia Mastrorillo 

    8          ‘I Exercise with Others in About 6-7 Online Fitness Communities’: Women’s Exercise Routine and Resilience During COVID-19 Stay-at-home Orders

                Cara Ocobock and Katie Rose Hejtmanek                                                                        

    Epilogue - Judging the Lift: Are Strength Sports Insurgent or Reactionary Practices?

    Noelle Brigden, Melissa M. Forbis and Katie Rose Hejtmanek


    Noelle K. Brigden is Associate Professor of political science at Marquette University, USA, where she teaches courses on human security, international migration, the global politics of street gangs, international relations, body politics, and peace & trauma in Central America. She is the 2022 IPF World Masters Classic Powerlifting Champion for the 47kg weight class and has achieved US national powerlifting records.

    Katie Rose Hejtmanek is Associate Professor of anthropology, and children and youth studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY, USA. Her research investigates cultural processes of self-transformation in a mental institution for children, CrossFit gyms, and strength sports collectives. She competes in Olympic weightlifting, winning her age and weight class at the IWF Masters World Championships in 2022.

    Melissa M. Forbis is a cultural anthropologist with a research focus on social movements, Indigenous rights, and gender in Latin America. Her current research examines sports practices and social change. Her teaching includes courses on the anthropology of sport, and gender and sexuality at New York University and Brooklyn College, CUNY, USA. She is a three-time competitor at IPF World Masters Powerlifting Championships and is a Trauma-Informed Weightlifting-certified strength coach.