Race, Gender and Kickboxing. the Empowerment-Paradigm in Sport Participation

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 132 (University of Glasgow)
Jasmijn Rana , Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University
In the Netherlands, girls and young women, especially those of Muslim and Moroccan-Dutch descent are increasingly active in kickboxing. Both in the Dutch context and worldwide, ethnic femininity is constructed as antagonistic to physical activity in general. The image of an aggressive Muslim female, violently striking another, goes against dominant perceptions of how Muslim females are typically understood (read: “submissive” or “disempowered”), controlled by men and frequently forbidden to access male-dominated spaces such as sports. Yet, interestingly, kickboxing is also marketed as a necessary tool to empower Muslim women, and equipping them with the physical skill and power to rescue, strengthen and save themselves. In the backdrop of recent socio-political events, the call to improve, and advance community efforts aimed at facilitating the cultural integration of these ‘foreigners’ is increasing and more often than not influenced by a desire to empower the weaker sex amongst these communities (namely, Dutch-Moroccan Muslim females). In this paper I explore how the racialized and gendered ‘other’ of the female Muslim is center in this empowerment-paradigm in both sport and integration policies and grass roots sports initiatives.