University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 12 May 2018: The reproduction of gender stereotypes in martial arts and combat sports (Kavoura)

Start date: May 12, 2018 12:00 PM

End date: May 12, 2018 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, S212

Anna KavouraM.Sc. (Sport Sciences) Anna Kavoura defends her doctoral dissertation in Sport and Exercise Psychology ”'Successful and feminine athlete' and 'natural-born fighter': A discursive exploration of female judoka’s identities in Greece and Finland”. Opponent Dr.Soc.Sc. Tuula Juvonen (University of Turku) and Custos Professor Jarmo Liukkonen (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

In their effort to become accepted and appreciated in male dominated fields, such as martial arts and combat sports, women themselves often end up reproducing gender stereotypes, through the language they use, the practices in which they engage, and the identities they perform. This has important implications for those interested in promoting gender equality in contexts typically viewed as male, says Anna Kavoura in her dissertation. Future interventions should not just focus on enhancing the numbers of women and girls in these fields in which females are underrepresented, but they should also target the deconstruction of gender stereotypes.

Culture plays an important role

Kavoura’s doctoral dissertation focused on the identity negotiation of female judo athletes in Finland and Greece. The aim was to explore in what ways the cultural context shapes the experiences of women in judo. Kavoura found that cultural beliefs and gender stereotypes play an important role on the ways that female athletes make sense of who they are and what they can or ought to be. Those who work with female athletes and wish to support their career development should take into account the social and cultural issues that shape the dynamics in their specific sporting community. They should also reflect on their own beliefs and stereotypes.

Persisting beliefs about female biological inferiority

One dominant gender stereotype that was circulated in judo cultures in both Finland and Greece, was that “ordinary” women are “soft”, passive, fragile, and unsuitable for high-level competitive judo. Fighting and competition are qualities persistently associated with the male biology. The few women that are able to succeed in judo are often seen as some kind of special creatures that were born with masculine qualities. Such beliefs assist in the reproduction of gender hierarchies and inequalities.

-       When such beliefs are circulated in judo clubs, sometimes even by female athletes themselves, it is no wonder that the numbers of female judo competitors in both countries are disappointingly low, says Anna Kavoura.

There is a need for creating educational opportunities that will help athletes, coaches, parents and all others involved in sport to become more aware of how certain beliefs, practices, and language assist in the reproduction of gender inequalities and constrain the career development of female athletes.

More information:

Anna Kavoura, puh. 040 805 4453,

Link to dissertation:

More information

Anna Kavoura
041 700 9694
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