Women’s boxing returns to the Olympics

// 13 August 2009

boxingmontage.jpgWomen’s boxing will become an Olympic sport again in 2012, when female boxers will have a chance to compete in the London games. It will be the first time since 1904 women’s boxing features in the Olympics.

You might remember we posted about this last year, and so it’s good to see that the executive board of the International Olympic Committee has gone down this route.

The BBC reports:

Boxing had been the only Olympic event without any female participants.

Three women’s weight classes will be added, with one men’s class dropped to make room for them.

The decision was welcomed by British sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, who said: “This move is a massive boost for women’s boxing.”

(Via Feminist Philosophers)

Photo from Women’s Boxing Archive Network

Comments From You

Wisrutta Atthakor // Posted 13 August 2009 at 2:21 pm

Glad to hear it. About time too!

Joanne // Posted 13 August 2009 at 2:49 pm

Excellent news, boxing joins the modern world.

Not impressed, however, with Amir Khan’s comments, which were unfortunately given airtime by the BBC:

“The decision will not be universally welcomed, however.

British boxer Amir Khan, an Olympic silver medallist in 2004, said shortly before the announcement: “Deep down I think women shouldn’t fight. That’s my opinion.

“When you get hit it’s very painful. Women can get knocked out.”

Grr. Say something new!!

Laura // Posted 13 August 2009 at 2:51 pm

Great news!

KurtGeigershoes // Posted 13 August 2009 at 3:05 pm

This has cheered me!- Woot!

notajimmycarrfan // Posted 13 August 2009 at 3:42 pm

Great news? Whilst I understand that this is good news from an equality point of view, its a dangerous and brutal sport that has no place in the 21st century for ANYBODY

Laurel Dearing // Posted 13 August 2009 at 4:00 pm

“When you get hit it’s very painful. Women can get knocked out.”

no shit. happens to humans.

like charley from the biker mice from mars says:

“you and the guys all run risks, the point is i didnt get hurt because im a woman, i got hurt because i did something dangerous.”

not the least sexist cartoon ever but hey, cartoon wisdom.

Jess McCabe // Posted 13 August 2009 at 4:03 pm

@notajimmycarrfan I understand a significant number of people do feel like that, and that boxing is not really an acceptable sport. I just don’t agree with that position.

However, the idea that it’s acceptable for men to box at the Olympic level, but not women, is something that plays into a lot of tired gender stereotypes and ideas that women need protecting, which I think we can agree are best done away with.

Incidentally, the Evening Standard (yeah, I know), interviewed the British No1 in the 48kg category.

Laura // Posted 13 August 2009 at 4:19 pm


I’m not sure how I feel about boxing myself, but if women want to do it they are hurting no one but each other and I feel feminists should support women’s choice to do whatever they want within these limits, even if we don’t like it or wouldn’t do it ourselves.

Samantha // Posted 13 August 2009 at 4:20 pm

Regardless of my views of boxing, this is good news.

But wow, Amir Khan, thanks for that nugget of genius…

It drives me mad when people try to qualify nonsense by saying “that’s my opinion”. Well, mate, it could be your opinion that the sky is green – it’s still bollocks.

Really… being hit is painful? Boxers can get knocked out? Did someone neglect to tell me that men are incapable of feeling pain or being knocked out, because being informed that only women are susceptible to this is news to me!

Cara // Posted 13 August 2009 at 5:29 pm

Hi Laura,

You say ‘I feel feminists should support women’s choice to do whatever they want within these limits, even if we don’t like it or wouldn’t do it ourselves.’

I was just wondering whether all actions taken by women are seen as acceptable by some feminists. Not speaking for anyone on this site, but from reading the ‘London Student’, which is the newspaper for London Uni, it turns out some of the beauty queens who took part in the Miss London Competition were personally targetted for taking place in the contest, or made to feel fickle and shallow by those who opposed it. Should we then approve of all actions taken by women, as long as they don’t hurt others?

Laura // Posted 13 August 2009 at 5:52 pm

Hi Cara,

Some might argue that beauty contests harm other women and therefore the actions of the protesters were justified. I think tackling issues like that are hard, as it can be difficult to criticise the practice (beauty contests) without criticising, patronising or upsetting the women involved. I’m not sure how that can best be done, personally.

I don’t think we need to approve of what other women do, just defend their right to do it (as long as what they do doesn’t harm other women).

Laurel Dearing // Posted 13 August 2009 at 5:56 pm

yes but theres a question of whether women in beauty pageants in comparison with very few male pageants have a detrimental effect on the way all women are seen (at least till proven otherwise) and reinforce that we are there to be looked at. though admittedly id be looking at the organizers and sponsors rather than the women participating, though i would hope theyd look into their personal reasons for entering, and whether or not they think it is worth it and are willing to ensure that the event and organizers dont say things that they feel are degrading towards them.

Cara // Posted 13 August 2009 at 6:10 pm

Hi Laura,

It is true that beauty contests have a detrimental effect on self image, and it is tricky in preventing this, whilst as you say, not being condescending to the women participants. I think the best thing to do is give women choice, and let girls know that there are other options out there. Interestingly, I thought about taking part, before then seeing that I was at uni to prove my intellect rather than my looks, and decided against it- but i don’t begrudge any of the contestants – i really think promoting choice is one of the healthiest options

Louise // Posted 13 August 2009 at 6:33 pm

If two consenting adults want to hit the sh*t out of each other, I don’t care whether they’re men or women: I won’t be watching.

But I will defend to the death their right to do it to each other…

Milly // Posted 13 August 2009 at 7:52 pm


You’re right boxing is dangerous, and perhaps brutal. But so is Karate, and Judo, and every other martial art. And people also get killed horse riding, and driving F1, and surfing. A lot of sports are dangerous….

Anne Onne // Posted 13 August 2009 at 8:19 pm

It’s best to not get into a ‘should boxing exist’ argument, but I think it bears mentioning that adult humans have a right to consent to behaviour others won’t approve of, or is dangerous, especially providing there is medical supervision and risk minimisation, and other people are out of the way so bystanders don’t get injured. A lot of sports or hobbies or jobs feature considerable danger, and the context makes a lot of difference. I’m no fan of boxing as a sport, but boxing or martial arts are not the same as backstreet brawling.

“When you get hit it’s very painful.

As opposed to, say pregnancy or childbirth? Perhaps all the big strong men should give birth, since we poor fragile creatures are incapable of bearing pain.

” Women can get knocked out.”

As opposed to men, who never get knocked out…Oh, wait…

He’s forgetting that these fit, capable sportswomen fight against other women so it’s not like women’s boxing is about male heavyweights beating swooning Victorian maidens to a pulp!

…It turns out some of the beauty queens who took part in the Miss London Competition were personally targetted for taking place in the contest, or made to feel fickle and shallow by those who opposed it. Should we then approve of all actions taken by women, as long as they don’t hurt others?

I’m really, really sorry to hear that. It’s entirely inappropriate to target someone personally for their decisions, and that’s entirely separate to criticising an opinion or choice or practice in itself. I don’t think it’s a question of ‘approving’, because IMHO it’s none of my damn business if another woman chooses to enter a beauty pageant. It’s her life, her choice how to navigate the patriarchy.

That’s not to say I don’t think we can criticise what role beauty pageants (particularly when pursuit of beauty is seen as most important, and particularly a female thing!), I think that’s very important. But feminism is never about making other women feel bad (It’s what the patriarchy wants us to do) and a feminism based around debasing other women isn’t really feminism, it’s feeling personally superior over others for making the ‘right’ choices.

Cara // Posted 13 August 2009 at 9:00 pm

Hey Anne

Thanks for your response. I did read of some rare, if extreme responses towards it, such as stinkbombing the stage, an act which was hostile not only to the organisers, but the women themselves. Interestingly, when I spoke to my male friends about it, they seemed disinterested in it, seeing it as rather dull – none of them were espousing sexist attitudes (although of course I can’t speak for all male students)

Cara // Posted 13 August 2009 at 9:01 pm

In addition, IMHO I think if women want to be female boxers, good luck to them and if women want to be beauty queens, good for them even though I personally would chose neither of these careers.

Noble Savage // Posted 13 August 2009 at 9:43 pm

I’m not positive it was the same guy, but I’m pretty sure it was also Amir Khan who I heard interviewed this evening on Radio 2 and who said the above and then also said that he didn’t think women should box because it would set a bad example to other women and girls and lead to them thinking violence is acceptable on the street.

I am just astounded that he was able to make the connection between violent sport contributing to a culture of violent behaviour but then insulted women by suggesting that men are immune to this it’s only us wimmenz that are too delicate and stupid to not be able to differentiate between the two.


nick // Posted 14 August 2009 at 11:20 am

I dont have a problem if women want to box, then let them. I can’t wait for the

mens synchronised swimming silliness ……although they wont be able to wear speedo’s ……..crazy world ! Is netball an olympic sport ?

I dont think men participate in that ….

2012 …..let Paris have it …….


Mobot // Posted 14 August 2009 at 12:11 pm

I work and socialise with such a wide range of people from different backgrounds that I’m always being offered different perspectives that make me feel torn between feminist outrage at things that might objectify women, and giving the due respect to the rights and choices of women who participate in them (not that these feelings are mutually exclusive!) My feminist friends are mainly grossed out by stripping (I am a wee bit too sometimes), my stripper friends are pissed off with feeling looked down upon by feminists and the few feminist strippers I’ve met seem to get criticism from all angles! As for boxing, I’d never understood why anyone would do it, but more recently I have more positive feelings about anything that challenges stereotypes and allows women to explore aspects of themselves (such as aggression) that are normally reserved for men. I play roller derby, which is an aggressive contact sport only played by women. I like the fact that it doesn’t play 2nd fiddle to a men’s version (it’s so unfair that female athletes are given little recognition for equal achievements to males because their sports are under-funded and under-reported), I like that it’s women being physically aggressive towards each other on track and being incredibly supportive of each other off track and I like that I can show up for practice wearing very little without feeling like I’m gonna get sleazed on. But the fact that a lot of roller girls play fairly scantily clad has been criticised as it looks to some as if, in order to be taken ‘seriously’ we have to make ourselves look sexually attractive. I disagree with, but totally understand this point of view. I think there’s a style element to the sport that women can take or leave, and it’s a safe environment in which to wear whatever the hell you please! Basically, this is a long-winded way of saying I think I understand some of how both female boxers and strippers/beauty pageant girls must feel. Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t!

Harriet // Posted 14 August 2009 at 12:34 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure about this….

Yes, I think that women should have the choice to do whatever men do if they want to. As many poeple have said it’s not exactly big news that people get harmed boxing etc, and I totally agree that women should not be ‘protected’ from something harmful that men take part in becuase of some ridiculous idea that we need protection.

However, I’m not sure that female boxing is totally ‘feminist’, not from where I stand anyway. Should the ultimate aim of feminism really be to imitate the mistakes of men? Personally I think that society too often interprets ‘equality’ to mean women fitting in with the male-constructed structure of the world without questioning it, and imitating the things that men have historically done as if they are universal or inevitable. Personally, I want a kind of feminism that challenges these male-created structures and undermines them when they are less than ideal, altering the male gender role as well as the female.

Personally I think beating people up for whatever reason, be it entertainment/power/status or whatever, is a wrong and ridiculous aspect of our culture’s construction of masculinity. And I think the aim of feminism should be to change this construction, rather than simply to aspire to assimilate women to it.

Hazel // Posted 14 August 2009 at 1:39 pm

Well said, Harriet.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 August 2009 at 7:39 pm

@ Cara: Yes, it’s interesting that society gives women more pressure to do other women down. We’re expected to fit into neat categories ‘slut’ or ‘saint’, ‘sexy’ or ‘smart’, and that the women in the category you are not are your competition for attention and respect, someone you should do down, because otherwise they make you look bad. Divide and conquer works wonders, especially when many men themselves fuel this myth.

@Mobot: excellent point. So much human interaction is about fearing and othering other groups of people because they make us feel insecure about our standing and what we believe, I just wish we could listen to each other more and try to be more inclusive. It’s like we’re this close to all being allies, but there’s often an element of distrust because of the patriarchy that makes things that bit harder to communicate…

@ Harriet: Interesting point. I agree, we don’t want female empowerment to be about adopting pointless machismo and behaviour patterns that are seen as ‘traditionally male’ but tend to be harmful to others or the self (such as repressing emotions, or lashing out physically as the only way to deal with something or express emotion.

But I feel there’s two different arguments to the ‘women shouldn’t try to act like the worst men’ arguments. One argument is about wanting men and women to feel free to cross gender boundaries, but want people of all genders to focus on positive means of expressing oneself, and structuring society in a more egalitarian way rather than relying on women taking up ‘male’ but harmful behaviour that is rewarded by society. Your argument is in this category.

But there is also the argument most people make, which falls along the lines of ‘It’s OK when men do this, they’re doing what boys do, but women doing this is so sickening! Why do feminists want women to make the worst mistakes of men? They should go back to being ladies already!’. When a lot of people make arguments against women doing something seen as problematic and male, the behaviour itself is seen as much more problematic when or because women are doing it rather than because it’s problematic regardless of gender. They may say their issue is with the behaviour, but they tend to give men more latitude, and the main issue seems to be that women are not enforcing gender roles enough, rather than what is problematic with the behaviour itself (see drinking, violence, dangerous sports, smoking for examples). There are ways of pointing out that something can be harmful and as a society needs to be addressed without blaming individual groups for transgressing gender roles, yet a lot of the framing is really about gender, not about the behaviour. Below the surface of most commentary about many of these issues, it’s ‘how dare women do something stupid we let men do?’

I’d like to see more analysis which focuses on the actual reasons some behaviour is problematic, not why certain groups shouldn’t be doing it.

Jaime // Posted 15 August 2009 at 3:50 pm

There was a report on More4 news where a trainer actually said ‘I bet all those bra burning feminists are happy’ and he was against women boxing because it would encourage ‘actual normal girls’ to take an interest in it. He also said that the government only had the money to invest in men’s boxing and the money to support women’s boxing would have to come from the same pot therefore women boxing hurt the real sport of men’s boxing.

I actually like boxing and am definitely supportive of this, I don’t agree with the argument that ‘women shouldn’t have to emulate men’ as I’m not certain where the line is drawn regarding what is or isn’t considered emulating men, I can’t say for certain that women would not box without the influence of men and it’s insulting that a woman doing something considered masculine is not doing so because she wants to but because she wants emulate men.

nick // Posted 17 August 2009 at 3:20 pm

Mobot – roller derby is played by women.

If a couple of men’s teams wanted to play against each other , that would not be a problem ? Or does roller derby have to be exclusively for women ?

I ask this because if its ok for a sport/activities that only women do …for many reasons ….then

why is it wrong for men only sports/activities ?

Jess McCabe // Posted 17 August 2009 at 3:50 pm

@nick There is men’s roller derby. Google is your friend.

Mobot // Posted 17 August 2009 at 4:09 pm

Yep, thanks Jess… there is men’s roller derby, but it is predominantly a women’s sport these days having originated in the USA as a mixed sport, died out and been reinvented with a new focus. It’s back to the issue of privilege again, I’m almost tired of having to rehearse it each time this comes up. Sports in general, especially those held in high regard (i.e. taken seriously), well funded and given decent media coverage, are considered to be predominantly male. That applies to players, fans, commentators (save the odd bit of ‘eye candy’ on sky sports or whatever) and just about everyone else involved. The female versions of these sports are treated as an anomaly. Is it seriously such a problem if women get one aggressive sport which we dominate , given the multitude of “men’s” sports? Men can be involved in women’s roller derby as referees, coaches etc. if they are good enough on skates and understand the game (which by the way, makes learning the off-side rule look like learning your ABCs). It also helps if they’re not getting involved just to be voyeuristic, although those who might have a go at that would no doubt be put off by the hard work fairly soon! Just one final point: in roller derby, any size and body shape can be used to a player’s advantage and every person is different, but it helps that (correct me if I’m wrong here, anatomy experts!) women’s centre of gravity tends to be around the hips and men’s around the shoulders. This makes it a whole load easier for men to be knocked down, making it a sport that *arguably* lends itself well to being played by women. But that doesn’t exclude men from setting up their own leagues – I’m just saying, is it so bad that we have something that’s ours? God this reminds me of that ridiculous South Park episode about ‘queefing’! lol

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