Anna Kavoura 2016

‘Some Women are Born Fighters’:

Female Finnish Judokas’ Discursive Constructions of a Fighter’s Identity

Anna Kavoura, Tatiana V. Ryba, Marja Kokkonen, and Stiliani Chroni


This presentation draws on poststructuralist understandings of identity to explore how female Finnish judokas make sense of themselves and their sporting experiences. Based on nine semi-structured interviews that were constructed during ethnographic fieldwork in Finland, we explore how female Finnish judokas negotiate their identities by drawing on the discursive resources that are available to them. A Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis revealed that dominant beliefs about human biology shaped the identity negotiation of the participants, who constructed fighting as an inner male quality. Trying to make sense of their experiences in judo, they all constructed a fighter’s identity, differentiating themselves from ‘ordinary’ women, who were constructed as biologically incapable for competitive judo. This study reveals that even in the egalitarian culture of Finland, gender hierarchies and patriarchal ideals persist in martial arts, and women athletes internalise and reproduce their subordination.