From iron maiden to superwoman: The stochastic art of self-transformation and the deviant female sporting body

Abstract

This paper develops a theoretically grounded account of one extraordinary individual’s journey from female bodybuilder to Strongwoman. It is set against the challenges socially marginalised sportswomen confront in seeking to forge a coherent identity amidst the competing demands of the social, practical and embodied environments that invariably impinge upon such quests. Highlighting the complexities and ambiguities of the regimes to which Sarah and other ‘gender outlaws’ dedicate themselves, we begin by suggesting that these sporting vocations constitute stochastic arts; the practical indeterminacies of which are exacerbated by both the ultimate frailty of the physical body and the social inequalities women confront in pursuing such activities. Focusing upon Sarah’s life-narrative, we then explore within this framework the pleasures and problems she encountered when participating in and switching from bodybuilding to Strongwoman competitions, and identify what is at stake in this sporting route to self-transformation

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