A writer's thoughtful look at the personal and social implications of her foray into the "manly art" of boxing.
In 1993, after lawsuits had forced the opening of amateur boxing to women, Denfeld joined the Grand Avenue boxing gym in Portland, Ore., becoming a competitive and successful fighter. In this book, Denfeld describes her experience in sweaty and bruising detail, and uses boxing as a window on the politics of female aggression. She recounts the suspicion and discomfort of the men at the gym when she began her training and how, as she became more skillful, they came to see her not as a woman but as a fighter. Similarly, as her own confidence developed, Denfeld found that she could be every bit as aggressive in the ring as the men. Denfeld argues that the denial of female aggression and the trivialization of female violence are roadblocks to women's equalitydepriving them of opportunities in sports and the military, for example. It is also socially dangerous; women's sexual abuse of children, for instance, is rarely discussed. This book has greater authority than The New Victorians (1995), Denfeld's critique of contemporary feminists: She knows more about boxing than she did about feminism. But it would have been even more interesting if she had woven her own background into this story. She makes no mention of her biracial identity, although society, as she notes, regards the aggression of women of color differently from that of white women. Denfeld also grew up poor, which she briefly mentions; since class, too, shapes women's relationship to aggression, anger, and competition, this warrants more discussion.
Despite some holes, a well-rendered personal account of female athletic experiencea rare offering. Denfeld also makes an engaging contribution to popular discussion of female aggression, a subject that clearly merits closer attention.