Position Before Submission: Grappling with Gender and Hypermasculinity in Mixed Martial Arts

Date of Award

Fall 10-26-2017

Author Requested Restriction

Restrict to UW for 1 years - then make Open Access

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Natalie Jolly

Second Advisor

Lawrence M. Knopp


The intent of this thesis is to explore existing gender norms in mixed martial arts cultures. Masculinity is particularly valorized in sport, creating tension for female athletes who are forced to balance masculine norms with feminine beauty ideals. While there is a robust literature on the intersections of mixed martial arts (MMA) and masculinity, female voices are rarely heard in that literature. My research goes beyond the work of others by incorporating female voices and perspectives. Grounded in gender constructionism, my thesis addresses how both male and female MMA fighters conceive of their and others’ participation in gendered terms, and how this informs their gender identities. My thesis further examines the intersections of masculinity and gender that are readily observable within MMA, and those that are less conspicuous or go largely unnoticed. Finally, my thesis explores how norms perpetuate gender stereotypes and highlight differences, as masculine norms persist in the fighting culture. The examination of gender norms in MMA contributes to a larger body of research concerning gender roles and norms in other social contexts. This contribution extends beyond MMA and sport, serving as a commentary on existing power structures solidified by a gender binary. Yet, the question remains, how do male and female fighters navigate masculine norms and expectations in mixed martial arts? Keywords: Gender, masculinity, norms, binary, mixed martial arts.