The Masculinized Female Athlete in Weimar Germany

in German Politics and Society
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Commentators in the popular media of Weimar Germany paid great attention to questions of women's sport, athleticism, and physicality. Their concerns were not restricted to women's reproductive capacities—rather, women's physical emancipation was increasingly interpreted within the framework of larger cultural discourses surrounding the "masculinization" and political emancipation of the modern woman. This article examines such representations of the "masculinized" female athlete, arguing that female athleticism provided an important focus for broader concerns about changing gender relations, female sexuality, and acceptable female life trajectories at this period. Although the perceived threat to traditional male dominance symbolized by the female athlete prompted some commentators to denounce women's physical activity and emphasize traditional gender roles, the article also examines less conventional contemporary responses to women's athleticism, in particular, how a female body "steeled by sport" was reclaimed as an aesthetic ideal within the female homosexual subculture of interwar Berlin.

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