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Women boxers, social debates and prohibition in Mexico City, 1920s-1940s

Organised by Po-His in collaboration with A*


On the 5th of December of 1946, the Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho banned women from taking part in professional boxing in Mexico City. This presentation examines the societal debates about Mexican women’s participation in the boxing sport in the 1920s and 1930s, and offers an explanation for the emergence of the prohibition of women from boxing in the 1940s. The postrevolutionary period in Mexico was marked by an increase in the spectatorship and participation in sports amongst a wide range of societal groups. It was also an important moment of transition for women’s sport, as women’s interests in sport not only increased but also gave rise to societal debate. Much of these debates formed part of a broader discussion about the emergence of the ‘modern woman’ or, in the case of Mexico, la chica moderna. Within this context, the body took on a new importance, as it became a contested site of modernity. Through the lens of women’s involvement in the boxing sport in Mexico City, this presentation examines the changing ideals of femininity in the 1920s and 1930s in the wake of the Mexican revolution and the rise of the twentieth-century global capital. It is set against the backdrop of the body of scholarship that has examined the rise of modern sports in the early twentieth century in order to illuminate the broader and intersecting concepts of gender, nationalism, and the body. This work contributes to a better understanding of the social and bodily roles that Mexican women were able and allowed to take up in the 1920s to 1940s, as well as the mechanisms that ensured that the boundaries between the sexes continued to be consolidated.


Marjolein Van Bavel is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Historical Research (IIH) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Her main research interests are gender, sexuality, the body, and the method of oral history. Van Bavel obtained her PhD Degree in History at University College London (UCL) and holds a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in History from the University of Antwerp, as well as a Master’s Degree in Gender, Society and Representation (Research Pathway) from UCL. She carried out an academic visit at Yale University.
12 March, 12.30-14.00: Brantijser, Room SJ. 115