Representing the female pugilist: Narratives of race, gender and dis-ability in Million Dollar Baby

Ellexis Boyle, Brad Millington, Patricia Vertinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Clint Eastwoodʼs Million Dollar Baby won fi ve Academy Awards but also came
under attack from female boxers and disability activists. Ostensibly a drama
about a tenacious womanʼs quest to become a professional fi ghter and the male
coach who assists her, Million Dollar Baby appears to insert a radical portrayal
of femininity, female athleticism, and power into the male-dominated genre of
boxing fi lms and, more generally, a media that has been largely hostile to female
boxing. We explore the extent to which the female lead can be viewed as a transgressive
fi gure along with the discourses of containment that reduce her threat
to longstanding cultural myths about boxing as a male preserve. Our analyses
of the fi lmʼs racial, gender, class, and disability politics contend that its focus is
not womenʼs boxing, disability, or the right to die; rather, like boxing, this fi lm is
about the male struggle to protect masculinity in a sporting world deeply shaken
by the increasing presence of women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-116
Number of pages118
JournalSociology of Sport Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006

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