Emilia Aaltonen


This essay explores the way discourses of gender and aggression can be combined in the female body. Traditionally, the female body has been seen as that of a victim and the man’s body as that of an aggressor. Although the behaviours are absorbed through learning and repetitive action, these essentialist discourses of the gendered body have become naturalized. I suggest that gendered behaviours are not fixed and, just as they are learned in the first place, they can also be unlearned and replaced by new ones. Using the example of women’s self-defense, the essay investigates how women can train their bodies to both cause and endure pain and, through this, challenge the traditional feminine corporeal habitus. Women’s self-defense offers a theoretical, but, more importantly, a practical way of resisting women’s victimization in contemporary patriarchal societies.

Author Biography

Emilia Aaltonen received her undergraduate degree from the University of Sussex in 2010 in Anthropology and Spanish. ‘Punching like a Girl’ was submitted as her final dissertation. As well as issues surrounding the concepts of gender, violence and the body, her interests include the relationship between gender, language and nationalist struggles. Emilia is currently on her second extended stay in the Basque Country and studying the Basque language.