Belle of the Brawl
The Boxer between Sensationalism and Sport
Boxing rings, whether in sports arenas or burlesque theaters, afforded men and women stages on which to create larger‐than‐life personas and to test the limits of socially acceptable self‐presentation. Female boxers embraced the sport's physical combat as a strategy for getting ahead in a postwar Germany in which young women outnumbered the battle‐ravaged men in their age group and had increasingly to fend for themselves. Male boxers embraced the marketing potential of the sport by posing for early renditions of the male pin‐up photograph. Women often displayed themselves as “babes” in boxing trunks for the titillation of their public, but the men did, too. These boxers' carefully crafted public images popularized an ideal of working‐class toughness, the promise of upward mobility, and the allure of self‐invention in modern society.
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