Duty, Performance, and the Track and Field Athlete
Track and field athletes broadcast the virtues of rationalization through the medium of a streamlined androgyny that suggested both maximum efficiency and the physical convergence of the sexes. Those bodies also generated heated debates over an individual's physical limits and his or her duties to the state. Medical officials worried that women could not bear the strain of competition and predicted dire consequences for the nation's birthrate. Germany's female athletes, however, began to dominate international competitions in the mid‐1920s and projected an image of athletic motherhood capable not only of bearing strong babies, but also of raising them into healthy adulthood. Male athletes, meanwhile, served the state by inspiring a physically fit pool of men on which to draw for military service. Athletes of both sexes thereby cast their increasingly androgynous bodies in the comforting halo of a traditionally gendered conception of national duty.
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