Projection of male fantasies: The creation of 'scientific' female gymnastics

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About 100 years ago, in 1909, the Danish medical doctor Johannes Lindhard (1870–1947) became associate professor, and in 1917 professor, of the theory of gymnastics at the University of Copenhagen. Lindhard's collaboration with the physiologist and 1920 Nobel Prize winner August Krogh (1874–1949) laid the foundation for the birth of exercise physiology in Scandinavia. In addition to his basic-level studies of physiology, Lindhard also became deeply involved in developing a theory of gymnastics that would bring a wide range of Danish gymnastics traditions onto a surer theoretical footing. Lindhard's importance in the history of gymnastics is mainly attributable to the fact that he had a huge influence in the ‘gendering’ of the behavioural codes of conduct and the formulation of a gender-specific movement programme aimed at the socialisation of boys and girls as well as men and women in accordance with the new gender roles of the emerging capitalist society with its strict division of education and labour between the two sexes. Lindhard clearly supported ‘difference-feminism’ in contrast to ‘resemblance-feminism’.

These two concepts of femininity clashed in a fierce struggle in the inter-war period. Advocates of women's athletics interpreted competitive sports as perfect tools for women's conquest of male territory, whereas supporters of female gymnastics considered athletics to be an antidote to the health-promoting and graceful essence of femininity. Agnete Bertram was one of Lindhard's first students at the Laboratory for the Physiology of Gymnastics and in the 1920 she created a new graceful women's gymnastics system based on Lindhard's principles. Besides taking its inspiration from Lindhard's notions of psycho-aesthetics, Bertram's system was immersed in ancient Greek influences and was sometimes performed in Greek robes in the neo-classic building of the Carlsberg foundation to the accompaniment of classical music such as Mozart's sonata in A-major. This was well suited to the bourgeois women in their roles as aesthetic domestic angels.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)228-246
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 2012

Bibliografisk note

CURIS 2012 5200 036

ID: 38341572