Thinking about Power in “Girlfight” April 7, 2007Posted by rachaelg in bodies, Female Power, feminism, Girlfight, Power.
Throughout Girlfight, Diana’s boxing trainer comments on her power. He is usually referring to the power of her punch: “You’ve got a lot of power.” But she needs to work on harnessing that power, perfecting her technique, mastering her footwork, and getting in peak physical condition. In this sense, her power is the “male” power of physical strength.
When she competes against men (and specifically against her love interest) it is evident that the message is “women can have male power, too” or at least certain women can. Despite her coach’s musings on women’s “lower center of gravity” and the possibility of a “different kind of boxer,” when she’s in the ring, she fights like a man. The title is misleading; “Girlfight” makes one think of slapping and name-calling with some hair-pulling thrown in, when really the film is about a girl fighting like a man. It’s not a different kind of fighting, just a different kind of person doing the fighting.
In the ring, both Diana and Adrian put aside their emotions and fight to win. For Diana, achieving this emotionless fighting has been a journey. At first she cannot separate the two. She attacks a schoolmate for betraying a friend and she loses her composure in the ring with Ray. She even attacks her father in a rage over her mother’s suicide. Her strength, her masculine power, is shown to be out of control. This power needs to be controlled by a similarly masculine discipline. When boxing finally gives her this discipline, she is able to triumph. Her power is now masculine enough to defeat a capable male opponent.
Diana is far from a “girly-girl” to begin with and she even reminds her father of that directly. She never appears to be powerless; from the get-go she’s tough and her training quickly emphasizes her developing muscular physique. Juxtaposed with her brother Tiny (even his name highlights his “weakness” in traditional masculine expectations) Diana is in charge and self-assured. With Adrian, she never uses the supposed “feminine” power of sexuality to captivate or trap him.
As a result of all of this, the movie seems to acknowledge only one kind of power: male. Though Diana has this power and refines it throughout the film, we see her as an exception among women. Yes, there are other female boxers in the movie, but Diana is the only one we see who defeats men. Does her uniqueness mean that only a few special women can beat men (and still have relationships with them/function in society)? Or is her example supposed to represent the ability of all women to somehow compete with men on an equal level? It seems to me like her circumstances limit the representativeness of her triumph. But then again, she had to fight to be accepted in a male dominated field, something I’m sure many women can relate to. Is that kind of indominable will characteristic of a type of “female” ( or underdog?) power?