Date of this Version
Trenton M. Haltom. 2019. “Give Us a Twirl: Male Baton Twirlers’ Embodied Resistance in a Feminized Terrain,” in Body Battlegrounds: Transgressions, Tensions, and Transformations, edited by Chris Bobel and Samantha Kwan, pp 200– 212. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
There is a persistent perception that baton twirling is only for girls. This insight is not unwarranted because more often than not, audiences only see girls twirling. Baton twirling, however, is not exclusive to girls; boys twirl too.
In this chapter, I explore how the participation of men and boys in the sport of baton twirling exemplifies forms of embodied resistance. In defiance of more masculine and male-dominated sports, men and boys who twirl exhibit embodied resistance in three key ways: through their participation in this feminized sport, by redefining components of twirling to downplay gender, and through choreography involving contentious body movements. Through their participation in a sport in which they are the minority, men and boys’ presence in twirling works against more traditional notions of what sports they “should” play. Within competitive twirling, male twirlers reduce certain body movements in an attempt to “undo” their feminine nature (Deutsch 2007).1 Finally, there is resistance in the ways the free hand (the hand not twirling a baton) is used, with twirlers rejecting judges’ and coaches’ suggestions to form a fist, a gesture associated with masculinity and power. The twirlers instead prefer to use the free hand for personal expression. Within these forms of embodied resistance, tension is ever present and surfaces in questions such as “What is too feminine?” “When is masculinity conformity?” and, “Can gender in twirling be ‘undone’?”