Thigh Flashers

Thigh Flasher Project Posts


What's a Thigh Flasher?

In ancient Sparta, the government required girls to participate in physical education and athletic competitions, just like the boys. The government even encouraged mature and pregnant Spartan women to exercise. As much as modern feminists, like me, would like to think Spartan females’ participation in sports was an early instance gender equality, that’s not really the case.

Spartan girls and boys exercising on the dromos (sports field). 

The freeborn Spartan woman’s duty was to bear children and produce healthy sons for the Spartan army. Sparta’s physical education agenda for women was purely eugenic: women were valued only for their roles as child-bearers, not as athletes.

Other ancient Greek city-states found Spartan girls’ athleticism shocking, especially because girls, like the boys, wore very little clothing, or none at all, when they exercised. Their nudity was not shameful within the Spartan community; instead, it encouraged them to be modest and fit. Non-Spartan Greeks, however, denounced Spartan females, calling them unchaste, indecorous thigh flashers.


So why is the project called Thigh Flasher?

Competitive female athletes today still face some of the same discrimination as they did in ancient Sparta: they’re more valued for their roles as mothers than as athletes; they’re inappropriately sexualized; and they’re referred to in unequal and condescending terms.

I titled this project Thigh Flashers to call attention to the inequalities that still exist in the language we use to discuss competitive female athletes. One of my goals of the project is to help competitive female athletes tell their sports stories and discuss their athletic bodies in their own words.

Share your story.

As a side project related to my doctoral dissertation about the stories female athletes tell about their athletic careers and bodies, I am documenting my athletic story and encouraging other women to do the same.

Are you a woman who has inspired others to lead a fit, healthy, happy, fun lifestyle? Or if there’s a woman who has inspired you to get fit and/or compete in sports and you want to share her story, contact me!

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