Nationalism, Sports and Gender in Finnish Sports Journalism in the Early Twentieth Century
The aim of this article is to examine through Olympic sports journalism the connections between sports, gender, nation and class in Finland during the period before the Second World War. The relationship between sports and the nationalist project has always been strong in Finland, and it is often considered that the Finns were the first nation to exploit sports for political purposes in such a consistent way. The attention here is focused on gender and class, since these were the two most significant dividing factors in Finnish sports at the turn of the twentieth century. The article concludes that the idea of a Finnish national character can be seen as a gender-specific narrative, as the image of the Finn has been built on masculine determinants and the male sphere of life. This is proved by the fact that women are not required, or sometimes even allowed, to follow national stereotypes and characteristics. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the sports journalists were nevertheless obliged to conceptualise Finnish women as well through nationalist thinking. This was achieved by contrasting them with foreign women: the 'Other' women functioned as a sexualised background against which it was possible to depict the activities of Finland's own female athletes as pure, feminine, decent and respectable.
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