Monday, December 16, 2013

Why We Need More Female MMA Fighters

I'm a huge fan of Ronda Rousey.  Ronda is a badass.  She is solid and tough and confident and aggressive.  She isn't just another pretty face that the UFC threw a bikini on and sent in the cage to look sexy.  In just one year, she went from a virtually unknown fighter to a persistent headliner, and is the first and current UFC women's bantam weight champion...and she has finished all of her opponents by armbar in the first round!  No one can argue that Rousey is a forbidding opponent, regardless of her gender.  Not only is Ronda one kickass MMA fighter, she was also the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo.  Ronda Rousey is just frickin' amazing (and she is on my zombie apocalypse dream team....right up there with Daryl Dixon).   

In a nutshell, Ronda Rousey totally ROCKS!

In the male dominated sport of Mixed Martial Arts, a world of scantily clad ring girls who flaunt butt cheeks and cleavage between rounds to hooting men, Ronda shines.  She shines not because of her beautiful face or her rocking body.  Ronda shines because of her skill and her talent and her training.  

I recently attended a local Mixed Martial Arts competition.  It was a small production and I was there to cheer on one of my karate dojo buddies.  (He won, by the way....Matthew Johnson....You might want to remember that name....super talented guy.)  It was a night of intense competition, an event full of drama (especially the fight that erupted outside of the ring) and suspense and combative skill.  It was definitely an exciting night.

But there were no female competitors.  And while I realize it's a bit more difficult to find women willing to step in a cage and exchange blows with another woman, it bothered me immensely that the only female participants in the event were the ring girls.

Ring girls.  Bravely circling the cage in booty shorts to remind drunken fans what round is about to begin.  Attractive women, scantily clad in attire that would make underwear blush, these ladies (term loosely applied) are there just to make testosterone fraught dudes feel like they got their money's worth.  It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to keep up with what round it is...good thing, too....these ring girls are not there because they are bright.  They are there because of their butt cheeks and cleavage, the ability to actually hold a sign is of much less importance.

In a world where women are regularly fed the notion that their value is tied to their sexual appeal to men, ring girls are a pox.  Using sex and mostly naked women to entertain men during intermissions of athletic sporting events is obscene.  It is the epitome of the objectification of women.  And don't even get me started on my disgust over the fact that sexual arousal and physical aggression can walk so casually hand-in-hand in a public arena.

You might argue that there's nothing wrong with gazing upon beautiful women in admiration of their beauty.  You might say that women are works of art, and that just like in an art museum men can peruse the art without having to touch it.... or take it out for drinks.... or back to his place to have his way with it.  But I would argue that women are not works of art, however stunning they may be. Women are not objects or playthings.  They are people.  

People with hopes and dreams and POTENTIAL.  Potential to become something, achieve something, or influence someone in a positive way.  To be more than the object of men's desires.  Ronda Rousey is realizing her potential. 

We need more Ronda Rouseys ( and other female MMA competitors like Meisha Tate and Cat Zingano),  because men need to see women as something other than fluffy princesses (and so do women).  We need strong, competitive, ambitious women in the public eye.  We need women that can not only defend themselves, but could totally kick your ass, not because it is somehow erotic, but because it takes hard work and perseverance and a unique kind of dedication.  Rousey didn't stumble upon her success, or coast through, or somehow get lucky.  Her feminine charm and good looks didn't help her climb the ladder of success.  She didn't sleep her way to the top.  She got there  by her mental and physical moxie and unshakable determination.

We need women who bust through the social notion that women are nothing more than their bodies.  We live in a society where women are often seen as things, as commodities or possessions (by both men and women themselves).  And we deal with the consequences in the form of eating disorders and sexual abuse and bruised and battered self-esteem.

Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame once told a reporter, "I feel like young girls are told this whole idea that they have to be this kind of princess and be all delicate and fragile and that’s bullshit. I identify much more with the idea of being a warrior and being a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I would be a warrior princess, definitely. I think women are scared of feeling powerful and strong and brave sometimes."

I don't want my daughters to be scared of being powerful.  I want my daughters to see themselves as Ronda Rouseys...not as the vapid tartlets that are ring girls. I don't want them grasping at straws of fleeting and hollow physical beauty.  I don't want them to seek so desperately the lust of men who see them as little more than chattel or physical accessories.  I want them to chase down their dreams and armbar those suckers in the first round.

I want them to be warrior princesses.

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