I enjoy fighting. I’ve even taken a couple classes in a few different martial arts (although never for long enough to learn anything more than the basics). Occasionally, I enjoy watching a match of MMA or boxing. Watching these matches always makes me feel conflicted. On the one hand, I enjoy the skill and level of physicality involved in fighting; on the other hand, as a Special Ed Aide, I feel terrible supporting sports that could cause long term brain damage. Despite this internal conflict, and despite the fact that I’m not an avid sports watcher, I know I will be watching Ronda Rousey fight Bethe Correia on August 1st. Below, I’ve explained a few reasons why.
1) Rousey is a bad-ass chick
This post went up late because I made myself go to kickboxing last night and then crashed when I got home. The main reason I convinced myself to go (trust me, I love finding an excuse when I can), is because of all the Rousey clips I’ve been watching. When I thought about skipping, I couldn’t help but remind myself, “what would Ronda Do?”
There is something to be said about a woman gaining worldwide recognition because of her physical prowess. Rousey managed to do this even before she fought in the UFC by winning a bronze Olympic medal in judo. She continues to do that now, but in a sport where girls are often paid more for walking around in a bikini and heels than they are paid to take a beating in the octagon.
We women are used to seeing powerless reflections of ourselves in media. There is the overused rape trope, for example, where movies and shows consistently use a woman’s traumatic experience to fuel a plot line. There is also the cutesy, naively-sexy version of the ideal woman that we constantly see in our advertising.
For many women, that feeling of powerlessness isn’t just a reflection in the media. It’s an experience we have in real life. It’s the feeling you get when you walk down a creepy alley and a guy looks at you funny and you wonder to yourself, “could I fight that guy off if I needed to?”
Female fighters, like Rousey, defy those stereotypes and unfortunate realities.
For me, watching Rousey fight reminds me that being female doesn’t necessarily make me physically powerless.
2) She markets herself effectively
A lot of people don’t really like the way Rousey had marketed herself. She’s been accused of being arrogant, and she has no problem trash-talking other players (as you can see in the promo for the Correia fight above).
Even I don’t love that she posed in Maxim, because I feel like it takes away from the hard work she has put into succeeding via something other than her looks. However, no one can argue that she hasn’t marketed herself successfully.
Her appearance in films like Furious 7, Expendables 3 and Entourage made her a familiar face beyond the fighting world.
She also seems to understand the kind of success story people want to hear. She recently wrote a book about her life where she openly shares about her father’s suicide and her bout with homelessness.
Today, Rousey is considered the face of UFC. This is especially surprising since, just a few years ago, UFC president Dana White said women would “never” fight in the octagon. Even other female fighters who hate her will admit that Rousey’s reputation is what gave women’s UFC a fighting chance.
3) She isn’t afraid to call out sexism
I don’t know if Rousey identifies as a feminist, but her behaviour certainly indicates that she is one. As L.A. Jennings explained in their article, “Ronda Rousey and the Feminism of the Bitch“, her initial “arrogance” was in itself groundbreaking:
“Ronda aggressively demanded the fight, a wish that was granted by Dana White and which promptly launched not only Ronda’s career but women’s MMA as a whole into the stratosphere.
The backlash was instant and, of course, gendered. Much of the disgust with Ronda’s challenge was that she hadn’t waited her turn. And underneath those rumblings was the not-so-subtle and insidious insinuation that her behavior had not been appropriately feminine. Women do not demand recognition! They politely wait for the men in charge to recognize them! Ronda demanded a title shot, which made many people in the WMMA community snub her in a manner reminiscent of scene in a Jane Austen novel.”
Since then she has also used her position to speak out about a variety of issues including sexism in comic books, sexism in the media, and sexism in general. Nothing seems to get under her skin more than being told she can’t do something because she is a girl.
I may not always love the way Rousey markets herself, but I am ecstatic about the attention she has brought to female fighters. Not to mention that I can’t wait to see her fight again.