“Wow they’re both so pretty.” “She looks a little fat still but I know she’s really strong.” “I really hope both women are still pretty after this.”
“He’s an animal!” “He’s got great movement.” “These guys are tearing each other apart.”
As I sat on a couch with my friends watching Miesha Tate and Holly Holm knock each other senseless, then once more while Nate Diaz bled all over the octagon and Conor McGregor got choked out, I observed some interesting things.
I listened to how my fellow female athletes spoke about these incredible professional female fighters. We noticed their skill, their movement, their technique; we talked about each woman’s fighting background and what each brought to the table. We looked at them like athletes.
But we also openly criticized their bodies. We talked about just how pretty they were and if, Lord forbid, something were happen to their faces. We looked at them like objects, like things that we could comment on, critique, and compare based on society’s standard of beauty.
Granted, we noticed the male fighters’ physiques as well. But the way we talked about it was different. It wasn’t, “He’s so handsome!” It was, “He’s a BEAST.” We spoke about the men in hushed tones compared to the way we loudly debated the degree to which these women were worthy of attractiveness.
I don’t say this to chastise my friends or to shame anyone for talking this way. I was a part of it. Which is why I felt so compelled to write about it. I think we need to examine the way we do things in order to do them better; I truly believe these kinds of comments diminish both the athletic talent and the professionalism of female fighting.
Both fights were phenomenal. All four athletes fought hard and deserve to be recognized as leaders and lethal weapons in the world of mixed martial arts.
But no one looked at Nate Diaz and said, “He’s not exactly easy on the eyes.” Why is that? Why do we feel so painfully comfortable commenting on the appearance of women at all times? These are professional FIGHTERS. They train to hit and get hit in the face. They bleed, sweat, kick, punch and claw their way to victory. So why on earth are we concerned for their beauty?
These are gladiators. Their beauty is far more than skin deep and their external beauty should be our last concern.
I realize this isn’t unique to the sport of fighting. This is an overarching issue that’s plaguing the way we communicate to, with, and about women in every area, not just athletics.
But this is a blog about fighting, and as a female fighter, part of the reason I do this is for equality. My hope is for us to be able to look at male and female athletes the same. I want fighting to be a sport that looks at a female athlete for her skill, her character, her heart, her dedication and her hard work. Not her “pretty face.”
I think this sport is an incredible platform for equality; women are showing that they are just as tough, dedicated, and skilled as men in a high-contact sport.
The most beautiful thing I saw during that fight was the way Miesha Tate took that victory, how she honored and respected Holly for being a fierce competitor. You could feel her joy, seeing the years of hard work and dedication playing in her mind as that belt was wrapped around her waist. She demonstrated how patience, commitment, and unyielding confidence in your own abilities can lead to greatness. It was something that both men and women can identify with, respect, and be inspired by.
And that’s the kind of beauty worth talking about.
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