Invicta FC has become must-see MMA for me. They do so much right, from production to pacing, but what stands out most is the respect they pay female fighters. I only heard the word “beautiful” one time during Saturday’s Invicta 19 broadcast, and that was when announcer T.J. DeSantis was describing a transition from back to mount.
Contrast this with Bellator 161 the week previous, a card featuring Anastasia Yankova, who was blatantly promoted as a sex-object who just so happens to fight. My stomach turned when Jimmy Smith looked into the camera with a creepy grin and dreamily said, “There’s something about watching a beautiful women who can kick your ass…”
Continue, Jimmy, please. What is it about a beautiful woman who can kick your ass? Does it excite you? Does it turn you on? Do you think this is a compliment? Do you say this to women in your jiu-jitsu class?
Okay, so maybe Jimmy didn’t come up with this on his own, because Bellator certainly didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they even upped the ante later in the show when they promoted Tito Ortiz’s reaction to being called out by Chael “The Bad Guy” Sonnen. The only way Tito could protect his manhood was to call Chael “The Bad Girl” because, you know, it’s an insult to be called a girl, as all things feminine are associated with weakness.
If you think I’m being overly sensitive and that this stuff doesn’t matter, feel free to check out the most recent domestic violence case involving UFC fighter Alex Nicholson. While I certainly understand that MMA is not immune the ills of society, that’s no excuse to continue perpetuating the attitudes that have created our misogynistic culture to begin with, And in case you missed Psych 101, attitudes do affect behaviors.
Sadly, sexism in MMA is so institutionalized than most men don’t even notice it. They cheer when Teruto Ishihara yells “I love you my bitches,” snicker when Luke Rockhold wonders if Chris Weidman is “on his period or something,” and laugh when Rampage motorboats Karyn Bryant. Real funny stuff, guys.
Anyone citing Karyn Bryant’s lack of concern fails to see the bigger picture. If it did bother her, and she did say something, what would the response have been? Bad Rampage, or whiney female reporter? More often than not, when a female voices her displeasure in sexist mores, she’s dismissed as being overly sensitive or it possibly being “that time of the month” or maybe she’s responsible for egging him on. So what happens? Women don’t speak up, just like the alleged victim in the Nicholson case.
This is why we as men need to say something or do something, and for many, this simply means acknowledging the problem exists. It means noticing how Amanda Nunes is marketed compared to Ronda Rousey and how Dana White constantly refers to women as “girls” and how much less female fighters are paid. It means questioning whether or not you personally use “bitch” as an insult, and the message it really sends.
Mixed martial arts actually has the capacity to redefine perceptions of femininity to include strength and toughness and the same badassery usually reserved for males. But by continuing to allow both blatant and institutionalized sexism to exist, the UFCs and Bellators of the world completely undermine everything these women are fighting for. The only organization that seems to get it is Invicta, which also happens to be the only one run by a female. Funny how that works.
(Frank Gonzales is a new MMATorch contributor. Look for his column once a week here at MMATorch. Follow him on Twtter @frankieagogo.)