Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 122 of 365: Female Athletes

Last week was the Ultimate Fighter finale. For the first time in UFC history, the main card was predominantly female. Although none of the fighters I liked won, I was so proud to see a nearly all-female fight night receive such favorable reviews.

Because female athletes have been discredited from day one. Everything from "but men are stronger!" to "but women aren't as entertaining!" has been thrown out. And the few branches of athletics where women compete on the same platform (namely, the Olympics) either requires the women to wear ridiculously skimpy outfits (like beach volleyball) or get derided because the women aren't sexy enough (like gymnastics or swimming).

I know my feminist soapbox is started to bow in the middle from all the times I've stood up on it, but I really don't care. The reasons to exclude females from athletic divisions are weak at best, sexist at worst. While I'm not here to say that women are, pound for pound, training hour for training hour, as strong as men (because biology is against us there), I still found it ridiculous to say that there are sufficient reasons to have sports be male-only.

Because the "men are stronger" argument is completely invalid. If that were the case, we'd only have heavyweights in boxing and MMA. We'd only have linebacker-looking guys in football. Only the absolute biggest, most-muscle-y guys in baseball. Nothing but the biggest, strongest men, because who would want anything else?

Because different strengths bring something different to the table. You need the running backs, you need the flyweights, you need different body types to get certain things done. They all bring something that can be just as entertaining as the biggest, strongest guys.

Actually, there is one sufficient reason why sports are male-only (and the few female-included sports have the women dressed up super skimpy): people still treat sports like a man's club. We have terms like "pink hatter" for the women who pretend to like sports for the attention, but no term for men who do the same (and you know there are men who pretend to love the Patriots but couldn't tell you what offsides are to save their skulls). We have websites like, which is so insipid and patronizing that I actually lose a few IQ points whenever I think about it. We are so wrapped in what we've been told since we were kids -- sports are for boys to play and watch -- that we have a hard time changing our thinking, even when we see what female athletes can do.

Patrick Rothfuss (one of my favorite authors) brought up similar mindsets. His main message was that it's okay to have these mindsets -- you are told things as a kid, your brain develops around them, and it's hard to even realize you're thinking them because they're just that ingrained -- but it's not okay to realize that the mindset is wrong and refuse to do anything about it because "that's just the way things are".

And, really, if you're that comfortable in your masculinity, seeing women enter the mainstream athletic world should not threaten it. Even if they could kick your ass any day of the week.

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