Cyborg, Tate, Rousey and The Sexy Card: My (Un)Feminist Rant

Hit Like a Girl

If someone were to ask you who’s the baddest female fighter of them all, who would you choose? Tate? Holm? Current UFC Bantamweight Champion Nunes? Nope. And while all these women bring an undeniable intensity into the cage, if you were to pinpoint the baddest one, you’d pick Cyborg.

Cristiane Justine Venancio, aka Cris Cyborg—former Invicta and Strikeforce champion—is the very name that probably popped into your mind. And with good reason, as this woman is an absolute force to be reckoned with. The Brazilian fighter—who headlined UFC Fight night 95 that recently took place on September 24—is so enthralling to watch, Bleacher Report even went as far as calling her “one of the most compelling fighters in the sport.”

As I read these words, I thought, How true that no one’s a match for this crazy head.

And then, I did a double take. What? Did they actually refer to Cyborg as a fighter? Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that, quite the opposite. I was just shocked at how gender neutral the article actually was.

Photo by Mike Lee of Black House MMA

Photo by Mike Lee of Black House MMA

When it comes to female fighters, gender is often all that we can see. At times quite literally, as a lot of articles on the subject are often followed by the “Hottest ass shots of this chick,” or “13 almost nude pics of this other chick.” And even the frequent remarks—no matter how enthusiastic they are—in the likes of “These broads can really throw down!” still manage to create a certain chicks vs dicks dichotomy, because however complimentary they are meant to be, they still reek of an unjustified and outdated astonishment of the fact that women have a violent killer instinct that drives them.

That could maybe explain why bringing female fighting to the masses was such an arduous feat. Dana White, UFC’s president, was adamant it would never come about and some fighters even took a stand against it. Seeing women hurt each other, they said, went against their values. But the women fighters would have none of it and decided it was their time to shine in the big leagues, and so they resorted to the ever proven tactic that makes men cave in and give them want they want: they showed a little puss.

The best exemple of that has to be the Strikeforce bout opposing Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey on March 3, 2012 that paved the way for the women’s UFC bantamweight division. The truth of the matter is, the real contender for that fight was Sarah Kaufman. But she was overlooked for Ronda Rousey who played every card possible, notably the sexy one (She’ll be the first one to admit it as she was promoting the fight saying “When do you see girls fighting? [But most importantly] when do you see pretty girls fighting?”) And Miesha Tate was nowhere near refuting that point of view, agreeing the fans needed something bright and shiny to look at as she went on saying that “from a marketing standpoint that’s the fight that’s gonna do it [for women’s MMA].” And we all know that sex sells. So you do the math here…rondarousey

And so the Caranos, the Herrigs and the Tates got down on all fours and covered their tits with wrapped hands and gave boners to a few fat internet trolls in the hopes of racking up their PPV numbers. And guess what? It worked. More and more eyes turned to watch these ladies in the cage and as they did one thing was undeniable: these girls had talent. And here we are today, with female fighting being all the rage.

So this all begs the question: did we really have to sexualize ourselves to this extent to finally get a little recognition? It it wasn’t for the girls who decided to be, like Miesha Tate puts it, “a little bit more feminine outside the cage” would Holly Holm be an household name today? Would you even have clicked on this post?

As a woman, I’ll take a stand and say that those fighters did the right thing. They gave the fans what they wanted, while banking on the fact that their abilities would retain them in the long term. They made the bet that eventually “it wouldn’t take as much as the pretty angle to get [fans] to actually enjoy the entertainment of the fight” and they won. In the 90s movie Coyote Ugly a bartender says to a girl “the average male is walking around with a toddler inside of his pants, a two year old right there inside his dockers.”

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you ladies for taking care of the kids. Now, we can finally start to play.

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