Thursday, December 3, 2015

6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - 2

Continuing on with things that annoy me about being a female martial arts... here's a link to part 1 if you missed it.

4) Some Guys Are Threatened By Our Training And Hassle Us About It

I think this is getting less and less common, but it's still an issue.

Some men are incredibly threatened by the idea of a woman being trained in the martial arts. They see this as an attack on their manhood in some way.  They secretly wonder if a trained woman can beat him in a fight.

And this is something a few guys can't stand, mainly because they're either afraid it's true, or, that having a trained female martial artist in their lives somehow makes them a lesser male.

Oh noes, a perceived threat to my masculinity! 
So they'll disparage our hobby - and it's a hobby, folks for 99% of us - and talk down to us and treat us like we are delusional for training.  They wouldn't say a word if our hobby was tennis, or yoga, or knitting, or making model trains... but when it's the martial arts, they have to constantly jaw about it and denigrate it.

Now, plain and simple, these guys are assholes and not worthy of our time (and this is true for females as well as males)  If you have one of these around you, I recommend you drop that jerkface from your life.

BUT, for some women, these guys are unavoidable. They are siblings, fathers, boyfriends or husbands, bosses, or other people that it is impractical or difficult to cut out of our lives.  This means we have to suck it up and live with it in some way or another, and that sucks.

5) Female Martial Artists are too Sexualized

This is mostly a media image problem (versus the martial arts community itself, although we certainly contribute to the problem sometimes). There's a huge media image problem for male martial artists, too, but it's a different image, not overly sexualized -  incredibly idealized, yes, but not sexualized.

It is very, very common for female martial artists to be represented in popular culture and in the media  in revealing clothing (or no clothing at all) and in sexy poses, often with weapons held poorly (because these are models, not martial artists).  The idea is to look beautiful and sexually appealing to men.

This is the single dominant media image of women in the martial arts.  It's used everywhere.

It took me literally a fraction of a second to find this image by the search term "female martial arts". 

I'm no prude, people, and I like sexy, aesthetically pleasing people as much as anybody.  I don't have a problem, for example, with Sports Illustrated's "Body" issue where major athletes, including martial artists, are depicted completely nude, usually in action shots related to their sports.  I actually find that incredibly fascinating.

I also don't have a problem with the sexualized fantasy of it all, as long as it's kept in FANTASY.  We all know there's a lot of people that have a hard time separating the fantasy of the martial arts from the reality of it, which usually involves no makeup, a lot of sweat and dirt and sometimes other body fluids, and generally has zero relationship to anything sexy whatsoever. 

But “sexy female martial artist” tends to be the dominant image to represent us in the martial arts. Scantily clad, young, incredibly fit women = "female martial artist".

This is the message it sends:
Men should expect female martial artists to behave this way - that our participation in the martial arts is to conform to what is attractive and pleasing to you.  Your goals for women in the martial arts are more important than our goals, and really, we’re only in the martial arts to turn you on anyway.
Women (especially our young women) should conform to this image, no matter what, and if they can't or won't, they not "real" martial artists (and we all know, privately, that women can't be real martial artists anyway, but if they try, they better look hot while doing it).
Many people can't believe someone who looks like me is a serious martial artist, because I don't look like Cynthia Rothrock or AnnMaria De Mars or a UFC fighter and I certainly don’t train in a sports bra and skin-tight yoga pants or shorts (nobody wants that, trust me).

It's a constant irritation. I think it is improving in many places and in many ways, but it's still there, and it's annoying as all get-out.

6) There Aren’t Enough of Us

I really, really wish that we women made up half of martial arts classes as they tend to do the general population overall.  But the fact is, we don’t.  Adult women in the martial arts tend to be, on a generous day, 20-30% of a given class, often less (and sometimes none at all, going by class pictures I see on the internet).

I’ve written about how I think we can get more women in class, but honestly, even if you do everything perfectly, the fact is, the martial arts are a harder “sell” to women as a hobby they should pursue.

Maybe they’re afraid of injury, or the media imagery has turned them off, or they’re afraid they can’t do it and will embarrass themselves, or maybe we do a poor job marketing the benefits of training (mental and physical) to women.

Whatever the problem is, I sure wish we could solve it, because I’d like more women in the dojo.  I’d like to see more of us enjoy the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of training.  I'd like to have partners that have strengths and weaknesses that are similar to mine.

If you know a way to solve this, do let me know.

My fellow female martial artists - did I miss an annoyance?  Let me know in the comments!