The Gender Hate Stuff

Just by virtue of being a woman, never mind one with many hobbies, skills, interests, etc. that are male dominated, I think about gender issues a lot. There are women out there who don’t work at software companies, who have never tried going to classes a a gym full of men, who haven’t been playing video games since the 80s (or for their whole lives), who never worked in tech support, who weren’t ‘tom boys’ who played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who aren’t really competitive, who never said ‘I want to be a major league baseball player when I grow up’, who never experienced sexual abuse, who never experienced street harassment, who were never followed or stalked, who have never been called a bitch for asserting themselves, who never worried about being perceived as a bitch for asserting themselves, and maybe those women don’t think about this stuff much.

Though gender issues affect everyone (not just women by any means), maybe people just don’t follow the news much these days. Maybe people don’t see it affecting themselves that badly and have a hard time with empathy and putting themselves in others shoes.

I am one of those people who tells themselves not to read the comments on articles, videos, blog posts, etc., but does it anyways. It doesn’t matter how much hope or despair is in the article, the comments can always pull you a different way. I find it interesting that I read something and think X, Y, Z, and other people think… BANANA! Even though I know some are just trolls being trolls, some will be real people and their real opinions, and I’m too curious not too look. A lone comment isn’t enough anymore to make me think people as a whole think one way or another, but when they pile up, you start to see a picture of what a group of people think. Too often, it’s not a pretty picture.

These pictures make me feel like we have so far to go as people, to be better, more compassionate, human beings.

I’m a person. I also just so happen to be a woman.

While I believe in my own equality, I also believe I shouldn’t have to fight for it. I shouldn’t have to hold myself up under the pressure of perfect example.

I’m a gamer. I don’t want to be the woman gamer that represents all the women. We’re all just as similar to men gamers, and just as different to other women gamers. I am a gamer. I am a woman. I am a person. These are all separate things about myself. I don’t want to be the woman anything. I don’t want to be the end all to define myself, but since I like certain things, it seems like it has to.

I am a person. Please treat me like a person.

When I read about victims who don’t report harassment or violence, I do feel sad that they didn’t push forward to help all women, like me, have a safer world. I also realize that it’s not fair of me, or anyone, to expect or ask that any of these individuals put themselves on the line inviting additional violence, pain, or even death upon themselves. It’s easy for people to blame a victim for not stepping up, because we feel like our voices will eventually make the world safer and make us equals.

It’s easy to blame the victim who steps up for not being the perfect example, for what they were wearing, their sexual history, for not reporting it immediately, for using imperfect language, their tone, or for not having a perfect past. We want a super hero, but instead we just have people. There are some people that just so happen to also be a women. We expect too much of them when they’re down, and we expect not enough of them when they have all the potential.

When the world fails you, we do the best we can, and try not to fail the world or ourselves.

I’m a person. I also just so happen to be a woman.

Women in Grappling

I came across an article with a woman’s opinion how to attract women grapplers to your martial arts school.

Some things in there don’t matter to me. Women instructors and all women classes. Yeah. Whatever. I like a co-ed environment. I don’t even mind if the place I’m training seems like a matted cave or dungeon.

One thing stuck out for me:

“However, don’t assume that two women are a good match just because they’re women. At 110-odd pounds, I’ve been partnered with a 200-lb woman, just because we were the only chicks in the class. Probably it’d have been better to put me with the 140-lb guy and her with the 180-lb guy.”

I just wanted to run up to the author, shake her, and say, “So I’m not the only one who’s been in this position!?”

There was a period where this was frequently happening to me. I’m more like 150 than 110, but I think the woman I kept being paired up with was considerably more than 200. I felt bad, not being able to put her in my guard because of her girth versus my leg length, but I kept wondering if she felt even worse about the whole thing.

Maybe people of higher belt rank can deal with something like extreme weight differences in training partners, but this was happening when I was a brand-new no-stripes white belt and I think she had three stripes at the time.

There was no tactful way to bring it up to the instructor and no inoffensive way I could think to talk about it with my training partner. Looking back, it’s not something I should have ever been put into the position to need to address.

Keep in mind that had there just been not many people in class and literally the only person there was for me to pair up with was a mismatch, that’s a very different story and it happens. Where I currently train there is a mix of belt levels and sizes. I often train with guys bigger than me. It’s not a big deal.

The big deal is making the mismatched ‘chicks’ train together just because they’re ‘chicks’. There was more than one guy there around my weight I could have trained with and bigger guys she could have trained with. We were ONLY matched because we were both female, and put together in spite of us not being matched in size or even skill level (she was high white, me low white).

When you put together two people to roll who aren’t matched physically AND they’re both beginners, I think that can be pretty dangerous. Beginners don’t know subtleties of shifting weight slightly, training hard by using good technique and not muscle, when to tap, how to just make the person tap and not cry out in pain, or what slight differences in a move can make it likely to break someone’s wrist. Even drilling can be dangerous in this situation.

I remember a class full of particularly bad knee-on-belly instances. The reaction I got when trying to talk to my training partner about the fact I was being hurt were comments along the lines of ‘It’s not my fault’, ‘I’m not doing this on purpose’, and ‘Suck it up’.

My current coach is very careful about keeping an eye on safety. He lets us pair up, but if he doesn’t like the matches for whatever reason (safety or not), he’ll change them. If people are mismatched, he’ll make sure it’s still safe by telling the more experienced person to work on something specific or not to do certain things. If he sees someone not being safe, he’ll do whatever he thinks needs to be done to stop it. You might get told to do push ups if you know better. You’ll get a demonstration and explanation if you just didn’t realize you were practicing a technique incorrectly. He reminds those of us who are smaller and less experienced to only pair up with people we feel comfortable with, so I’ve never feel pressured to go with someone I didn’t.

I’m a proud person and it can be hard hearing him tell someone to ‘go easy’ with me sometimes. The smart part of me realizes that it has nothing to do with how tough or how much heart I have, he just wants to make sure we all can continue to train and will want to continue to train. If you get hurt or feel unsafe or frustrated, that’s not going to happen.

Let’s use an example. A guy in class has nasty headlock submissions that he can put on and crank at the blink of an eye. Pair that guy up with someone other than a guy who has amazing headlock escapes. You might have someone who’s neck is stiff for the next week (or worse) and feels very frustrated. You also have someone who isn’t learning anything, just doing the same moves that work for them at full force over and over. Fixing this isn’t just safe training, it’s smart training. The guy cranking on headlocks over and over needs to learn control. You can put a headlock on and then finish it with the minimal amount of pressure to make the person tap. He probably also should work on some other techniques so it’s not the only move he can use when it comes to competition or real life.

Jiu-jitsu is the gentle art. A perfectly executed move is done with minimal effort and exertion by the person doing it. Their technique is so dead on that they do not need to over-exert themselves. If they need to crank, pull, and muscle their way through a move, then their technique is less than perfect and they’re making up for it with size and strength. Sometimes I’m thankful that I’m not super athletic and strong. Since I can’t muscle and force my way through a move, I’m forced to learn the technique correctly or not get results.

The purpose of classes is not to win, it’s to learn. The only person you can lose is against yourself, and that happens if you’re not learning and improving.

If you’re in an environment where people are being matched with training partners that aren’t good for them, it can be very hard to learn and improve. Even of you think gender makes a difference when rolling, you have to concede that there are certainly factors that matter much more when being paired up. If it’s your only consideration when pairing up, then you might consider not taking classes (or teaching if you’re a coach) in a coed environment.

Be People

I work in IT. I train jiu-jitsu. I don’t like the color pink. I grew up playing catch with my dad. I still have my ninja turtles. I am not gay (or closeted).

I don’t think that being a woman or a man or being attracted to one sex or another is relevant to what I should do or like.

I don’t care for you or anyone else to tell me (or any man or woman) what it is to be a man or a woman or gay or strait (or anything else).

Let us just be people and have/make our own identities.

I shouldn’t feel like I have to shout things like this to the sky (or blog), but every now and then I have a conversation with someone I respect that really makes me feel like I need to chisel words into a mountain so it’s as visible from a million miles away.

Each generation we may be getting closer to that world where people are allowed to just be people, but moments like this I feel like it’s more of an impossible dream. If we can’t even do this with gender, the most basic of two human categories we’re stuffed in, how are we going to get past issues of race or religion?

I can always think back to where we were as society even a few generations back. We have come so far. I’m trying to be patient, but this kind of patience can be very trying.