Friday, February 3, 2012

Shark Girl Is So Effin' Feminine


Shark Girl is officially glomming on to Stephanie’s post.

About a week ago Stephanie wrote that when she invites other ladies to try jiu jitsu, they often decline with a comment like, “I’m too girly for that.” Stephanie’s point was that she, too, is girly, and if I’m reading her correctly, takes offense that people would box her into being less girly than they are because she grapples, and that more girly equals better.

Shark Girl does not ask other women to join her in jiu jitsu. After reading Stephanie’s post, I wondered if it was to avoid the “No, I’m not as manly as you” comments. I don’t think it is. I never invite anyone to exercise with me unless they show an interest. Way back when I started exercising, I often heard the advice that one should include a “buddy” who could help you stay honest in your pursuit of fitness. I heard that, but thought, “If I need a buddy to keep me honest, then I’m not really exercising for me and at some point the whole thing is going to break down.” I firmly believe in not regularly exercising with a buddy. I learned to enjoy my solitary runs and training in the gym by myself. Occasionally my brother or a friend would join me and it would make me happy. But I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s fitness and I surely don’t want to nod and say, “That’s okay, really,” if a friend gives me that pity-filled, it’s-hard-for-me-to-say-this-because-I-know-how-much-you-love-it-but-I-hate-it-and-can’t-figure-out-why-you-do-it speech.

I still felt Stephanie’s pain, even though it’s not from an invitation snubbed. Just telling someone that I do jiu jitsu can bring that “Oh, so you’re a manly woman!” reaction, and a step backward.

After reading Stephanie’s post, I went to Nine-Year-Old Niece’s talent show. (She was awesome, by the way!) I saw elementary school girls devising reasons to dress in scanty clothes and wear clownish make-up. I listened as the audience of parents tee-heed when their daughters gyrated suggestively to sexualized lyrics. (“Isn’t that cute?!) I saw gymnasts contort in ways that are similar to grappling positions. I am certainly not against sex or sexualized behavior. I am not a prude; for God’s sake I grapple with men—I put my head there, as Stephanie would say. But where is the other side of feminine? Why is it feminine when it’s dirty dancing and there’s make-up involved, but the same moves in jiu jitsu are manly? Someone commented on Stephanie’s post that jiu jitsu was like “dry humping” (okay, I’m taking liberties in the interpretation there). But I’m confused. Are sexualized moves feminine or not? Why can’t grappling be girly, too? Not in the frills and bows way, but in a way that says, “This is another possible side of being a girl.”

I don’t expect that everyone will agree with me. And it’s okay if you don’t. However, I am interested in what you think constitutes femininity. Because I submission grapple, God-damn it, and I’m a freaking girl’s girl. I’ve got the pink dresses and frilly underwear to prove it.

13 comments:

  1. Can't remember if you've already read this, but Julia had an interesting discussion on the topic, here, which got even more interesting in the comments (94 of them! Julia really knows how to get people talking).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be fair, half those comments are ME and the other half are YOU! hahahaha kidding.

      Delete
  2. I remember that post! Julia is so effin’ feminine, too!

    This seems to be a recurrent theme with lady BJJers. I wonder if women who do boxing or MMA have the same complex?

    Growing up, it would not have been ladylike for me to take tae kwon do or karate (Mother of Shark Girl signed me up for ballet and tap), but now there are lots of girls in my son’s tae kwon do class, sparring with the boys with ne’er a care. It seems some stand up martial arts have gained feminine acceptance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww! :) I have a totally badass haircut now and am wearing glittery eyeshadow and I have gold toenails with a little flower on them. Plus, I bought these big fluffy earmuffs and like to wear big flowers/bows on my head. :) It's true.

      When I was little my mom signed us up for ballet and tap. She didn't want me taking TKD because she was afraid I'd hurt my sister. heh.

      I did TKD when I was about 17 or 18 and loved it at the time. For some reason I always have loved when I could prove that I was the strongest girl or the least feminine girl. Weird. I was the first gal in my class to break a board by doing a straight on front punch instead of using an elbow smash or a hammer fist. I was also the girl who took metal shop and auto shop in school. Back then I hated everything girlie and everything to do with being feminine.

      Then I grew up and embraced that part of myself. I actually LOVE the dichotomy of being uber feminine and yet into masculine things - like watching MMA and doing BJJ and weight lifting. In some ways I feel like it makes me feel more feminine and surprising - like I feel well rounded.

      Delete
    2. I would agree with you . . . I am reading a book right now that talks about reality lying in paradoxes.

      PS: Love the new do!

      Delete
  3. I hope that eventually, women won't be expected to conform to stereotypical ideas of 'femininity', and that men won't be forced into 'masculinity' either. It's a heavy load of social conventions I'd be happy to do without, for both genders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the men/masculinity is actually a harder and longer struggle. Completely worth fighting for, but a longer road.

      Delete
  4. Hear, hear. For fun, I googled “masculinity,” “ballet,” and “blog” and found this and this. Sound familiar? Oh, and then there was this from The Onion.

    BTW, Husband read this post and said, "You're not a girly-girl!" Way to go, Husband! Way to support me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He also asked for proof of my pink dress. (Which totally exists.) Does he even live with me??

      Delete
  5. I have only been doing BJJ for a little less than a year but have done karate for 20+. Plenty of women come to the regular karate classes and for some reason this was always considered "girly" enough. It was when it came down to trying sparring that many of the women go uncomfortable. Sometimes it was just about the hitting and being hit, other times it was about the hitting and being hit by men. We do have women who fight and all of us consider ourselves a bit odd. I have been trying for years to make fighting seem more "normal" for us girls. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, so that's very interesting...you notice that it's all well and feminine until it gets to sparring. Is there a difference between girls and women in this respect, that is, do the girls find it okay to spar?

      Delete
  6. I train in a mixed martial arts gym and train BJJ, boxing, Muay Thai and will be starting wrestling soon. I always get the "manly girl" comments and when people ask why i'm single the usual answer from friends is "She's intimidates men". I don't! I wear pretty clothes and keep my long blonde hair despite how annoying it can be training because I am grateful for being female. I'm grateful for our nuturing natures and curves but I'm also grateful for the extra flexibility and hip control i have over the boys hehe :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh don't get me started; I know exactly what you mean. I've always been sporty and not super girly but neither am I a total dude. I really dislike the assumption that a woman who does sports, and particularly fighting sports, must either be a lesbian, a dominatrix and/or a butch man-hater. Personally, I try to counter the stereotype by wearing very colorful workout clothes while still being aggressive but it's a very hard balance to find lol.

    ReplyDelete