A few nights ago 28-year-old Ronda Rousey hit another woman in the face for 34 seconds and left that woman unable to defend herself from the onslaught of blows. If you find this bloodsport unsavory, I don’t blame you. But even if you don’t like fighting, Rousey is undeniably your new feminist (s)hero.
Here’s my evidence:
- Rousey is a trailblazer. In addition to being the first woman in the UFC she was the first American woman to bring home an Olympic medal for Judo
- She comes from a legacy of strong women. Her mother was the first American to win the World Judo Championships in 1984. Reflect for a moment on how crazy it’d be to grow up with a Champion Judoka as your mom.
- She’s not just “good for a woman;” she’s a freaking beast, even among male contenders. She won’t take a fight with a man, but many people in the know say she might be the best MMA fighter in the world right now. In terms of style, technique, and speed, she’s unparalleled.
- She overcame an eating disorder and is an outspoken critic of practices that dismantle girls’ self esteem by connecting it with their body weights.
- “Rowdy Ronda” sees no need for compromise between her femininity and her strength. She trains because she wants to, and because she likes being strong. When critics call her masculine, she shrugs and responds, “Just because my body was developed for a purpose other than [having sex with] millionaires, doesn’t mean it’s masculine.”
That last point is the one where she really hooks me. I’ve spent my entire life focusing on society’s notion of femininity. As a middle schooler my lack of make-up made me a tomboy. As a pregnant woman, my foul mouth meant I’d be a bad mom. As a professional woman, I manicure my nails to ensure I “pass” as girly enough in offices and board rooms.
Perhaps because she’s second-generation badass, Rousey eschews the conceits of a monolithic version of femininity. She is beautiful– she wears makeup and styles her hair– but she is unabashedly fierce.
She’s a champion trash talker, an attribute rarely valued in members of the “fairer” sex. Just like Muhammed Ali, Floyd Mayweather, or any other top-notch champion of the ring, she tears up her opponent verbally before a fight. I fear this could leave her marked as a bad feminist, since the fighters she’s running down are also women. But I love that she engages in this practice– stepping right up to the line and not backing away based on an antiquated notion of what good girls do.
You don’t have to shell out for a Pay-Per-View event or head to the bar to watch one of her fights to appreciate Rousey. I probably won’t. But here’s the deal, don’t write her feats off as inconsequential because you don’t like her sport. She’s a fighter and she’s out there winning victories for every single one of us– even if we aren’t watching.