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Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu

Privacy for Women - How Are We Going To Do It?

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Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of the Muay Thai Roundtable forum is the idea that there will be a separate forum for women only. In the world at large there are not many digital spaces that belong solely to women, and this is even less the case in the world of the fighting arts. Our aim is to create just such a space, where women can come and discuss topics and ask questions with other women with a degree of privacy, away from the shyness, embarrassment, or being drowned out by male-dominated spaces. There's a lot of antagonism and abuse that comes about simply through the veil of antipathy that online anonymity offers. Periodically, Emma and I will receive private messages from women who, quite frankly, just want to ask the advice or experiences of another woman and have to do so quietly and privately because the internet world is just too big and loud and abusive to try these simple questions out in public forums. Asking about cutting weight, training or fighting during your period, or about being hit on at your gym in a public forum results in dozens of cheeky, joking, critical and downright nasty comments with maybe, maybe, a serious response buried in there; and sometimes not even one serious answer. This space is for women to have a voice without all the clutter.

How we are going secure a place for women?

So how are we going to do it? Well, we're going to do it ourselves, by hand, and we're going to achieve it by wanting it. This takes time and effort, and both Emma and I train/work full time in addition to blogging; but we believe it is worth it. Most of the women initially in this section will come from people Emma and I know personally. The Muay Thai community is small, and these forums really expect to be a small space where conversation can be carried on - both in the General area and the area only for women - so early confirmations should happen within a day of signing up. But no doubt as word spreads there will be women who apply for membership who we do not personally know. If we don't know who you are it isn't a problem at all, in fact we are very glad to have you and you are very welcome to the community, but verification may take some extra effort on both our parts. A Facebook page's history will aid in any confirmation, perhaps followed by email conversation, or the request of a 3rd person reference will suffice, but a quick Skype call will likely be the best confirmation that a new user's identity is female. It's something we'll have to play by ear as it isn't something commonly done.

We're sorry for any discomfort or inconvenience caused by this extra layer of confirmation for some, and it certainly isn't fool-proof, but it's what it takes to at least create the space itself, the chance for female athlete and student conversations that don't exist elsewhere. It should be said that if you feel that a member in the women only area has been wrongly allowed access, please do contact a moderator, though we doubt this will be a concern.

Because of the rarity of this kind of space we really ask that you keep the women's only section only between women. Know of course when posting that in the digital world anything can be screen captured from within the group, so nothing is 100% secure, but this will be a small space that belongs to us and if we commit to dealing with one another with respect and patience, this community should be very valuable.

In the possibilities of this board we also have the capability of creating forums and topics that are visible to only a select number of trusted people. I can't imagine that this is necessary, but it is within the options we can choose for ourselves if a sensitive subject comes up that requires even further safeguards in order to keep fostered conversation going.

So while there may be a few extra steps to making a women only digital space, we thank you in advance for your patience in co-creating this. As it is so new we really don't know where it is going, whether it will be big or small - in the end it doesn't matter. This section will be by women for women and as long as it's respectful it will be a success. Hopefully it will become something that will help others and change the way we can talk about things.

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Personally, I think having a women's only space is awesome. I train at BJJ and muay thai at two great places where the instructors and students are respectful and welcoming towards female students.

 

However, as martial arts in general where I live is still viewed by society as a masculine activity, women practitioners are usually in the minority and tend to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. Some women feel so intimidated to even train in the same room with male training partners, especially where certain authorities throw a very critical eye on any form of close contact between women and men they are not married or related to. Unfortunately, this type of social pressure reinforces the perception that women have no place in martial arts.

 

A women's only space here - even though virtual - is a great tool and resource to encourage women to claim and speak up for their right to occupy the spaces they have worked/are working so hard to create in the offline world in their respective gyms/schools.

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Women's only spaces are great. I belong to a women's only ski forum and a mixed gender ski forum and the women's forum is definitely more welcoming.

Will trans women be able to join the women's forum? I hope that anyone who identifies as female could join.

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Thank you. I have a graduate degree in electrical engineering - being the only woman in the room, the company, or the gym is part of my day to day life and I hava absolutely no problems with it. But when it comes to being online, things are different. I have shied away from posting on any martial art forum so far because of the auto-negativity that comes from random keyboard warriors. When I was looking for a gym in Thailand, for example, I looked at old threads, and decided to message some people in private instead of exposing myself on a message board...

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being the only woman in the room, the company, or the gym is part of my day to day life and I hava absolutely no problems with it. But when it comes to being online, things are different. I have shied away from posting on any martial art forum so far because of the auto-negativity that comes from random keyboard warriors.

 

I feel this, so much. It's kind of amazing how the anonymity of the internet can either exacerbate the nastiness of personalities, or allow for less personal responsibility for the way you effect people; I mean, there are good things about it too, like connecting across the globe in a way that being isolated or quiet generally doesn't otherwise allow. But quieting down the echo-chamber of forums, we hope, will give women more courage to lend their voices online more than is common in the current formats. The "comments" sections of internet media are the dregs, man. YouTube comments are enough to make you want to pull the plug on the format all together. But when you clear out the clutter of all that negativity, you can find some really gem-like interactions. I'm hoping that's what we can get at here.

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I love the idea of a women-only forum. I'm an only female in my gym, so I'm sure this forum will be a great place for me, who don't have female friends which can relate to the martial arts experience.

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