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Ronda Rousey - The Most Talked About Female Athlete...


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Just saw this article from Fightland about a possible fight between Miesha Tate and Chris Cyborg. This pull quote really pisses me off though.

"Ronda makes waves even in a low tide, as many people might say that the women’s bantamweight division is not as competitive as, say, the men’s bantamweight division. "

 

 

Not only does it try to diminish Ronda's skills but it's insulting to other women fighting in the UFC/WMMA in general.

 

 

I suspect that her opposition to Fallon Fox is actually very similar to her opposition to Cyborg, which is that she's "cheating" by having gone through puberty as a male and now wanting to fight women. Cyborg literally was cheating with her PED use, was suspended for it, etc. Because it's hormonal, I see the similarity to what Rousey's issue with Fallon Fox seems to be.

 

 

That's an interesting theory. I've seen suggestions that say since Ronda is dominating her division she should fight men to prove how tough she really is. This article from Fightland does a great job of breaking down that nonsense.

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An article from Popular Science about sex testing in sports. Deciding who can compete as a woman based on their testosterone levels.

The testosterone limits are the latest attempt to draw a clear line between male and female athletes. In the old days, an elite female athlete would have to verify her sex through genital inspection or chromosome testing, but neither method was perfect. In the gray area between males and females, intersex people may have traits from both sexes. Policy-makers eventually gave up the idea of sex testing, ruling that people should be able to compete in the gender category that they identify with. Testosterone regulations came about in 2011 and 2012.

Tests can reveal whether the testosterone in an athlete’s blood is natural or synthetic, so doping is not the concern.

 

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I suspect that her opposition to Fallon Fox is actually very similar to her opposition to Cyborg, which is that she's "cheating" by having gone through puberty as a male and now wanting to fight women. Cyborg literally was cheating with her PED use, was suspended for it, etc. Because it's hormonal, I see the similarity to what Rousey's issue with Fallon Fox seems to be.

 

I think the secondary issue is bone structure, which Fallon Fox has dismissed, I think incorrectly. There are structural differences in male and female skeletons. It is my understanding that male bones are more robust at particular points, but the main difference to my knowledge is in the pelvis. "The female pelvis has evolved to its maximum width for childbirth and male pelvis has been optimized for bipedal locomotion."

I don't know the impact of something like this in MMA, I'm not sure if it has been researched. I do know this pelvic structure is taught to strength and conditioning coaches and the Q angle, is an actual concern when training high level female athletes and preventing injury.

Fallon Fox most certainly has a different skeletal structure to the opponents she is facing.

 

Source: Boundless. “Comparison of Female and Male Pelves.” Boundless Anatomy and Physiology. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 27 May. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/physiology/textbooks/boundless-anatomy-and-physiology-textbook/the-skeletal-system-7/the-pelvic-hip-girdle-87/comparison-of-female-and-male-pelves-493-4533/

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I don't know the impact of something like this in MMA, I'm not sure if it has been researched. I do know this pelvic structure is taught to strength and conditioning coaches and the Q angle, is an actual concern when training high level female athletes and preventing injury.

Fallon Fox most certainly has a different skeletal structure to the opponents she is facing.

 

Gavin, I have to say I find this "bone structure" argument really frustrating. So Fallon Fox has a "Q Angle" that gives her an unfair advantage in the cage? You say yourself that you don't now what the impact is in MMA, and that you don't know if it has been researched (I would doubt it), but you still conclude that this issue has been dismissed "incorrectly". If there is no research, and no measurable means by which to assess the impact then indeed you dismiss it. You don't just assume that there is an advantage that is necessarily unfair.

The truth is that there are all sorts of skeletal, hormonal and other differences between women. Nobody is talking about the "Q angle" of the hips of different female fighters and saying things like "Ronda has a Q angle that gives her an advantage!" Some women have more testosterone naturally, this gives them an advantage. It is only sexist perceptions in our culture that allows us to very vague group a group of people together and say "female" and imagine that they are all somehow "equal". They aren't. There are hoards of differences between members of a group.

The "bone structure" argument is very similar to the "bone density" argument (which was the first version of it put out there). But check it out. Black Women tend to have a Bone Density almost equal to White Men

bone-density.png

source

Does this mean that Black women should be segregated out from White Women in regards to the cage? Of course not. There may be real issues of fairness, and interesting questions about how we define gender, but honestly the people who actively complain about this are not other female fighters. They are not the ones that make this a running issue. It's mostly white men on the Internet (hey, I'm a white male on the Internet!) who are disturbed by what they see as a "fake" woman. My proof to myself that the "bone density" argument is just a cover for other, more personal concerns is that very few people who read the bone density argument as important (or alternately: the "bone structure", or the "Q angle" argument, etc) would change their position even if bone density, structure, etc were proven to be a negligible, or non-determinative factor in MMA fights. There is no amount of evidence that would change most protesting people's minds. It starts and ends with "That's a dude". The rest is just looking for stuff to support one's feeling.

The opponent is always going to have advantages. Some of them are going to be physical. Some pedagogic. Some emotional. The fight is about overcoming them.

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From what I have learned, though there are some structural differences in between male and female skeletons, there still is a large amount of individual variation. There are certainly cases where certain men have a wider angle pelvis shape similar to women, and vice versa since there are women who have issues giving birth due to a narrow pelvis structure. Bone density is also something that has also a strong environmental influence, with bones seeing harder use building up density. This is the case with shin conditioning in Muay Thai. To make distinctions based on this wouldbe quite unfair I think. But in general when it comes to trying to make distinctions and boundaries physiologically for sports, its a very muddy area.

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Yeah, the funny thing about these type of arguments is that they are more likely to strengthen someones position than change their mind.

I think you have some good points, but I also think you are biased by your own position, like the people you are criticizing. Similar things could probably be said about me!

I think I am going to bow out gracefully from this thread.

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As far as Ronda, I am a fan.  Some people say asshole, I say uber assertive.  Every major fighter has people that dislike them.  What she has done (popularity- hers and women's mma) would have been virtually impossible w/ a Mother Teresa vibe (even if we all love Mother Teresa- que en paz descanse).

What she did to Cat and Sara McMann was completely and utterly impressive. 

I am a HUGE Cris Cyborg fan (she always seems so genuine) and it sucks when Ronda bags on her but it will make the fight all that much bigger.  Fingers crossed.

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...but I also think you are biased by your own position, like the people you are criticizing. Similar things could probably be said about me!

 

Hey, well all have our biases. As for my position about Fallon Fox I really don't know where I stand at all. It's a gray, precarious area in an evolving sport that almost didn't exist 10 years ago. I think there are lots of interesting discussions to have about the inclusion or exclusion, discussions that should begin with the communities with the most at stake. I'm just very wary of when arguments are made with appeal to "science" or "medical" facts, as if these aren't essentially ethical decisions. By my experience strong appeals to science are usually used to end discussion, not develop it.

The bigger problem with Ronda Rousey on this seems to be that her attitude towards Fallon Fox, who some think is a man no matter what, feel quite similar to her attitude towards Cris Cyborg, who everyone agrees is a woman. She seems have something of a normative gender issue, and it doesn't have much to do with science. It is painful to hear her talk about Chris Cyborg as if she is a "he". Come on Ronda, I'm pulling for you. Why throw that shit in there? No amount of appeals to science, or hormones, or muscle mass will disguise what is being said there. It's just something meant to slur and hurt. And in so doing she throws stones at every woman out there with masculine looking traits.

My own feeling is that Ronda is over-concerned with her undefeated record. I think in her book she talks about how everything hinges on being undefeated. She bravely fights frequently, risking what she thinks is the whole ball of wax. And she is relentless in her attack on Cyborg because Cyborg is physically HUGE. As much as she believes in her Judo, I think it does scare her to fight someone so large. I even think she was concerned about Cat Zingano's strength and size. She is fighting for every advantage - emotional, physical. But the methods of attack are doing damage which will last. Don't be Mike Tyson Ronda. Be Muhammad Ali. Ali lost several times. It made him even greater.

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The policing of femininity based on crude science of "how much Testosterone is acceptable in women?" by Olympic committees and then the lay public is absurd. The first time I read about this was in Anne Fausto-Sterling's book Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. It's a great read. Fausto-Sterling's ongoing thesis in most of her published writing on gender is "“the two-sex system embedded in our society is not adequate to encompass the full spectrum of human sexuality.”

I, like Kevin, am not sitting in a comfortable or clear position on the political and ethical question of Fallon Fox competing with Cis Women in MMA. I don't think that the most important questions revolve around bone-density, hip width, center of gravity, etc. To me, the question of "how much Testosterone is too much?" smacks of outdated, Aristotelian model science wherein "male" is at the center and anything else is "other." When reading Aristotle, the "stuff" of the soul and life and biology creates the male and the absence of that "stuff" is the deformed, malformed, insufficient female. There's not a "you've got too little Testosterone so you can't compete with the men" involved when athletes who have a penis want to compete. It's lazily and inconsistently applied science.

What it boils down to in the rhetoric that's bouncing around the internet from people like us - non-doctors, philosophers, biologists, ethicist, et al - is that there is a pervasive and ongoing belief, whether conscious or unconscious, stated or tacit, that females are "naturally" and inarguably inferior. For Fallon Fox to claim differently, for her to openly claim that it's "fair" for her to fight women comes off as abusive and as cheating. A female-to-male transsexual wanting to compete in the male division would not garner the same arguments or protests, calling for the protection of the unsuspecting athletes within that division. It would be centered on whether or not that trans athlete was consenting to his own disadvantage. And likely, any Cis Male athlete open to fighting this trans athlete would be labeled in the same way Fox is being labeled now.

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Unrelated - but once when I was in a shopping mall here I saw Cris Cyborg. At the time I was only just getting into the whole MMA thing so I did a double-take after about 5 seconds and turned around but by then she had disappeared into the crowd. I spent the next half hour wondering if it was actually her. Instagram confirmed it. Damn. But I don't know enough about Cyborg or Rousey to really say I have a personal opinion on them.

To add on to the testosterone thing- I believe that the two-sex system is also inadequate to encompass all of human physiology as well. There are fascinating cases where there are men (XY chromosomes and all) who are born without funcitoning androgen receptors, and go on to develop and spend most of their lives as female. In this case, what would be the appropriate way to consider such a person who decides to become an athelete? There is also variations of mild to severe of this symdrome. There is the term 'intersex' to describe everyone in between that barely covers everything.

As for belief that Sylvie mentioned about females being inferior to males- it makes me incredibly sad but I agree that this makes up a big part of the uproar behind Rousey fighting man or a male transgender athelete deciding to fight women. I remember reading somewhere a study, I have no idea where, but it said something along the lines that in terms of just pure physical strength- women are just as capable as achieving the same strength capacity as men given the correct training regimes (I think it was with lifting specifically). Reading this actually surprised me at first, because also still unconsciously react with the belief that men are stronger/superior in athelticism than women. Even with evidence this is a hard mentality to shift.

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I remember reading somewhere a study, I have no idea where, but it said something along the lines that in terms of just pure physical strength- women are just as capable as achieving the same strength capacity as men given the correct training regimes (I think it was with lifting specifically). Reading this actually surprised me at first, because also still unconsciously react with the belief that men are stronger/superior in athleticism than women. Even with evidence this is a hard mentality to shift.

 

(That is a quote but I cropped it so it looks funny - sorry I forget the workaround).  Really interested and happy to read.. that you read that about weight-lifting Steph.  If you remember the source I would love to know it. 

My trainer (JJ) was talking yesterday about sparring a woman of equal weight to him (Nat), how she hit hard, and of course he hit as hard back.  He made NO mention of being stronger at the same time, even though I alluded to it (I buy/bought the Kool Aid that a man of the same weight is stronger).  He would not take the bait - she is very strong (and of course I remember from Sylvie's interviews:  https://nyfsc.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/women-of-muay-thai-an-interview-with-kru-natalie-fuz-part-i/)Natalie saying when she spars men they hit plenty hard, maybe because of her size, which made her less afraid to be hit by women.  She assumes the women will hit less hard too).  I don't know how to parse this but I despise arguments based on "science".  The entirety of the scientific line of reasoning is never laid out and science is a series of questions, not closed arguments.

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As for the Aristotelean bias, I am reading a great book called "The Expressiveness of the Body" by Shigehisa Kuriyama (Zone book), which details the evolution of medicine in China and Greece (as well as Persia).  The arguments are too detailed to post here (and I am still trying to understand the book) but here is an interesting quote which in my mind not only pertains to male/female biases but also touches on the complicated East/West biases you see in Westerners fighting Thai fighters in Lion Fight and elsewhere - they can be so proud to "beat a Thai" but really, if Asians are emasculated (as in quote below), there is a nice reversal of bias in which they expect to be beaten by the feminine/Asian.  All of those are terribly f*cked up biases but in Muay Thai I like that despite the generalizing and exoticizing of Thai fighters there is the expectation that they will be better.

(This is a chapter on the focus on musculature in Greek medicine (and sculptures), which is not seen in early Chinese medicine, which concentrates on energy patterns, dismisses tissues and rarely if ever dissects to understand the body including muscles):

"Visible joints, in short, separated one part of the body from another, distinguished individuals from each other, divided Europeans from Asians.  To this list we must add one more:  visible joints demarcated male from female.  According to Hippocratic embyology, if the male fetus takes thirty days to begin articulating, the female fetus, being moist, takes forty-two (footnoted).  More generally, males are fiery and dry, females are moist and cold. But the solid parts of the body are formed by fire drying out the original moisture (footnoted again).  In the hermeneutics of the Physiognomics (Aristotle), the poorly articulated joints, ankles and legs that signal weak and cowardly characters, are the feet, ankles and legs of women.  Sinewy, well-jointed limbs are characteristic of men".  

Greek understanding also was the fleshy people were easily enslaved ie; women, therefore one ought not to be either female or fleshy.  What I would give for sinewy legs!  A lot of that is genetic though - I am a mesomorph and do not "cut" well but who gives a sh*t at this point.

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As far as Ronda, I am a fan.  Some people say asshole, I say uber assertive.  Every major fighter has people that dislike them.  What she has done (popularity- hers and women's mma) would have been virtually impossible w/ a Mother Teresa vibe (even if we all love Mother Teresa- que en paz descanse).

What she did to Cat and Sara McMann was completely and utterly impressive. 

I am a HUGE Cris Cyborg fan (she always seems so genuine) and it sucks when Ronda bags on her but it will make the fight all that much bigger.  Fingers crossed.

100% agree.

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... but also touches on the complicated East/West biases you see in Westerners fighting Thai fighters in Lion Fight and elsewhere - they can be so proud to "beat a Thai" but really, if Asians are emasculated (as in quote below), there is a nice reversal of bias in which they expect to be beaten by the feminine/Asian.  All of those are terribly f*cked up biases but in Muay Thai I like that despite the generalizing and exoticizing of Thai fighters there is the expectation that they will be better.

 

But this is the whole fantasy about Asian martial arts anyways though, isn't it? They contain a kind of "magic" of moves, or knowledge that allows the weaker person to be victorious. It isn't the man who is victorious, so much as the art. At least in some versions of the fantasy. Muay Thai differs in some respects in that it is "hard", "direct" in many ways, but there still is an element of Asian magic in how western people think about it, I think.

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But this is the whole fantasy about Asian martial arts anyways though, isn't it? They contain a kind of "magic" of moves, or knowledge that allows the weaker person to be victorious. It isn't the man who is victorious, so much as the art. At least in some versions of the fantasy.

Yes that is true.  Loops back to exoticizing & bias generally (Orientalism).  Kind of a rat's nest.   But a great one!  Sometimes I wish I was small, because I am always rooting for the smaller fighter!!

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threeoaks- I'll be sure to post that article if I can find it again. Meanwhile, that book sounds absolutely fascinating! I would love to read it. It's actually interesting now that at least, I think from a Western point of view, many of the more traditional "Eastern" martial arts are seen as magical and almost at another level compared to sports like boxing due to interviewing religious philosophies or etc, yet when you look at the perception of Asians in popular culture, you see either the kung-fu master or the sort of very meek, feminine nerdy Asian man.

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Rolling Stone article. At the end of the embedded vid she talks about how important remaining undefeated is to her.

She talks about this in her book as well. It makes sense to me, how "everything came from this," so everything goes away when the shine goes. And part of me really admires her obsession and single-minded approach; but God... I just wouldn't want to have that same mindset. It's the same as how "championship thinking" requires that every loss has some kind of external explanation and that's how champions think - you can see it in how Iman Barlow talks about her few losses; same with Phetjee Jaa's parents; every loss in Rousey's Judo days was "bullshit" judging. I know that kind of mindset actually benefits the fighter in a lot of ways. But I don't want it for myself, even though I see how it's beneficial.

Like this:

FIFA.png

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