A Backlash Against My Asking for Help?

I just read this incredible comment by the American fighter kthatsnotmyname, a long time supporter of this page, and really female Muay Thai in general. Apparently there has been...

I just read this incredible comment by the American fighter kthatsnotmyname, a long time supporter of this page, and really female Muay Thai in general. Apparently there has been some sort of backlash against me asking people if they want to support  getting me to fights. Read the whole comment, it’s inspiring:

“It sort of baffled me when not everyone immediately jumped on board to support you financially. I truly don’t expect everyone to donate. I don’t expect people to have the same priority or financial ability. However, there’s this really abrasive backlash I received in supporting you that I am still attempting to digest. Their response was that we, back home, work a 9-5 to pay for our training. Even trainers, my own professional boxing boyfriend included, responded that people didn’t give them a hand out. It is my firmly held belief that we are not the same as you. Even my trainers, who dedicate their lives to the sport, are not the same as you. For years you have been documenting your effort and promoting the sport without financial return. I resent the comparison. What you have done and continue to do is profound.

“Any fool can create history but it takes a genius to document it.” Oscar Wilde

I feel a little sickened by it. These are people whose approval I seek, yet there’s such a wide gulf in opinion. And I almost don’t know how to face them in training tomorrow. Part of me is racked with disappointment and disillusionment and even a little bit of guilt. I feel oddly guilty that my supporting you might be discounting to them.

The other part of me knows I’m fucking right. So fuck it. Next paycheck I’ll return to the gofundme page and donate more.”

I think some people just aren’t getting it. If there are those who are appreciating what I’m trying to do here, what I’ve already done, and want to see more of it, here is how they can help make it happen. If you don’t, not a problem at all. It is sad to see that someone who feels that it’s meaningful to help me make 100 fights in Thailand possible, and to continue my blogging of it and my video record, has to second guess herself somehow, or choose sides.

I contend with this idea that there should be a moral opposition to people asking for “handouts,” as if I (or others) feel entitled to something for nothing. The only thing I have that is mine is my dream. But the reason I’m getting support is that my dream isn’t just mine. We should be celebrating this. It means other women can blog and record themselves, other women can ask for help when they need it, and create or draw on a community that supports everyone. Fighting, despite what people think, is never done alone. Let’s be together on this.  And to be clear, the idea of even putting together a GoFundMe campaign came about from supporters asking me – unsolicited – how they could financially help me.  I didn’t have a way for them to do so and at the same moment am struggling to keep my fight rate up.

I’m going to cite again the TED talk by Amanda Palmer which really opens up the meaning of asking for help from others, how it makes you vulnerable.  It’s not about “you owe me” mentality; it’s about ingratiating oneself to the notion that asking for help, and accepting help from those who choose and want to give it, is in itself a connection and a building of community.

What some people don’t quite understand, in this world of digital intimacy, is that giving begets giving. When you offer positive thoughts to a fighter online, it encourages others to do the same – and also maybe to offer them to another fighter as well. It can become a culture of support. And when people financially support one fighter, one blogger, they are more willing to give to another. It becomes meaningful to give to something, to become a part of something larger than you – and that doesn’t only mean financial donations, it means giving your intellectual, emotional, moral support and perhaps even giving of yourself, opening yourself up to strangers on the off-chance that someone else feels the same or won’t feel alone. The rising tide floats all boats. And the same goes in the opposite direction. The more we isolate ourselves. The more we cut ourselves off from community, the less we ask from others, the more we attack peers, the more we lower the tide and create a current that is very hard to swim against, especially for women.

I have to be clear about something: I’m not special.  I’m not anyone of particular talent or character; I stand out only because I’ve done something that nobody else has ever done before and that’s to document my journey in Muay Thai, virtually from day one.  My YouTube videos went up when there was nobody watching them and my blog was written when nobody was reading it – I didn’t create any of this in order to make money or gain notoriety – my website doesn’t generate any income at all for me.  Everything I share is free and I try my best to freely share everything.  Simply because I started and continued on with this kind of recording of my journey, I am perhaps the most documented fighter in history, man or woman.  And I’m not even a great fighter… yet.  I wish that the women I look up to had videos and blogs and journals from their full experiences, from start to growth and all the struggle along the way.  Hopefully the women who are starting out and rising up now will be leaving a permanent digital path in their wake; there are already more female bloggers now than there were when I started even though our numbers are still very few – people may not know but my husband and I worked behind the scenes to help Natasha Sky to start her excellent blog: MuayTash: The Journey of a Female Muay Thai Fighter and other bloggers have told me that my blog inspired them to start theirs.  If the voices are of support, there will be more.  If the voices are that you’re on your own, especially for women, there will be fewer – and that, to me, is the greatest cost. The response has been more than generous, but this is good news for female Muay Thai, its good for all of us.


[update 2016: These are the supporters who have lifted up and make 8limb.us and my fighting possible]

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Muay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay


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