Saturday, February 19, 2011

"You're kinda...thick."

I don't know if there's any other place on Earth where men can comment on a woman's weight/body without fear of violating cultural taboos...ok...except maybe the American South.

Last night I was drilling with a new white belt. Looks to be late 30s to early 40s...6'2", medium frame, not fluffy, but not super ripped either. The guy is powerful. I don't move easily and he was tossing me pretty well. We were working butterfly sweeps and he looks at me and says "you' look. You're kinda...thick." Being Black-American, I'm used to the word "thick" being a commentary on the visual impression of the size of a woman's hips, thighs and behind. So by "thick" I'm guessing he means "dense". That didn't surprise me though. Apparently, even when I was a child, people would come to pick me up, and after feeling how much I actually weighed, would stop and put me back down.

Sitting at lunch today after NAGA and discussing diet plans over the next year, I realized that these types of conversations don't occur often in mixed company...and, seeing as we had one new grappler, and one non-grappler at the table...that they could likely be off-putting to newcomers.

I don't want to leave the impression that men are commenting on women's weight left at right at the gym. I'd already opened the door for weight discussion with the white belt I mentioned. A couple weeks ago, when one of the kids couldn't get his legs around my waist, he immediately said "it's not you, it's my stubby little legs". The rest still tend to stumble and stutter whenever the topic comes up.

I've honestly found the openness about weight and size to be comforting. I think it's a good thing for women, seeing as we frequently have issues tackling not just the issues of body weight, but also having objective conversations about our bodies overall. My vocalizing that I have the "arms of a condor, legs of a spider and the body of a beetle" likely wouldn't have happened pre-BJJ, and I know it's been good for me.


Jesse said...

I actually went through the exact same problem (as a newbie trying to butterfly a 200lb+ person) and had no qualms about explaining that the weight difference between us made it really difficult.

I also never have a problem explaining why I like to drill with smaller-framed people than me: I can really focus on learning the technique without gassing out or over-exerting myself. Then, once I'm somewhat comfortable with the basics of whatever I'm drilling, I'm fine with moving on to someone bigger than myself.

On the mat, it seems like the concept of attractiveness and preconceptions just doesn't exist. Along with egocentric insecurities, they're all left at the door. Physical differences are just things to consider the advantages and weaknesses of rolling with another person.

I also think that the particular gym you train in plays a huge part in this. We have a very mixed-gender, mixed-race gym and nobody cares (or at least pretends not to notice).

Ashley said...

Excellent, excellent post. I completely agree; the "openness" you speak of is definitely one of the gazillion reasons BJJ is great for women.

BJJ caused me to value my body a lot more -- not only to appreciate what it was like in the moment, but to respect what it was capable of.

Georgette said...

Heck yeah! The transition from thinking of my weight as a number I always wanted to make smaller, to my weight as a measure of how much smashing mass I possessed (and hopefully much of it muscle) is part of why I am in love with this sport.