Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Men are encouraged to suck."

It's been a weird cat woke me up just in time to run into a text from my brother that led me into the Internet purgatory known as, specifically a piece by David Wong.

I had intended to sleep a bit late and head over to the gym for our semi-annual belt promotion ceremony (Ryan's going to black and GinasticaInstructor's going to brown!!), but instead, I've spent the early morning wondering about men. Not just because of Cracked, but also because of this article that Georgette posted recently about the Avellan brothers and their mind-blowingly original use of half naked, contorted women to sell a jiu jitsu product.

I watched a couple of the clips...a bit stomach turning first thing in the morning, but I pushed through. (I'm becoming almost desensitized to racism and sexism these days because, well, a lot of people in positions of power-and weakness-have taken the attitude that they're entitled to them and they're plowing ahead in reactionary full-force.) What ended up striking me most (yes, even more than the bad technique) was the complete lack of respect for the intended audience (and for jiu jitsu, but that's a post for another day). Talking with men who trained has highlighted this tendency in male entertainment for me, but in this case, it was disgustingly blatant.

It's easy in the talk of sexism...any ism, to get stuck completely on the oppression of the weaker party. For good reason or bad, that is the most obvious, and I believe most important reaction...still though, there is, inherent in almost every institutionalized -ism, a self-degradation of the oppressor. Objectification of a living creature is not a one way street. It requires a dabbling in emotional suicide. I didn't realize this until I read the section on slave masters in this book, and how, after spending days in the fields, physically and emotionally destroying their chattel,  they were simply unable to come home and be good fathers and husbands. Basically, the lives of White families were being destroyed slowly, internally, along with the human beings they had acquired, supposedly for their own benefit.

That principle is forever burned into my mind.

The Cracked article--just a few minutes later, I read this, and #5...the idea that men are trained by society to think they are owed a "hot girl"...struck me. Culturally ingrained entitlement, be it family culture, gender culture, or whatever else, is never a service. This video made me wonder...can disrespect for the consumer possibly be so blatant and intentional that it overrides even disrespect for the subject in an ad? If it can, these videos are wonderfully twisted first steps. (Before anyone replies with "it's just entertainment", I do not believe in neutral media. I do not believe we are left unchanged by any interactions we have in life, no matter how convenient it may be to think so.)

BJJ provides things I think men need, especially in modernized societies. It provides things I think off the mats, some try to reclaim in acts of sexism and misogyny. That's why I say these videos are twisted. They remove (possibly intentionally) so much of the power of jiu jitsu...all the potential to improve, uplift and transcend...erased with the flick of some hair and a pair of hot pants.

Still, even with the tacit agreement of Cracked, I had to get some outside insight from a live male perspective--so I talked to my brother. He responded with the title of this blog post. He qualified that with the fact that men are encouraged to improve and achieve externally and tangibly, but anything beyond that...anything involving integrity, personal development and relationships..."We're encouraged to lie, cheat, flatter, flirt, brag, boast, bluff, one-up, demean and destroy. Sports? We're definitely encouraged to hurt other players-physically and emotionally, but all within the rules". (See Keith Owen's blatant refusal to improve as an instructor thinly veiled by cries of unfair treatment and insincere efforts to "help".)

I never expected it, but training has taught me more about heterosexual male culture than I ever thought possible. 


Reese said...

Ugh, promotional material like that just makes me so angry, I have to avoid it. It's too insulting. I mean look, I understand half-naked women AND men to sell things like clothing...but to take a serious, tough sport where the women in it are already trying damn hard to NOT look like this, and turn it into this garbage...too much.

And like you pointed out, there are different levels of sexism. This is a more obvious, intentional form. Keith Owen's quiet, oblivious sexism is on the opposite end of the spectrum but equally problematic. I am so lucky to not have this problem at my gym but it's disappointing to see that it exists so prominently elsewhere in the sport. In my opinion, guys like this need to shut up, back off, and stop acting like their pitiful views of women have any place in the martial arts world.

Megan said...

My instructor would likely laugh at Owen's statements considering he's putting out some of the toughest women in MMA and has no problem keeping women in his gym. I genuinely think we have a higher retention rate than the men.

Georgette said...

This is a very important discussion to have, thank you for blogging about it. I am wrestling internally with some of the perceptive comments on my fb page from my friend and former teammate Lucy. She's a very advanced feminist who calls me on my bloopers with grace and aplomb. Feel free to check it out there... but tell me -- what do you think about these videos knowing (now) that the women in them ARE ACTUAL JIU JITSU FIGHTERS (I know, I find it hard to believe) who TRAIN AT ATT IN FLORIDA? (Lucy is moving there and she's going to keep me posted as to whether they are in fact real human beings who actually train bjj.)

Shark Girl said...

David is having a hard time keeping eye contact.

Megan said...

Honestly...Georgette...I don't care if they're world champion red belts. The sexualization in this video is so blatant that the question of skill didn't even cross my mind. This isn't like the Mata Leon video where the woman in question was demonstrating skills while being sexy...the skills were still central and the sex a highlight.

Curious which ATT they train at.