Not gonna lie...been wondering about this one again lately. I kinda always thought that, but until the second time a big blue teased me about the guys being scared to roll with me because I'm "so big and strong", it was something I pushed to the back of my mind. Unfortunately, anytime that got pushed back, what came to the front was that I sometimes get picked last because, well, I suck. Ladybug, my trusty partner in jiu jitsu crime and fellow "big girl", is shipping out soon, so I'm going to have to face this head on in the very near future.
I was beyond surprised to hear this very topic addressed in an interview with black belt Emily Wetzel over at Mat Time Radio
. Surely, someone as accomplished as her has guys chasing her down--she's 6'5", definitely large enough for them not to fall victim to "porcelain princess" syndrome...and she's a black belt! Technique flows from her very eyeballs!
Well, thanks to Can over at Slideyfoot
for sharing that interview, because Emily admits that she still feels ignored. The most interesting thing about her coming out with that bit of information was the reaction of the guys hosting the interivew. They suggested quite directly that it was because guys just don't want to lose to a woman. More woman equals more potential for loss. When Emily responded that she didn't think that was the case, I heard myself. I'm REALLY big on taking men at what they say...they tend to be more direct creatures than women. This subject though? It's a tough pill to swallow...why, I'm not 100% sure.
|That's Emily on the right...but you probably guessed that.|
This interview though, is probably going to go down as one of my all time favorites. So much of her story and the way she spoke struck a personal chord with me.
It starts heavy, with her recounting the assault of her, and rape of another woman and her being left with feelings of guilt that she didn't do anything about it, and surprise that anyone would attack someone as large as her. I chuckled a bit when she said that, because one of the guys just this week mentioned that "no man would ever mess with Megan." I laughed at the time, but I know it's not true. When it IS true, it's not just because of my size. I've seen large women in abusive relationships with short, nonathletic, puddles of men. Men they could easily run away from and possibly even handle physically. It's not about your size, or even their size. It just isn't.
She continued the interview talking about her upbringing in a very academic household, being raised by two professors. I'm no artist, but I do know that in the world of the artistic and the learned, it is easy to forget not only your physical self, but the physical selves of others, especially the others with malintent. I understood what she said when shared that she didn't come up in a violent household. She comes from Olympic stock and played basketball professionally, but still, even with her familiarity with competitive physicality...she wasn't familiar with violence, so when it came calling, she froze.
Me...I come from a family of athletes and raised by a father who insisted I be prepared for a fight. Just this previous weekend, I went to my grandmother's house wanting to find some mementos of her. She'd already given me a lot while she was alive...after you crack 85 or so, unless you're in some MAJOR denial, I think people naturally start parsing out their stuff to loved ones. Well, I had all the bakeware I wanted, so I went for something else.
I took the machete by her bed.
I find it comforting, funny and sweet. Knowing that even in her sleepy little town, my elderly, Christ-loving, cake-baking grandmother was actively aware of the threat of violence AND made preparations for it, made me sharply aware of its presence. Still. Because I have never been the victim of violence, I am not 100% sure I would have responded any differently than Emily. As she said "Men can be predators" and as she also plainly put, sometimes, jiu jitsu really does feel like you're being assaulted. I didn't, really admit how much until returning after my last break. When I first started, and now, after breaks, I tend to have nightmares of being attacked. Maybe it's the MSM (it's great for joints, but that stuff can do trippy things if you take it too close to bed time), but I think it's just the nature of the beast. I do not believe that anyone should live in fear, but we prepare for bad weather, financial problems and health issues and I firmly believe all women should know that violence happens, and be able to, at the very least, not freeze.
She went on to tell of her reluctance to compete...again, that hit home. Competition is important at my school, but I'm genuinely uninterested. She talked of competitions saying "They're pretty horrible. I don't really enjoy them yet" and again I was surprised. I have it in my head that most people enjoy competing, even if they dislike the nerves that come with it. She said she started because her instructor required them for promotion, which is common in California's competition-heavy BJJ culture.
She then brought up something that hit me as timely...I've been pretty disappointed by the responses of some of the people around me to the Treyvon Martin case...I'm a bit annoyed by the hoodies, but mostly because people have carelessly passed around outright falsified material
just to assure themselves and their friends that the good guy/bad guy roles in the situation were filled in ways that made them feel all is right with the world (check your memes people). Emily told a story of her walking home one day and running into a lady being held to the ground by a Black man, screaming for him to let her go. She ran up, put the man in an RNC and the lady got up and ran, dropping her bags. She wondered why the lady didn't stay to thank her or collect her belongings, but it turns out she was a shop lifter and the guy was a security guard. My immediate reaction to her telling the story was annoyance at her needing to explain that the "attacker" was Black (this was before hearing the full story), but I give her credit for outright admitting that her actions were a result of her own racial profiling (she used those exact words).
Her best advice though, came in discussing choosing partners. She cautioned against white belts (I don't mess with them anymore unless they're female, or males that I know) and stressed the importance of choosing the brotherly guys even at higher levels. I give mad props to JazzHands, RebarForLigaments and some of the other guys for masterful combination of challenge and safety even at the blue belt level.
The interview reminded me of one of the things I love most about jiu jitsu. The sheer diversity of participants in the sport is absolutely beautiful. Emily is an amazing painter and is currently finishing up her MFA (she's actually missing the ADCC to defend her thesis). Her work can be seen at www.sheseemedlikesuchanicegirl.com