Friday, August 30, 2013

My mistake in the Kyra Gracie hullabaloo..

You've probably run across all the talk of Kyra's (not horrible, but NSFW) most recent sexy-shot and the following parody. I first want to say I'm VERY thankful for Julia's analysis of the subject. But reaction to seeing her picture went something like this

Guess I'm going to be hiding from the dude-bros of Reddit for a while.
She's got such amazing credentials, does she REALLY need to do this publicly?
Well, she is Brazilian. They view bodily exposure differently. Cultural context and whatnot. 
I should blog something.
No. I need to marinate first. 
Screw that, I gotta go train. 

Then I saw the picture with Dan Strauss and cried with laughter for a solid minute.

This brilliant
Look at his thigh!
Is he mocking her?
No...this is what parody is and he's brilliant...and his thigh.

A lot of reactions to two pictures, but only one was genuinely wrong. See that sixth one? The one about Brazilians? Yeah. I even posted something similar to Georgette's Facebook. I've said it before in discussions of other sexual images of Brazilian women in jiu jitsu. I'm a little bit ashamed of the reaction, especially considering my own experiences. I've had men yell "Hey! Moesha!" behind me in Mexico. I've had Arab men walk up and whisper strange things in my ear in Hong Kong (I was warned about this because, well, Black women in the area are usually prostitutes). I know the stereotypes of Brazilian women and what men do to navigate them. I've sat and listened to Brazilian women lament how they're "treated like meat" and how Western (well, North American) men react with sexual approval upon finding out that they're Brazilian. I've heard them express the burden that "having" to be sexy all the time, even in business situations, can carry. I've been asked if I were Brazilian by creepy guys, and I've watched the plummeting disappointment on their faces when they find out, that, well, no. I can only imagine the reaction if I'd said yes.'s REAL easy to pigeonhole people. (Do all Brazilians REALLY love the beach? Don't most of them live like, nowhere near a coast? Are we imposing the culture of Rio on an entire nation?) It's even easier when it's done in an effort to give them "permission" to do things we may be culturally inclined to condemn (like sexual photos). Talk to pretty much any BJJ guy (well, any younger one), and you'll hear a characterization of Brazilian women as always sexually available, more willing to adjust their lives and appearances according to the tastes of heterosexual men, not as "difficult" as American women...and to a degree that's true. This is where it gets tricky though. Women in BJJ are already rejecting a LOT of stereotypes about female behavior, and yet I easily fell in line with the stereotype...likely searching for a way to "liberate" Kyra's behavior from control of an other. Why didn't I take a cue from the fact that you don't see other Brazilian women in BJJ posing sexually in the gi very often? Bea Mesquita? Gezary Matuda? They stand much more to gain from sexy BJJ pics than Kyra, and you don't see it happening. I failed to look at the image and think "Maybe Kyra's doing this because Kyra's doing this."

That's the hard part about intersectionality. Things just aren't clear cut.  It takes a lot of comparison to even come to a close guess about someone's reasons for their behavior...but then, I'm in the Road-to-Hell camp when it comes to intent. Especially when talking a celebrity, especially when we're talking media in the day of social media. I don't care what you wanted to see happen or what you felt. Actual impact far outweighs that, and it's really what I'm interested in discussing. Well, that and my own reactions, which in this case, were a learning moment. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Men like chocolate?

I swear, every day I do work for GiFreak turns out to be awesome. Yesterday I trekked down to Miami with Brownbelt Instructor to interview the imposing Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu, just a day before he was to be promoted to a 3rd degree black belt. Over the course of about 45 minutes, we talked about his life, training, students and gym. I left buzzing. His love of not only BJJ, but what it can do in people's lives is potent and contagious. We left, got lunch at a restaurant famed for having one of the best burgers in the US (per GQ magazine) and headed back home.

"I could really go for some chocolate."...of course I was game (the dark chocolate version of the ones on the bottom left are coffee and chocolate and elvish magic stirred into one). Maybe it's just one of those stereotypes, but I never think of guys as actually craving the bean. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Business in BJJ has moved!

Just a heads up to everybody that if you're looking for posts in the Business in BJJ series, all future will be updated here. I'll continue to post some ideas here at Tangled Triangle, but the meatier posts will move to GiFreak. Thanks!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Men Admiring Women

Sometimes I take for granted how awesome my gym is for women. We have ladies ranging from white to black, my first partner was MMA fighter Jessica Aguilar and world champion Gezary Matuda calls our mats home. 

Gezary Matuda

I was sitting next to one of our promising green belt guys last night during the first round of sparring. He nudged me and motioned toward Gezary--"Wow...did you see that transition?? That was insane. Her flow is ridiculous...did you see what she did?? It was like...Bam! And she was on top!" He sat in deep focus the rest of the round.

That...that right there is one of moments that's a stark reminder to me of how special BJJ is. You don't hear men admiring...genuinely admiring women very often. Mentioning how technical WNBA players are doesn't count...I'm talking sincere admiration, in the sense they see something that they personally want to see in themselves.

I didn't think about it until later, but this also highlights the importance of the signals men send other men. No doubt the green belt saw other guys congratulating her, getting advice from her and watching for ideas. Her husband trains and is two belt ranks lower, and on the mats, the belts are all that matters. Jiu jitsu is the standard.

There is so much value to be found in mixed-gender classes, and even cross-gender sparring. I'm a firm believer that the -isms of societies can't be cured until we learn to see each other as individual humans, each deserving of respect--there are precious few things out there more human than the lessons and insights that BJJ gives. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Happy hair and a happy birthday wishes!

First, a BIG Happy Birthday to Julia over at Jiu Jiu BJJ!!

About a year ago, I wrote a post about BJJ and Black hair...the ripping, relaxers, tearing, cornrows, rubbing against the mats, going natural, showers--the whole BJJ experience. That post ended with a really sad photo of my hair.

It's hard to see, but my crown had been ripped to shreds. It came out in clumps in the shower all because I'd gotten lazy about using my balaclava. Well, it's showing some resemblance to its old self--I've even started wearing it loose again.

So thank you protein treatments and ninja head gear.