Opinion: Vanity, Lust and the Discrediting of Women’s MMA
By Jesse Heitz
There’s a destructive force at play within the women’s MMA arena that undermines its very role within the sport. It’s called good old fashioned vanity, or perhaps even lust. Women’s MMA is marked by it, and it’s rapidly getting to the point where you seldom hear news about the in-ring or in-cage accomplishments of the women’s side of the sport.
No, what we’re left with is a sort of sports journalism creepiness that treats female fighters as objects, never so much as mentioning their athletic achievements. Recently Fox Sports, which covers all MMA under the simple heading of “UFC”, and ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports mind you, have both been horrendous offenders. They’ve treated us to exceptionally insightful and relevant MMA news and opinion excerpts such as,
“For female athletes, that something is typically breasts. The debate of big boobs as a performance impediment is nothing new: There have been controversies, scientific studies, and of course, feedback from female pro athletes themselves.”
“The bigger my chest is, the more it gets in the way,” said Rousey in this week’s ESPN The Magazine, “Body Issue”. “It just creates space. It makes me much more efficient if I don’t have so much in the way between me and my opponent.”
“Gina Carano was an amazing fighter, and she had a fantastic rack,” Rousey said of Carano, later adding, “You don’t see big titties in the Olympics, and I think that’s for a reason.”
These, believe it or not, come from some of the leading names in sports media. Offering up the body issue itself, the value of which I find to be overrated, and having active athletes, female MMA fighters included, is one thing. But for these sports outlets to feature stories that essentially compare Ronda Rousey and nemesis Miesha Tate’s photo shoots, and chronicle a one-sided war of words that someone would expect to hear at a middle school lunch table, is not only juvenile, it is well below the standard that professional sports journalists should uphold.
While the sports giants were sleeping, or staring at “Body Issue” pictures, or dedicating precious time in an effort to find out why Rousey is continually on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction, things were actually happening on the women’s MMA scene. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos just stopped Marloes Coenen, winning the Invicta FC Featherweight Championship, and in the process possibly regaining the distinction of being the best female fighter on the planet.
Yet, this story, which is relevant to the MMA world, is only found on dedicated MMA websites. I get it, as red-blooded men we like attractive women like Rousey and Tate, so we’ll read meaningless drivel if it’s accompanied by a nice picture, and after all the media is a business. However, they would do well to focus more heavily on the fighting side of women’s MMA, rather than mindless ogling as if they were nothing more than ring girls.