How many times have we seen a fighter be cranky, angry, or just plain disrespectful? How many times have we cheered them for it? If it’s someone like the Diaz brothers, a large number of fans tend to applaud them for it. Some even celebrate it. However, the tables seem to turn if it’s a female fighter that does it. Why is this? My answer is simple: It’s gender bias. We expect women to not show their anger or their frustration in aggressive ways, but instead keep it inside, or – worse still – break down into hysterics.
When Felice Herrig got in Heather Jo Clark’s face after defeating her, the fans called her down as disrespectful. They didn’t care that she had put up with weeks of incessant sniping from Clark. The mere sight of a woman effectively going, “Ha! I beat you!” caused great upset amongst the fans of XFC, and even fans of women’s MMA. Many of these people also likely cheered Nate Diaz when he gave the double birds to Kurt Pelligrino during his fight-ending triangle choke. Which of the two performed the more disrespectful act? I would say Nate Diaz, but many people treated Herrig’s actions as worse.
This brings us to this past Saturday night, and the co-main event of UFC 168. Ronda Rousey defeated her nemesis, Miesha Tate, and declined a handshake from her fallen foe. While it’s certainly an act far from the norm in MMA (even more so on the women’s side of the sport), it’s certainly not the most disrespectful thing to do after a victory. Remember Tito Ortiz? Long before he became a walking punch line, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was mocking his defeated opponents by pantomiming that he was digging their graves. This act was done mere seconds after being pulled off of them by the referee stopping the fight. This act gained him innumerable fans. So, how is declining a handshake any worse than that? Before any of you start talking the traditional martial arts credo of respect for all, first ask yourself if you expect the same out of your favorite male fighters. If the answer is, “No,” then ask yourself why that is. If your answer to Question #2 is something along the lines of “Boys will be boys,” then congratulations: You’ve got gender bias.
We live in an equal society. Men and women are both allowed to act as they wish, and moral outrage over behavior should not be a double standard. You can disagree with someone’s actions – and for the record, I don’t agree with Rousey’s decision despite understanding why she made it – but apply the same standard. If not shaking a hand or shouting in a foe’s face is bad, then pretending to dig your opponent’s grave is worse; regardless of who does it. You can’t cut someone more or less slack simply because of what’s between their legs. It’s that simple.
(Rousey photo courtesy of Esther Lin)