Six months ago I wrote an article about how Ronda Rousey is not worth celebrating. The article pointed out Rousey’s character flaws like her Sandy Hook trutherism, her insensitivity to trans people (specifically towards Fallon Fox and Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino), her bullying of an Ultimate Fighter producer and Arianny Celeste, and her poor sportsmanship towards Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufman.
The article appeared shortly after her appearance on a Sports Illustrated cover (with the tagline “World’s Most Dominant Athlete”), and reactions were mixed, which I suspect was largely based on your feelings towards Rousey prior to reading the piece. Some agreed in full, some defended her faults as the natural extension of being human, some questioned why anyone would care about an MMA fighter’s personality outside the cage. All reasonable reactions.
In the interim, two things have happened: 1) I’ve refined my thoughts and 2) Ronda has gone on to reinforce my broader point.
On the first point, contrary to the hyperbolic title of the original article, Ronda Rousey is worth celebrating…in the cage. I still feel Rousey’s dominance has as much to do with having the good fortune of being an outlier in an emerging sport/division (see also: Gracie, Royce; Chamberlain, Wilt; Ruth, Babe) as anything else, and I also still believe that her career will miss out if she doesn’t fight Cris Justino. But that doesn’t change the fact that being such an outlier is both compelling and entertaining, even if you’re watching specifically to see if someone can beat her.
As for the second point, Rousey has continued to demonstrate that for as brilliant she is in the cage, she is a dunce outside of it. She’s said or done dumb thing after dumb thing. Taken individually, those dumb things are nothing more than missteps. Taken collectively, they are an indicator that this is someone not worth paying attention to.
So, how much harm could Rousey really have done in six months? Let’s take a look.
Oh, she’s also a 9/11 truther
Caveat: This Rousey interview with Joe Rogan took place in 2011. But when asked if she thought 9/11 was an inside job, Rousey gave the affirmative. It’s been five years – maybe she’s come around! – but combined with her “interesting” thoughts on Sandy Hook? That’s evidence of, at best, a naive, gullible personality or, at worst, a delusional human being.
Telling the homeless to hustle
Maybe you read about Ronda Rousey’s comments about being homeless. Maybe you read about it at this very site. Rousey drew on her own experience – living for a week in her car while she looked for an apartment because she got in an argument with her mom and didn’t want to go home – to proclaim that there’s “no better way to get motivated” that being homeless and that “if you’re homeless and not hustling, you’ve got a problem.” What Rousey fails to recognize is that it’s very easy to “hustle” as a homeless person when you choose to be homeless voluntarily, you’re white, you have a job, you have access to a gym and gym shower, etc.
From Fit Is A Feminist Issue:
But she’s not the body image role model we need. Nor is she the feminist role model we need. She is just the talented and hard-working knockout and submission artist we need. The quote that people are pulling from her UFC pre-fight video is this one:
“I have this one term for the kind of woman my mother raised me to not be, and I call it a do nothing bitch. A DNB. The kind of chick that just tries to be pretty and be taken care of by someone else. That’s why I think it’s hilarious if my body looks masculine or something like that. Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as fuck because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose, because I’m not a do nothing bitch. It’s not very eloquently said but it’s to the point and maybe that’s just what I am. I’m not that eloquent but I’m to the point.”
Yes, she is femininely baddass as fuck, and yes, she should be proud as hell of every single muscle on her body. But also, fuck throwing other women under the bus. Fuck the category of “do nothing bitch,” because it doesn’t help any of us to put other women down. … Rousey’s response has some positives, but it’s also got some elements of exactly what keeps gendered oppression going, namely women turning against each other. Instead of telling these jerks to fuck off because MMA athletes aren’t those kinds of bitches, we should tell them to fuck off because what any woman looks like or does with her own body is none of their damn business. Because whether someone wants to be an athlete, fuck millionaires, be a millionaire, be pretty, wear dresses – or any or none of the above – is her own business.
A convenient anti-domestic violence crusader
In July, Rousey one the ESPY for Best Fighter and dropped this line on Floyd Mayweather: “I can’t help but really say that I wonder how Floyd [Mayweather] feels being beat by a woman for once.” The quote went viral with headlines about how Rousey “slammed” or “mocked” or “ripped” Mayweather.
What went less reported was Rousey admitting that the line was nothing more than cynical self-promotion:
“I waited a whole year to say something. And you know what? If I didn’t win ‘Best Fighter’ this year, I would have waited two years or three years.”
And the timing of it all?
“It got a big reaction, and I’ve got a fight to sell,” she said with a laugh. “So great timing, huh? I’m not dumb.”
Then, a few months later, Travis Browne revealed the worst-kept secret in MMA: he and Ronda Rousey were dating. And why’s that important and maybe a little surprising? Browne has been alleged to have committed domestic violence against his estranged wife. And we might as well acknowledge her friendship with convicted rapist Mike Tyson.
(Edit: I also somehow forgot Rousey admitted to her own domestic abuse in her autobiography.)
If you need the lube, you’re not the dude
“If you need some artificial material, then you’re not doing your job right. How did our ancestors do it?” Rousey joked with her assistant. “If you need the lube, you’re not the dude.”
“We were in a world of openly accepting lubeness until I came on,” Rousey said. “I’m sorry, I thought I was doing all the girls a favor, making sure that their guys put in some effort. But it sounded like some gritty kitty b—–s are really f—-n mad at me. I’m like, ‘It’s not my fault you’re working with a sandbox.'”
How did our ancestors do it? Well, Ronda, I have some very unfortunate things to tell you about our ancestors and male-female relations.
But notice what happens here. Rousey thinks she’s helping. It turns out she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Then she lashes out at the people she thought she was helping.
MMA isn’t violent
Rousey is fighting in Australia on Saturday, and there’s a debate raging among the locals on suitability of MMA for children. Rousey, naturally, was asked her thoughts, and, unfortunately, gave them:
“I don’t believe it is violent at all,” Rousey told Channel 7 News. “I believe it is called martial arts for a reason. It is an art.
“It might look a little graphic; it doesn’t actually mean it is that dangerous. Most of the injuries in the sport are actually cosmetic.”
Whether a fan or not, the fact that MMA is a brutal and violent sport should be universally agreed upon. Is there some sort of beauty within the confines of regulated violence? Sure, at least for those of us watching. But to attempt to whitewash and downplay the brutality only serves as a disservice, and to play word games (“martial arts is art; it’s right in the name!”) is best left for middle-school debate teams.
* * *
I don’t expect athletes to serve as role models. I don’t expect athletes to have well-thought out progressive opinions (in fact, I expect the opposite). I don’t expect either of those things from Ronda Rousey. And, frankly, I don’t care what she thinks about anything.
So, why the 1500-word followup about what Ronda Rousey thinks? Because Rousey has been pushed as both a feminist and cultural icon (though the former has seen significant pushback). From articles about why every feminist should know Ronda Rousey to 6 feminist quotes from Ronda Rousey to Ronda’s thoughts on Floyd Mayweather or sexual lubricants or the 2016 election, Rousey is everywhere talking about anything.
And maybe the best thought on her status as a role is from Rousey herself:
“I have tried to do my best, but sometimes I feel I am not infallible enough to really be the perfect role model for little girls. I try my best, that’s the best that I can do. I’m sure some mothers are happy about it and some don’t approve and that’s up to them and how they choose to parent.”