In men, strength is valued and celebrated. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to look nice and act nice. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying: if a male executive is tough, they call him a leader. If a female executive is tough, they call her a bitch.
With few exceptions, most women don’t want to be The Bitch. So, for years we’ll accept poor treatment. That boyfriend who hit you and said it’s your fault? Maybe you were too flirty with his friends. Your friend says something hurtful? Forgive and forget, because we wouldn’t want a confrontation. Restaurant overcooks your steak? Don’t send it back, that will cause a fuss. Guy kicking your seat in the movie theatre? Keep glaring at him, and maybe he’ll get the point. Don’t actually tell him to stop…that would seem…well, bitchy.
Usually women grow out of this passive mindset as we get older. We learn that accepting all the crap that comes our way with a pleasant smile and a “that’s okay” is counter-productive to living a high-quality life. It’s a generalization to be sure, but I’m willing to bet most men have no idea how difficult it is for a lot of women to send food back or demand a higher level of service. This is a skill that requires one to believe, deep down, that she is worth it. And sadly, as women, we’re not always taught that we are.
I was a super confident little kid. I thought everything about me, from the color of my hair to the stories I wrote, was special. I had no problem speaking up or being open with my feelings. I was happy and self-assured, and I didn’t take crap. If someone was unkind to me, they definitely heard about it.
This early onslaught of self-esteem was quickly quashed, both at home by my father, and at grade school by nearly every teacher I had. The thing I remember being told the most, from kindergarten all the way up to Grade Six, was “be quiet”. Then my dad would burst into a rage that evening because my mother and I were talking while he was trying to watch television. He didn’t feel able to control my mother, so that anger was directed at me. It’s a lesson that stuck. By the time I reached high school, my voice was so soft that people strained to hear it. I was always asked to “speak up”. Well, easier said than done.
How does all this pertain to fight camp? When you’re training to fight, you can’t worry about being nice. You can’t concern yourself with what the other women will think of you when you hit them in the face. You’re not there to make friends–you’re there to fight. If I tell someone that I’m going to “kick some ass in sparring”, I get raised eyebrows. That’s not how nice girls talk. Nice girls don’t want to hurt others. They would certainly never want to punch or kick their friends.
I remember asking a guy from my muay thai club if he ever had trouble hitting his friends. “Are you kidding?” he said. “That’s the best part!”
I envied that easy confidence, that pure love of sparring for training’s sake. And I’m sure that, at the end of the match–win or lose–this guy was still friends with his buddies.
To become a female fighter requires a lot more than eating well and training hard. You also have to overcome years of social conditioning which urges you to be polite and agreeable.
Because there’s no room for nice girls in the ring. Trust me on that.