History has been set for Dec 20th - Juliana Velasquez is set to fight Emerson Falcao in a professional MMA match, the first ever such male/female match-up in history. It is the stuff for headlines, for sure. But is it a good idea? In that I ask, is it a positive step for the sport in general and more specifically for women who compete?
I would argue that, no, it is not good for either. It is, however, sensational and attention-grabbing and a sure ways to attract viewers.
My gripes are the following:
- I want women to have the same opportunities to excel in sports as men do. As a feminist, I like and generally share the women can do anything men can do attitude. But as a life long, competitive athlete, I cannot deny that men and women's bodies are different. To deny that men and women have different physical characteristics and body compositions is to deny biology. I have blogged about this in the past in women competing in men's divisions.
Just looking at a picture of the two fighters, it is clear to me that this is not a fair physical match up. They are fighting at the same size, but the strength disparity here is pretty obvious.
Sure, there are plenty of women who can beat plenty of men in any given sport. I am way out of swimming shape, but could probably still beat 98% of the world's population of men in an endurance swimming event. I am strong and have good physical conditioning, but within that 98% of men there are bound to be those who are stronger than me, have better cardio, or have better muscular endurance than me. Yet, I would still beat them. What this means is that, despite differences in physical attributes, I would still be able to beat male swimmers whose technical skill level is lower than mine.
Which brings me to my next point...
- I am not interested in watching world-class female athletes compete against B level males. These might make for interesting match-ups, sure. But they don't do much to test the relative skill levels of the athletes involved. I would much rather watch the best women in the world compete against each other.
I am also not interested in watching elite female athletes of today compete against elite male athletes from a previous generation. I am thinking of the landmark tennis match in 1973 when #1 ranked Billie Jean King defeated the formerly #1 ranked Bobby Rigs. Billie Jean King was 29 years old, Bobby Rigs, 55. Bobby Rigs was behaving like a sexist douche, running his mouth about how inferior women's tennis was. Billie Jean King beat him and I'm glad she did. But I would rather watch the best female athletes from today compete against each other than to watch them compete against the best male athletes from our parents' generation.
"Dumbing down" a male athlete by age or technique in order to provide a more even match-up against a female is insulting.
- This is a pretty clear publicity stunt. It is going to attract an audience for the mere fact that a man and woman will be hitting each other. To most folks, it just sounds wrong...which is why they are going to watch. For a sport already described by some as "human cock fighting," this mixed gender bout will add another layer of shock. But it is sensationalism that detracts from the legitimacy of the sport.