Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mixed Martial Arts and Masculinity: Tito Ortiz: "GSP Is Going To Make Shields Look Like A Girl" has a story up in which the headline quotes former UFC Light Heavyweight Champ, Tito Ortiz (pictured above): "GSP Is Going To Make Shields Look Like A Girl."

As those who follow mixed martial arts (MMA) know, GSP (or UFC Welterweight Champ, Georges St. Pierre) is heavily favored to beat challenger, Jake Shields (April 30 fight date). Ortiz's prediction that GSP will win isn't saying much. It's how he makes his prediction that resonates with MMA fans that matters.

By saying GSP will make Shields look like a girl, he is associating a loss with femininity. This kind of hyper-masculine language takes place extremely frequently in the male-dominated realm of MMA. If one fighter wants to put down another, he emasculates him (that is, among male fighters). It is not enough to call an opponent an androgynous derogatory term (e.g., a jerk).

Instead, so many fighters feel compelled to associate their oppoents with femininity through sexist and/or homophobic language.

And so the cycle continues: fighters and the Pavlovian fans who follow them uncritically perpetuate and normalize a culture that demeans women and girls. And the promoters/owners either encourage such cultural norms or look the other way (heck, sometimes they blatantly participate). They know what sells; increased income is more important than rectifying social inequality through sport.

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  1. MMA is and has always been a spectacle. While i think it has calmed down from it's beginnings it still remains to be an all out visual spectacle with its ring girls, to the trash talking, to the actual bloody fights. When i posted the link I didn;t think twice. I took on the commpetitive "masculine" side in a me and joined in on the trash talking. As a women heavily involved in the sport of MMA, I allow this kind of sexist/homophobic language to be made by not being offended. I don't know why, i guess in some ways i accept it as the social norms and conform to the societal pressures around me.

  2. Nice article, Dave.

    Although I was so tempted to write "Aww, quite being a whiney little girl!"


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