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Hey guys, no one blames you for liking those Kyra Gracie pics.

18 Sep

To the guys:

After the pics from Kyra Gracie’s recent photo shoot showed up online, lots of women in martial arts voiced their displeasure, which Grappling Girl explains so masterfully I’m not going to rehash it here (also in that post are numerous examples of the type of pictures in question, including the actual Kyra Gracie pics. check out that kimura pic. tell me that that doesn’t insult you, as a bjj practicioner. her elbow is up way high, she’s kimura-ing from the dubious choice of a poor half guard, and there’s so much space between them you could just wedge a guy in there to complete the fantasy, which would probably be more honest anyway. or that rear naked choke pic – since when is grabbing the biceps a reasonable defense? “Oooh yeah, hot girls doing shitty jiu jitsu, that’s what I want to see!”).

When the pics surfaced, and women in martial arts/BJJ started objecting, one of the inevitable responses that comes along in situations like this (and did in this one) is what I’m going to call the Biological Imperative Defense. It goes like this:

“What’s wrong with liking to look at pictures of beautiful women? She has an incredible body and is a master of this thing I’m super passionate about, of COURSE I like seeing her all sexy. I’m a (straight/bi) man. It’s natural that I like to see sexy pictures of sexy women.” Or something to that effect. I’m just pulling stuff from the recesses of my memory, but you probably know the type of comment I mean.

When you hear people objecting to those pictures, maybe you consider those objections, and then experience something of a cognitive dissonance because you still find those pictures sexy and fun to look at. And the question that logically follows that train of thought is, “if these pictures are demeaning/objectifying/offensive, but I’m still enjoying them, what does that say about me and my sexuality?” Not much, as far as I’m concerned. Basically, all that makes me think is, ‘here’s a straight/bi dude who likes sexy pictures of women.’ You are not to blame for pictures like that, or the ire they draw, or for finding them titillating. The (reasonable) people who are voicing their problems with it are not blaming you – not directly, and not by extension for enjoying them. I’m prepared to look at pics of Carlos Condit shirtless all day, if that’s what it takes to prove to you I think there’s nothing wrong with it.

There’s nothing wrong with liking those pictures, and that’s not what’s ruffling feathers. No joke. No one – no one reasonable, anyway – expects that a straight/bi man would not be intrigued to see sexy pictures of a woman he finds sexy, and no one could blame him for it. No one’s objecting to your sexuality (unless, of course, you’re expressing it in a tasteless, demeaning way and making comments about hoping to get caught in her triangle or whatever. Then you might get some flak. Incidentally, the proliferation of crass comments is an example of the effect of the patriarchy – thinking that those comments are reasonable, appropriate, and relevant, regardless of how they may make half the population feel (alienated, objectified, marginalized, dehumanized, disregarded, etc). Do you remember how displeased Jon Hamm was when the media was freaking out about his junkThis is what happens on the daily with women’s bodies.)*

The whole Kyra Gracie thing is not a new discussion. In fact, it’s just another iteration of the main issue at the core of feminism. And in any discussion where one group is drawing attention to the negative impact of another group’s actions/reach/legacy, and you are a member (willing or not) of the latter, it’s easy to start feeling defensive. I understand why you might. A major, integral, and intractable part of your identity belongs to a group that, it sounds like, is under fire. But the thing is, it’s not feminists vs. men. When feminists point out an injustice/mechanism of oppression/sexist thing, it’s not an attack on men at large. It’s often not even an attack on a man, unless it’s something irrefutably fucking horrific and sexist. It’s an attack on the system of oppression. You are not necessarily or by default an active cog in the system of the oppression of women. And you can certainly choose not to be. So, good news, you don’t have to feel defensive and under attack…since you’re not.

To make sure we’re on the same page and working with the same basic understanding of this rhetoric, here’s a very brief explanation of one of the main concepts shaping it:

The Patriarchy
A social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. (<– that’s from Wikipedia; emphasis is mine.)

A popular way of dismissing and ridiculing feminism is to make fun of any reference to the patriarchy. My guess is that to those unfamiliar with it, it may sound like it’s bordering on being a conspiracy theory. So let’s optimistically assume there’s not an intentional, conscious, and collective effort to sustain the patriarchy. Let’s just look at the facts.

The majority of world leaders, politicians, CEOs, the clergy, etc, are men. The US is, by definition, essentially a patriarchy. Maybe not the patriarchy of Georgian England, but still a patriarchy. And even if no party to the patriarchy is literally saying, “Women, we require your subordination,” efforts abound to ensure it – ludicrous reproductive health legislature, the systematic deconstruction of any powerful (or potentially powerful) woman’s appearance, women being treated as ornamentation/decor/trophies in the media, etc. Let’s be generous and assume much of that is a straight-from-hell holdover of less enlightened days, and not a conscious effort (except the policy-making stuff…that’s about as conscious as it gets) to be assholes.

So if it’s not conscious and intentional, then all these manifestations of sexism, rape culture, the minimization of women and their concerns, etc, are emblematic of an insidious, far-reaching cultural subconsciousness that suggests these things are expected, reasonable, and fair. And when feminists point out that a lot of this shit shouldn’t be the status quo, is not reasonable, and is not fair, and then have it dismissed by, primarily, men in power who seem to think they’re both the Masters of the Universe and the arbiters of How Things Are? You can see how a group of oppressed people being told they’re not being oppressed by their oppressors is a pretty maddening thing. Even if the oppressors are not consciously, intentionally, and avowedly trying to oppress/contribute to the oppression of women, it can still happen. This is the patriarchy in 21st century America (well, that’s a brief and incomplete description, but hopefully you get the idea).

So what might this all mean for you?
What would women in martial arts/feminists want out of you? A greater awareness of the systems that result in this being almost de rigueur for many women in the public eye, regardless of occupation. An understanding of why the people who don’t like it feel that way. An understanding of how it makes your female training partners feel to be represented like that. And, of course, the understanding that it’s not you personally as a man against whom feminists are railing. That’s my guess, anyway. That’s what I want.

I’m not saying this to pander to any guys who might read this. No ‘hey bro, I’m a cool chick, I can hang with the guys and understand that you’re guys and you’re attracted to sexy women (if you’re straight/bi) and I’m one of the crew.’ I’m saying this because it’s a fact that I don’t see mentioned, and its omission results in an unnecessary straw man-type dialogue that distracts from the actual concern. And I’m also saying it because, really, guys. It’s not us versus you, unless you’re an asshole, but you’re probably not, especially if you’re engaged enough to read this far. And I’m also saying it because I like you guys! A lot! I like you guys so much I can even envision marrying one of you some day! I operate under the assumption that people are inherently good and generally have good intentions, and I approach discussions of equality with that M.O. I’ve always been treated with respect by all the guys with whom I’ve ever trained, and if that genuine affection for men, as fellow human beings, is not currently a part of the discussion, it’s an oversight. It’s vital and germane to effective communication. The efforts for equality are collaborative, and we need allies. And, if you’re in favor of equality, and not sexist, it’s not hard to be an ally. We want you with us. We’re psyched when you’re with us. SO psyched. And, really…why wouldn’t you want to be an ally?

strauss
Daniel Strauss. Enjoy!

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*in my research, I discovered that, hilariously, Salon has the topic “jon hamm’s penis“. sadly, there is only one article within it. 😥