Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


It’s not like she walked in here for a Diet Coke and I broke her arm
July 25, 2014 8:44 AM   Subscribe

The New Yorker talks with “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the worlds best female fighter, about why she loves to be hated.

Ronda Rousey is the first and current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. She’s aggressive and unapologetic, and has a brutal arm-bar submission hold that can break her opponent’s arm if her opponent doesn’t submit quickly enough.
I don’t want every girl to have the same ambitions as me, but I want them to be ambitious. I’m tired of seeing girls that shut up and have no ambition being idolized.
- Ronda Rousey, in an interview with ESPN’s Hanna Storm

Previously.
posted by misskaz (36 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The abrasive persona is definitely a conscious (and effective) choice. She had a blog while she was training for the Olympics as a judoka and was nothing like this.
posted by ignignokt at 8:56 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Those videos of her dislocating elbows make me queasy to even think about. Watching those was a mistake.

After the fight, she is all smiles again, and usually unblemished. “Somebody told me once that it’s the pretty fighters you have to watch out for,” she says, slyly. “If someone’s all gnarled and mangled up, obviously they’ve been getting hit a lot.”

Ouch.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:08 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]


Rousey is smart enough to know that one of her promotional assets is the way she looks—she has appeared on the cover of not only ESPN the Magazine but also Maxim, which called her “Badass & Blonde,” and photographed her in a garment that seemed highly unsuitable for combat. Of course, this asset can be a liability, too, especially for a female fighter seeking the same respect given her male counterparts.

This sucks. There are a ton of male UFC fighters who are incredibly good-looking (I can't watch the fights, because I can't stand the violence, but the photos speak for themselves). What does it matter? Fighting is fighting, and tough is tough.

This kind of thing always makes me so mad, and it's so pervasive, and it sucks. I'd love Rousey to hold whoever has this attitude in one of her patented arm-breaking-holds until they give it up.
posted by xingcat at 9:16 AM on July 25


Regarding the Maxim cover, later in the article it says this:

And when she was photographed for Maxim she intentionally arrived sixteen pounds over her fighting weight, because, she says, she didn’t want to glamorize her body in an “unhealthy” state.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:21 AM on July 25 [20 favorites]


If you think about it, she's plotting a course for life outside and after the ring, perhaps in media as a personality. So she has an extra asset - her female body - to accomplish this goal that her male colleagues do not have.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Yeah, she's pretty awesome.

MMA can be weird and full of douchebags, but there are some cool people in it who really love the art of it.

Bashing people bloody is one thing and that happens plenty. But some of those holds they get people in, man, the sheer body physics just amazes...both the person doing the hold and the person who sometimes escapes it.

I find her way more of an athletic role model than Jillian Michaels.
posted by sio42 at 9:36 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I just want Dana White to make the Rousey/Cris Cyborg Justino fight happen. That shit would be MAYHEM.

PS. If George St Pierre is reading this, please come back.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 9:41 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


If you think about it, she's plotting a course for life outside and after the ring

She's in Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:04 AM on July 25


She had a blog while she was training for the Olympics as a judoka and was nothing like this.

Yes and no. It was on that blog (as well as on a judo forum) where Rousey stood up to USA Judo and accused the sport federation of protecting an official who was notorious for drugging and molesting teenage girl judokas. Formal complaints had been filed -- for years -- but no action was taken until Rousey posted about it on her blog.

If that's what it really is for a woman to be 'unapologetic and aggressive' in sport, then I hope every athlete, female or male, can have even just a fraction of Rousey's integrity and courage.
posted by grounded at 10:10 AM on July 25 [19 favorites]


PS. If George St Pierre is reading this, please come back.

After two ACL surgeries, I hope he watched BJ Penn's last fight and thought long and hard about coming back after a long lay-off and losing the desire to compete at that level.

He's an amazing athlete, but I honestly think he should stay retired—for his sake.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:24 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


For readers who don't watch Mixed Martial Arts: it doesn't get explored much in the article, but her 8 wins in a row via armbar is a crazy achievement/boast/display of skill. It's roughly analogous to a tennis player getting a whole bunch of aces in a row with the same serve. Or a baseball player getting back to back to back home runs by hitting each ball over the same part of the fence. It's absurdly talented, but also weirdly condescending, but then again she's totally earned the right to be condescending. I think it helps illustrate how she's simultaneously exciting and loved and boring and hated.
posted by DGStieber at 10:33 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


Right. That is awesome, but I don't think of that as "abrasive." I'm talking about the Chael Sonnen-style trash talking/"bad sportsmanship" stuff which she picked up for MMA. So, I guess she is like her former self at the core, but her rhetorical style is completely different.
posted by ignignokt at 10:35 AM on July 25


As they stood up, Tate offered Rousey a handshake and Rousey refused. “A handshake means something to me, and she hasn’t earned it,” Rousey explained in a post-fight interview. The arena booed her, confirming her paradoxical status as a popular heel.

I'm so conflicted! I want to support her as a real-life good person, but the unsporting persona makes that hard for me. She's a hell of a lot of fun to watch fight, though. Guess that'll have to do.
posted by asperity at 12:13 PM on July 25


So she has an extra asset - her female body - to accomplish this goal that her male colleagues do not have.

Yeah, male athletes never use their great bods as a means of entry into movies. It totally did not work for Arnold, The Rock, or any other male hot bod ever.


{/}
posted by Michele in California at 12:15 PM on July 25 [6 favorites]


He's an amazing athlete, but I honestly think he should stay retired—for his sake.

Agree that he might not want to step in the octagon again, but I really think that MMA really needs more folks like GSP and less like Chael Sonnen.

Maybe he sits next to Joe Rogan and calls some fights, acts as an ambassador for the sport, something, ANYTHING to get my fix. Love that dude. Class act and a gentleman.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 12:16 PM on July 25


I think it's my love of pro wrestling that has me totally embracing the idea of Rousey and her heel persona. Why should you have to shake someone's hand? Competing in a sport is an emotional endeavor and I hate the idea that you have to always be this cool calculated "sportsmanlike" athlete, who never demonstrates that they are upset, or that they don't like/respect their opponent, or who is too demonstrative when they win. I guess you wouldn't want things in any sport devolving into nothing but taunts and insults but a little personality here or there doesn't hurt.
posted by misskaz at 12:25 PM on July 25


Agree that he might not want to step in the octagon again, but I really think that MMA really needs more folks like GSP and less like Chael Sonnen.

I'd second that. The prior talk of Chael potentially replacing Dana White (a terrible human being, for those unaware) was disturbing. I am sincerely hoping that two failed drug tests—for a pharmacy's worth of banned substances—are enough to permanently ice that dubious proposition.

I don't think Chael would have been so bad, had he not included racially coded messages and outright homo / xenophobic statements in his very liberal borrowing from the pro-wrestling How To Cut a Promo handbook.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:33 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I wish we would stop referring to Rousey as some sort of "hot chick", and more of a brawler. But I guess that's professional fighting. The draw is getting people to watch for ANY reason.

I was reading Esquire, and I read this rather generic quote that she remembered her dad for. It really struck me that this stood out...until I realized that perhaps it really isn't generic. Not enough parents, and especially fathers are WHOLLY supportive of their daughters.

But when they are, they get to read about it on the backs of the success they have caused.

My father would say, "Ronnie, you're going to be someone special. Whatever it is that you want to do, you're going to be the best in the world at it." He said it to me when I was at that age where your dad is right about everything. So I just assumed he was. —Ronda Rousey

To be fair, I'd rather see you gussied up, than be anywhere around you when the adrenaline is flowing like a god damn river. Stay healthy.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:44 PM on July 25


She's in Expendables 3 and Fast and Furious 7.

Pretty sure the Entourage movie as well.
posted by dogwalker at 12:52 PM on July 25


I really enjoyed reading about Rousey. I still don't want to watch the matches, granted I guess I wouldn't be watching for long! It seems pretty clear that the business model dictates roles. True for both genders, but perhaps the route for Rousey and other women might be different in the sense that they are put into the heel category more as a result of their forthright personalities rather than as a calculated entertainer move. Or maybe it is calculated move, but Rousey is feeling a disconnect between her self/public perception, which certainly would not be unique. Is it a more common disconnect for women? Perhaps. There are certainly societal expectations that a heel personality upends disproportionately for women.
posted by dawg-proud at 1:10 PM on July 25


I was gonna say kayfabe, but that implies it's all staged .. But really, look at plenty of fighters (and she mentions Ali) or the Seahawks guy who caused a stir last year. Hero or heel , they play up everything. It's marketing, only instead of just performance, it's also personality, because they are selling themselves.
posted by k5.user at 1:33 PM on July 25


Rhonda Rousey is a disgusting transmisogynist. I don't find it entertaining at all.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:41 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Well, that's disappointing.
posted by asperity at 2:07 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


I've been to about ten UFC events in total, which is probably equals 100 fights that I've seen in person. I've seen some high-drama fights, like the beating Cain Velasquez put on Brock Lesnar. But flat-out nothing I've ever seen has matched the electricity of being in the arena for Rousey/Tate 2. From the moment "Bad Reputation" came on until the moment Tate tapped, I had goosebumps. Her melding of athletic achievement and gravitas is amazing.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:12 PM on July 25


By the way, here's Ronda's latest fight, so short that you can watch it in a single GIF.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:14 PM on July 25


Rhonda's "disgusting" comment was:

"She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it's still the same bone structure a man has. It's an advantage. I don't think it's fair."

Not really getting which part of that is "disgusting." Should she call the penis something else? Is she mistaken that a man who decides to become a woman still has a male skeleton, with all the advantages that comes with?

Force equals mass times acceleration. There is a very good reason for separating fighters into weight classes. It isn't interesting to see a large man pummel a small one into the floor-- The large man has a clear advantage. Clear, at least, to people who spend their career studying the human body and how to use it to hurt another human body.

I tend to agree with Rogan when he says, "The operation doesn't shave down your bone density. It doesn't change. You look at a man's hands and you look at a women's hands and they're built different. They're just thicker, they're stronger, your wrists are thicker, your elbows are thicker, your joints are thicker. Just the mechanical function of punching, a man can do it much harder than a woman can, period."
posted by hellphish at 3:11 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Well, either she and Joe Rogan are wrong about the fairness of the situation, or the International Olympic Commitee is. Remind me again, which side of this debate includes scientists and sports medicine experts?
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:16 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


You can be damned sure that the best of the best in sports medicine are working with these fighters, yes.

I do not believe that Rhonda is expressing hate against any group. Of course, she isn't expressing sensitivity toward any group either. She's not the type to appreciate the special snowflake-ness of anybody. She's interested in a fair, clean fight. She's interested in testing her skill against an equally-equipped opponent. Men and women are not equally equipped, and the transition process does little to balance the equation.

I read your link, it said, "In 1990, a seminar convened by the International Association of Athletics Federations recommended that any person who had undergone sex change before puberty should be accepted to participate under their new gender."

And goes on to say, "In particular, male puberty affects the level of testosterone, which could, theoretically, affect performance even after a male-to-female sex change."

So if they transitioned after puberty, they can only compete if the following are true:

-Surgical changes must have been completed, including external genitalia changes and removal of gonads.

-Legal recognition of their assigned sex must have been conferred by appropriate official authorities.

-Hormone therapy -- for the assigned sex -- must have been given for long enough to minimize (not eliminate) any gender-related advantages in sport competitions, a period that must be at least two years after gonadectomy.
posted by hellphish at 3:40 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Her action pieces in Expendables 3 I'm sure will be great to see - it'll be interesting to see what her acting is like ;) haha
posted by Dash23 at 4:00 PM on July 25


Fallon Fox meets every single one of the criteria for competing as a woman in the Olympics. To single her out and make public remarks about her genitals is classic transmisogyny.

Don't fighters have a choice in who they want to fight? I'm sure a few women who want their elbows to stay intact have turned down bouts against Rousey. If she's concerned about being beaten by a better fighter, then she should just turn down the match, instead of making the comments she did.

If everyone wants to cheer on Rhonda Rousey for her ignorance and attention seeking, that's fine. It's exactly what she's looking for. I'll be over here stanning for Fallon Fox.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:09 PM on July 25


I could understand her deciding to decline the fight if she didn't think it was fair, but it's disappointing that she instead says the unpleasant things and still says she'd accept the fight (at least based on that one link). I do wonder if it represents her beliefs or if she was trying to find something deliberately hurtful to say as a preflight psychological strategy and went for this.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:42 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


Her action pieces in Expendables 3 I'm sure will be great to see - it'll be interesting to see what her acting is like ;) hah

The movie leaked online and there are a buttload of torrents out there so you can see tonight if you want.
posted by nooneyouknow at 4:43 PM on July 25


Don't fighters have a choice in who they want to fight? I'm sure a few women who want their elbows to stay intact have turned down bouts against Rousey. If she's concerned about being beaten by a better fighter, then she should just turn down the match, instead of making the comments she did.

Ronda doesn't have to turn down a fight with Fox. They fight in different organizations at different weight classes.

However, this in no way excuses Ronda's transphobia. She's also made transphobic remarks against Cris Cyborg, a cis female fighter who has been busted for PEDs. I am a huge fan of hers and hope this is something she can be educated out of. Rousey has done good things for social justice, such as the above-mentioned drumming out of a sexual predator in judo. However, I have the privilege to ignore transphobia so I understand if other people can't support her.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:45 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


I do wonder if it represents her beliefs or if she was trying to find something deliberately hurtful to say as a preflight psychological strategy and went for this

Considering an MMA fighter (not Rousey) has chosen to walk into her fight against Fox to the song "Dude Looks Like a Lady," I think it's pretty likely. Trying to deliberately hurt Fox by making crude references to her trans status is sanctioned MMA strategy at this point.

That being said, this FPP is basically about how fun it is to hate Rousey. It wasn't framed to paint her as this perfect role model, and I apologize if I derailed the discussion.

I have a hard time seeing anyone inspirational or badass about someone so willfully ignorant and backwards, but I guess her gambit to get attention is working, because yeah, I would probably pay money to watch Fallon Fox beat the shit out of her, if that was a thing that could happen.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:49 PM on July 25


Aw, shit. I don't actually watch MMA (I am a pro wrestling fan because I prefer my violence on the fake side of the fence) so I didn't know about the transphobia. That sucks a lot. I tend to be drawn to women who kick ass because I think I wish I was more badass myself, so when I saw that ESPN interview yesterday I was all "Who is this woman? She seems rad."

I hope she gets educated on the transphobia thing because I like heels better when they don't turn my stomach. :(
posted by misskaz at 5:01 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


This is why it's so shitty that (because of history and sexism and and and) there are so few women fighters, much less ass-kicking, charismatic ones like Rousey. If there were thousands of them, then Rousey's imperfections wouldn't matter any more than whatever dumb thing some random male MMA fighter said last week. But because right now it's basically Rousey, Carano, and just a few others, it means she has to carry all the weight and get all the scrutiny and of course she's not perfect.

It wasn't framed to paint her as this perfect role model, and I apologize if I derailed the discussion.

I don't think it's a derailment, so much as adding depth to why she is seen both sympathetically and not, and for what kinds of reasons. The article discusses the ways in which she is having to work with the MMA world that exists, rather than the one she would prefer (such as not getting paid very much, say), and how she is trying to invent a workable persona as a female fighter almost from scratch. Of course she's going to get it wrong at times, and the best outcome is going to be the generation of women fighters coming up now learning from those missteps.

The article also talks about how hard she and other female fighters have to work to avoid the easy (and possibly career-ending) insult of "not feminine":

“In a perfect world, she wouldn’t have been taking all those steroids and hormones for so many years that she ceased to be a woman anymore,” Rousey said one afternoon, when Cyborg’s name was mentioned—she was driving back to the gym from a nearby juice bar, and her sunny mood suddenly darkened. “In a perfect world, she would be a girl and not an it.” This sounded more like passionate indignation than like idle pre-fight trash talk. Beneath Rousey’s anti-drug message, you could also hear echoes of the old insistence that women fighters take pains to be scrupulously feminine, lest the spectre of manliness turn the fledgling sport into a freak show.

I guess overall, I'm not going to excuse what she said, but I'm willing to put it into context as being not as bad as the overall sexist (and other kinds of -ist) situation that she is trying to navigate. The real shittiness is that bigger situation, and her imperfections and bad choices are being structured by it.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


« Older Still shaking your head over that ridiculous "Wome...   |   On July 18th, Russian research... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments