Gender Issues in BJJ and Why We Need to Talk About Them

There have been several female, and some male, bloggers lately who have been talking about gender issues and how they relate to BJJ. Some people want to read about them, some don’t- some want to have a discourse about issues and situations they have witnessed or have been a part of, and some would rather bloggers move onto a different subject.

While there are most certainly a plethora of situations and experiences that are not gender exclusive, there is most certainly a need to talk about gender issues in BJJ. Admittedly this is a tricky and nuanced subject, because there are so many elements to it: we could talk about the marketing, different situations that effect men and women on  and off the mat, how some receive different treatment, or held to different standards based on their gender, or not even allowed into an academy because of their gender. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, so it only makes sense that so many bloggers (as far as I’m aware, predominantly female) have written about all of these things; well, because there’s a lot of material to work with when it comes to these issues.

First and foremost I feel this discussion needs to happen, if nothing else to let one another- women, people, know they are not alone. There are others who have been in similar situations as you have, maybe the same gender, orientation, background; maybe not. But they may have a similar experience to share-you just need to reach out and find them, and what better way to find people from around the world than on the internet!

Also, these issues need to be brought up to outline what is not okay in the jiu jitsu community. Some things in jiu jitsu really are just the norm, and will have to be put up with: sweaty dudes, close contact- I’m sure we could come up with a pretty substantial list. However when it comes to a jiu jitsu student’s behavior, there will always be someone who is attempts to push the envelope, to behave in a way that while they may not intend to harm anyone physically or emotionally, but comes off as crass, insensitive and belittles or excludes others for the simple reason that they exist. Or worse, it is absolutely intentional: blame it on their personality, their own insecurities and personal emotional baggage; whatever, the point is that it happens. What matters is if the behavior is continued unchecked, if no one says anything and these behaviors continue, there is a chance others join in and the next thing you know it’s just one of those things that people just take to be “the norm”, when it really shouldn’t be, but you just put up with it because everyone else seems to. It’s like when people talk about that friend, you know the one I’m talking about:

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And I will totally admit at this point that there are some things that people will have different opinions about regarding what’s ok and what’s not. As I’ve mentioned before, it takes a lot for me to be offended. For others, not so much, and still more may even find that it takes a lot more for someone to “cross the line” with them. We’re all (for the most part) rational adults and are free to have our differing opinions. But there are those magical times when the Jiu jitsu community can come together as a whole and say “this is not the norm, and more importantly, not acceptable.” But we have to know these issues exist to take a stance against them, and that’s where the bloggers, the forums, etc. come in. Admittedly, sometimes I know what issues are out there, other times I totally feel like I’m living under a rock: there are other bloggers out there who are much more in tune with these issues than I am, and you should read their blogs to get up to date on what you and I (quite obviously) have been missing.

And finally I feel we need to talk about these issues because honestly, I am really a fan of the idea of communication and sharing experiences: that if both sides understand these situations we can work towards solutions that benefit everyone. I feel both, all genders should definitely talk about issues that effect them- write about them on your own blog, let us know what sort of issues you face that we may not be aware of due to our experiences, so we can understand where you are coming from. No one should shrug off the issues or experiences of others: instead I have this crazy idea that we should view each other- those of all genders, backgrounds, orientations, you name it- as humans, who need to be heard. Our stories can bring us together as a stronger, more cohesive community when we respect, and at the very least understand one another a little better.

Er, so in conclusion I hope all this rambling makes sense and we can basically all get along, share our experiences, respect one another and overall live as better human beings. Or something.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Gender Issues in BJJ and Why We Need to Talk About Them

  1. Pingback: Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog – BJJ Blog Roundup January Week 3

  2. These issues are always interesting to me. I’m always interested in hearing other’s perspective. I hope you write more on this, especially gender issues.

  3. Blog posts about some of the issues made me fight even harder as a new white belt girl in an all-male academy to be accepted and prove to them and the world that great academies do treat each other like equals.

  4. I’m still pretty new to BJJ – but this makes me glad I’m at the gym I’m at. I don’t have any issues regarding my gender there and all the guys are very supportive of the female athletes. We’ve got a good balance I think.

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