Ronda Rousey has gotten so popular so quickly that it was inevitable a backlash would occur. There’s enough articles about her everywhere that it can be hard to escape Rouseymania sometimes, and that’s fertile ground for people to come out of the woodwork and start criticizing her rough edges. A good example of this: a Salon article entitled “Since when is Ronda Rousey a role model?”, exposing “her history of transphobia and violence.”
Well, she’s a mixed martial artist and former judo champion, so of course there’s a history of violence. But let’s take a look at the transphobia accusations:
In 2013, when UFC fighter Matt Mitrione made offensive comments about transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox, calling her a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak,” the New York Post asked Rousey for her thoughts on Mitrione’s words. Rousey said he expressed himself “extremely poorly” and that she could “understand the UFC doesn’t want to be associated with views like that.” But in that same interview, Rousey didn’t exactly demonstrate a predilection for sensitivity. “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” Rousey said about Fox. “What if she became UFC champion and we had a transgender women’s champion? It’s a very socially difficult situation.”
The Fallon Fox situation was particularly interesting because we had a man who began his transition into a woman at the age of 30. Two years after hormone therapy, she started competing in mixed martial arts fights against other women — without disclosing to the athletic commissions or her opponents that she used to be a man.
When Ronda is accusing Fox of still being male, she’s not doing it like your idiot Uncle Terry who refuses to use correct gender pronouns out of spite. She’s saying Fox may still have physical advantages in the cage that allow her to beat the crap out of her opponents. The scientific information surrounding athletes transitioning genders is understandably thin at this point and there is a perception (right or wrong) that it may skew politically correct.
In the case of track and field, it makes sense to not sweat any potential discrepancy. But with cage fighting, you aren’t just crossing a line before your opponent. The whole point of the sport is to hurt your opponent so badly they cannot continue to fight. You are breaking their nose with hammerfists and bouncing elbows off their skull. Fighters are taking very real risks when they step into the cage. At the very least, the women Fallon Fox fought had the right to know her situation and decide for themselves whether to accept those risks. That was a very large part of the controversy.
As for her less than sensitive language … well, looking at her statement versus Matt Mitrione’s statement and you can see the difference between transphobia and someone just talking. The Fallon Fox situation in 2013 was the first time the mixed martial arts community ever had a real in-depth discussion about transgender people. A lot of language was thrown around, and not all of it was polished and proper. But I remember being surprised at how respectful the overall debate was, and how it was a real learning experience for everyone involved.
It’s important for people to talk about these issues, and at first they may not get it right. They may start with certain ideas or language others find offensive. But simply labeling them transphobic forever doesn’t help anyone. It just kills conversation and makes people more likely to keep their opinions to themselves — where they will never evolve.
The article goes on to talk about other behavior from Rousey that makes her a less than appropriate role model: her ‘Do Nothing Bitch’ credo, which on the plus side is a rebuke of society’s obsession with body image and materialism. On the not-so-plus side, it also has the same “f*ck those kinds of women” message we’re supposed to be trying to get away from. There’s other stuff in there — Ronda being in a relationship with a man who was accused of domestic abuse after she castigated Floyd Mayweather for beating up women. Ronda getting in a violent altercation with a boyfriend who was secretly taking nude photos of her. You can read all about it in the Salon article, which summarizes Rousey thusly:
The Mary Sue’s Teresa Jusino nailed it when she wrote “Rousey is a hypocrite who flouts gender norms when it suits her, but throws women under the bus when it doesn’t.”
Or maybe she’s just a woman with many different views and opinions, all of which don’t align perfectly with the entire Internet’s view of what real feminism is. Rousey may not be a saint, but she never claimed to be. And it is ridiculous to claim she isn’t a worthy role model for the countless women committing their lives to sports in the hopes of being recognized for their talent and skill rather than their attractiveness.