After writing my article about Male Privilege in Jiu Jitsu and my article about Advantages Women have in Jiu Jitsu, I wanted to share my own training conditions, based on what I wrote in those articles.
I do think there are a few important things to note:
First is that more than 90% of my training has been in Korea amongst primarily Koreans, and I don’t speak much Korean. This is important, because as science shows, when you have a number of variables, it is hard to narrow down which is causing the reaction. So I think that sexism is easier to overtly identify when you speak the primary language and look similar to those around you. If someone doesn’t want to be my partner, for example – is it because I’m a woman? Because I don’t speak Korean? Because I’m white? I truly don’t know, so I don’t guess.
Second is that I never expected ANY of this to be easy. I expected it to be hard and that I would always be worst, so I haven’t gone through a lot of the negative self-doubt that I’m sure others have gone through – because I was fully prepped for it. I started BJJ at 5’4″ and 205 lbs. Oh yeah – someone didn’t want to roll with me? Maybe it was because I was a new white belt and outweighed them by 50 lbs!
Third is that most of these are not complaints. Number 3 sucked, and 8-11 are DEFINITELY complaints, as are gi companies who do not release physical measurements for their gis and instead have only their handy height/weight chart. Other that that, they’re simply things I accept about my training situation.
Without further ado, my training conditions in which my gender has played a significant role, for better or for worse:
- As a nerdy, fat gal, I was trained to mistrust athletic men, as they were often the ones who mocked me. In jiu jitsu I had to roll with people I was trained by my social group to mistrust. (note: I learned to trust them!)
- I am frequently the only woman in the classes I attend, so I rarely train with other women.
- I felt sexually harassed by one teammate one time, and it was extremely uncomfortable.
- Men’s gis are impossible to decipher based on their height/weight chart. When I bought a gi off a chart, I discovered that 190 lb men are FREAKING HUGE.
- All instructors in Seoul are male (it’s possible that the one female brown belt teaches some classes, but she’s not a head instructor).
- There are times I know I was chosen to drill with the other woman simply because I am female. I outweighed her by more than 50 lbs and there were other men more suitable for her size. Similarly, if a woman is new I will expect to be paired with her in order to make her feel more comfortable.
- When I’ve talked about gender issues in jiu jitsu online I’ve been told to STFU, I’ve seen women silenced with horribly homophobic and sexist language for stating an opinion I shared, I’ve been told I perpetuate female stereotypes, and I’ve seen too many opinions dismissed because we were women.
- I avoid certain jiu jitsu forums because they feel very anti-woman to me, and I have some anxiety about posting to them.
- I am annoyed as shit as to how many companies and male grapplers online more often refer to female grapplers’ bodies or hotness rather than their skills or what they are doing for the jiu jitsu community.
- I’m also annoyed at the dissemination of photos of two women rolling around in bikinis with the tag “jiu jitsu” but is essentially soft-core porn style shots designed to titillate. Especially when people add objectifying comments.
- My last gym did have the Kyra Gracie in the sports bra posters hung up.
- I’ve had plenty of Korean women express shock about me doing jiu jitsu.
- The one tournament I entered – there were only 3 total women who had entered, and I outweighed them by more than 70 lbs.
- Most often I am paired to drill with one of the highest ranked members in my gym.
- I am rarely paired (even now) with new, big white belt guys.
- I rarely go unnoticed by my instructor or teammates.
- My old location had cheaper prices for women.
- I’ve participated in some womens only classes.
- When I’ve had the chance to meet other women in jiu jitsu there is often a very immediate and strong bond that I have rarely experienced elsewhere.
- I’ve had upper belt women go out of their way for me to show me things because they were also excited to support other women in this sport.
- I’ve had people start reading my blog simply because I was a female BJJ blogger, and I often get promoted in threads about “blogs by bjj women.”
- I have been given opportunities to write for other blogs because I’m a female bjj blogger.
- I have had two men tell me they wouldn’t roll with me because I was a woman.
- I’ve only met one woman in Korea who was an upper belt. I believe now I’m in the pool of some of the highest ranked women in Korea, including being the highest ranked woman at my gym – a little bit of a scary thought, to be honest!
- I always wear a rash guard because I was hyper aware of my cleavage the one or two times I tried to roll in only a sports bra or athletic top.
- Although my male counterparts frequently strip down to just underwear, the few times I have taken off my rash guard and been in a sports bra caused the men around me to react very uncomfortably.
- When I first started training I was hyper critical of the other gals at my gym because I thought they reflected poorly on ME (since, you know, all women are essentially the same /s), but thankfully it did not take long for me to realize that no, what *I* do reflects on me, not what anyone else does. Whew!
If you are a woman, what conditions do you train in where gender has played a difference? Please keep it to gendered issues – for example, I almost put that I am challenged even by white belts, but realized that’s more of a me-thing than a gender-thing. Yes, I recognize there is overlap between the other two articles and this one, but let’s put it all together here and instead of talking about generalities, tell about YOUR specific training environment. And please be specific!