BJJ and Women: Parody Videos

Update: I’m happy to report that Grappler’s Planet has responded positively to the criticism, and has since removed the post from their Facebook, though it remains on their website. They issued an apology in this post as well as on their Facebook page, where their 26,000+ fans could read it.

A video was brought to my attention this week. It was a bikini-clad MMA woman demonstrating an armbar. The video was billed as “a PG-18 version of the armbar… a SNEAKY way to catch your opponent. a FUN series sent to us by one of our contributors and MMA fighter/Grappler Cindy. Enjoy.”

 

While I didn’t at all like the video, my biggest beef was with the interaction of Grappler’s Planet and those who commented on their Facebook. Warning: this post is contains feminism and lots of quotes. A reminder about my comment policy: you can disagree, but you can’t be a jerk about it if you want it published.

The "parody" in question

The “parody” video

The reaction on Facebook was overall negative, both from men and women.

  • Exactly what MMA and BJJ does not need.
  • Seriously!?!? I’m not a prude or anything but c’mon women don’t get enough respect or recognition in male dominated sports as it is and then someone has to go turn it sexual and skanky? I get it men like half naked women but this shit is really frustrating and degrading to all women of the sport. bleck!!! Yuck!! Nastyyyyy!!!!
  • This is awful. Way to set us back another 5 years.

Unfortunately, the reaction from Grappler’s Planet was not awesome.

This is actually made all for fun and jokes and as a satire. She is a respected MMA fighter and grappler and very smart. Why take things so serious. It’s for giggles. We posted because we support her demand for it to be posted. We knew such comments would arise and we are ok with them. No harm in either parties. Read some of her articles. You will see she is not all about jokes either. Oss

I found phrases like “Why take things so serious” to be problematic. Saying that there was no harm was dismissive. Unfortunately, when the negative comments continued rolling in, Grappler’s Planet felt the need to address it again.

again,this is supposed to be a parody. you guys take it way too seriously. if you ladies look at our past post we have never degraded or posted sexy stuff. you should know that by now. we wanted to help her expose her parody and make people laugh if you didnt like it and some of you obviously didn’t the we apologize you didn’t enjoy it. if she wants to take it down it is up to her.

This was the time I put up my reply:

This in no way came across as a parody because it looks exactly like all the other bikini clad instructional a that exist. What would have made an actual parody is to have a man demonstrate it in a bikini. That would have been hilarious. Unfortunately the message that it was supposed to be funny was lost, and now those who are frustrated are once again told “lighten up” and asked if they can’t take a joke. Marvelous.

They first tell us that we are taking it too seriously, they explain it, then they apologize. But again, the negative comments keep coming in, so they address it now with a more frustrated tone. (text breaks courtesy of jiujiubjj.com)

let me say this while this going on. lol. i see all of you hating on this video and Cindy, taking advantage of this post to send negative feedback on one post of such we post once in a blue moon. which is cool i appreciate comments from all sides as it makes us learn more everyday about what to do or not to post on my site and social media. We can NOT please everyone all the time w. We are aware of that, But some like it and get the joke for what it is. Your opinion matters for sure so we will think twice next time as form of respect.

 

As You all Know WE work very hard to provide original content to you guys and all of that on a regular basis. we have a huge following and thank you guys so much for that.

 

BUT let me ask you guys in this thread this: Where are you people when we post that good content that help Grapplers around the world with training routines, or promote them, help the industry grow positively, helping kids get exposure and grow, give women the opportunity to be seen as awesome all the instructional videos and more that we provide??? Where are you guys then? i don’t see some of you post comments then in a positive way or thanking the people that work hard to offer you this content from all works of life, rank and gender? we post one article up of a parody video and all Hells break loose.

 

Regardless we love you all and will keep our word to work hard and bring more stuff to the table and community. that is ultimately what we are about. and that is why i am taking the time to write this and reply to you guys. many thanks and kind regards. oss. sincerely. Gregg.

Honestly, their response felt defensive, accusatory, and unprofessional. Three (!!!) question marks about where I was when they posted actual nice things about women comes across as defensive.

I’d never heard of you guys, so I’ve never seen other content. Clearly you’ve not done enough to get your name out. I certainly would not click through for more, nor is it incumbent upon me to do so. This is literally the only thing I’ve seen your names on, and I follow women’s Jiu Jitsu groups.

 

“Where were you people”? I was on Fenoms site, women at war’s site, on women’s bjj blogs. Don’t blame me, a new reader, for disagreeing with me disagreeing with you or “getting” that this was a different one-off. You’ve posted this, then told us to lighten up, take a joke, then blamed me for not having read anything else. You’ve certainly left an impression, an unfortunately the more defensive you get, the worse that impression is. I’m shocked you guys are not supporting the anti-“sexy” voices instead of telling us to lighten up.

Their final response to me was thankfully not rude. However, it feels weird that they go on to say that everything they do for women is classy and proper, which in my mind would also include their current interaction with people in this thread, telling people not to take things so seriously.

All is good. Thank you for your feedback. Really appreciate it. I value this post greatly. Defensive and Blaming though? No such thing. Just saying what it is. Everything we did for women is classy and proper. Can anyone say otherwise? That was my point really. We saw this as a parody and funny. You do not like it? fine that is your right and that is too bad. We like it and support Cindy Bertinato.

So what’s the issue here? Is it impossible for women to parody sexist videos or to make humorous instructionals? Can’t women celebrate their own sexiness? Can’t we all lighten up? The problem is that there is a wider, systemic problem, and this adds to it. I was watching Feminist Frequency’s Damsels in Distress video and came across a relevant section – it starts at 12:00 and I quoted it below.

From Feminist Frequency

Sometimes this type of self-referential humor is referred to as “ironic sexism”. It’s this “I know that you know that I know this is sexist” where the underlying assumption on the part of media makers seems to be that as long as the sexism is overt, obvious or “over-the-top” then it somehow loses its cultural power and is suddenly no longer a problem.

 

Ironic sexism is dependent upon the false assumption that “people no longer really hold retrograde sexist beliefs” and therefore the very idea of sexism is now just a hilarious joke; but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Words like “parody” and “satire” are often thrown around to describe or defend these comedic depictions of yet more helpless female characters. But a simple wink and nod to the audience acknowledging a sexist trope, while actively reproducing that trope, does not automatically grant a free pass to continue exploiting the trope.

 

More often than not the ironic humor is just an excuse used by developers as a way try to and have their cake and eat it too (so to speak). They want to use the trope, but not be held accountable for the inherent negative gender implications that come with it.

 

Now, some will no doubt contend that jokes have no cultural power or significance and should just “not be taken seriously”. This is nothing new, making light of and dismissing gender issues is a sad time honored tradition. But I would argue that this reaction fundamentally misunderstands how humor functions as one of the primary means by which the culture of sexism is maintained and perpetuated.

 

Mass media entertainment doesn’t just reflect our culture it also works to create it. Sexist jokes in particular serve as a form of cultural permission, which help entrench toxic preexisting attitudes and opinions.

 

There is a clear difference between sexist parody and parody of sexism. Sexist parody encourages the players to mock and trivialize gender issues while parody of sexism disrupts the status quo and undermines regressive gender conventions.

Unfortunately, women in grappling are not taken as seriously as men in grappling.  “Top 5 sexiest BJJ ladies” and “Hottest Jiu Jitsu women” threads are commonplace and easy to find, while their counterpoints are not. Instructional videos showing jiu jitsu or MMA techniques demonstrated by women in bikinis are easy to find. Online and in the media, there is a proliferation of women in our sport being objectified as eye candy or admired only for their bodies.

A screen shot of a slow-mo section of the video

A screen shot of a slow-mo section of the video

Katie from A Skirt on the Mat wrote a short post about this video as well. She says “If I had one thing to say to this girl is I understand what you were attempting to convey, but there was definitely a better way to go about it.” This video is no different from what MMA candy is doing. Exaggerated sexuality is not funny in this context because it is only perceived as sexuality.

Cindy, you’ve created a sexist parody in which you’ve encouraged people (including Grappler’s Planet) to mock and trivialize gender issues rather than disrupting the status quo. Your video will be lost amongst the many other bikini instructionals that exist out there. What would a parody of sexism look like? Like I mentioned earlier: a bikini dude showing those moves. That would have been hilarious, and not perpetuated any negative stereotypes about men in grappling.

From MMA Candy. Not hard to find.

From MMA Candy. Not hard to find.

Is the BJJ community able to handle parody videos like this? Are women grapplers respected enough and taken seriously enough that the general population can take it for as it is intended, or is it adding to the problem? Are videos like these addressing the problem or serving as cultural permission to entrench toxic preexisting attitudes and opinions? I say NO to videos like these, and NO to “pro-female” companies chiding us for taking things “too seriously.” Poor move, Grappler’s Planet. Please be responsible with social media.

  1. While this should be impossible to confuse with an instructional video, it should also be impossible to confuse with parody, unless we accept it as a (poor) parody of bogus instructional videos.

    Is Cindy Bertinato really a respected MMA fighter? A web search suggests that she is more likely a glamour model who is exploring different avenues of self-promotion. Consider the YouTube video posted two years ago with this introduction: “Famous Canadian model and ring girl Cindy Bertinato gets into the ring for her first MMA fight.”She doesn’t appear to have been in another fight since, which belies the “respected MMA fighter” claim.

    Either way, for the reasons that many have articulated here, the video is appalling. Both Grappler’s Planet and Cindy Bertinato should be ashamed of it.

  2. Hi Julia

    We have decided to pull the video. We continue to support Cindy in her efforts and want to extend that support to all grapplers, female or otherwise. The video was undermining that support and we recognize it was doing the whole sport a disservice, not just females.

    Your voice does have power and we are listening. We thank you for your feedback as we hope to make not only the mats but our little corner of the internet a safe and inviting place for people to share in the love of BJJ without limitations. If admitting we were wrong helps that to become a reality for women grapplers, it’s a small price to pay for strengthening the community as a whole.

    ~ Sen (GP Admin)

    • I really appreciate the response. I also try to be responsible with my voice, and as such shared this note with those who shared my link. I also wrote another blog post and I will update this post later today. Kudos for a great response.

  3. Pingback: Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog – BJJ and Women: Apologies

  4. Well I have to say that my reaction was to not watch the video. The minute I see a girl in a bikini doing bjj I don’t bother. There are only 24 hours in the day and my youtube time is for Robson Moura and I know my guy friends feel the same way. The minute a fb page I liked does something questionable I just unlike it. I mean to me it’s just like dealing with kids. Even disapproving attention is attention and that’s what some kids/fb pages/women want. I thought their attempt to defend the video was the worst thing about the whole situation. We all have different approaches but I say focus your attention on pages and people who are worthy of it. The ticks will eventually fall off when their blood supply is cut off. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

  5. Pingback: Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog – BJJ and Women: The Kyra Gracie Principle

  6. par·o·dy
    /ˈparədē/
    Noun
    An imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect

    I think the video did that.

    • Hi Tim, you’re new here. Your comment comes across as sarcastic, so please consider this your warning to play nice. Thank you for understanding.

  7. Pingback: Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog – Jiu Jiu BJJ: 2013 a Year in Review