Jiu Jiu’s Note: While this post was written with men in mind, it applies to women, as well as admins of any gender behind online groups and forums.

Think before you post.

Specifically, think before you post about BJJ women.

This weekend a Facebook group posted a picture of Gabi Garcia vs Yuri Nakakura from this past weekend’s ADCC. The administrators left instructions to Caption This! “Caption This” is an easy way to get user engagement, get some funny comments, and get lots of “likes” and shares.

gabi vs yuri

Unfortunately, when it comes to women in BJJ, Caption This very often leads to inviting people to leave sexual and rude comments. This proved no exception. Several of the comments left were obvious pot shots at Gabi’s size (David vs Goliath), or references to Gabi being some sort of non-human monster. Many alluded to these women being referred to as men, often very crudely “Her penis is bigger than mine” or “Why is that little boy fighting that big man.” And a few got uncomfortably sexual: “just the tip.”

To those commenting

Just because you’re online does not mean that your words don’t matter. People say “Well that’s the Internet” in response to gross comments people left about sexy photos of BJJ women like Kyra Gracie, or those left on  Emily Kwok’s video about stabilizing mount: “I would probably have a hard on at that point.” Or to the cruel comments left about Gabi’s photo. Please consider:

  1. Our community is small. Those big name BJJ folks are not that hugely famous – how many non-BJJ folks know who Rickson Gracie is? You’re not writing about Michael Jordan or Tom Cruise. When you write about Hilary Williams or Penny Thomas or Kyra Gracie, it is very possible they will read your comments, or their friends will, or their family will.
  2. Our community is connected. We’re all separated by only 2 or 3 degrees. Several of us by only one degree, thanks to social media. A lot of higher ranked women are specifically involved in promoting women’s events in BJJ – we are not anonymous to one another, especially once women hit purple or above.
  3. Our comments affect people. It’s not about taking a joke. How we act online does matter. These are real people with families and friends. For many, choosing to compete is a scary thing – you risk injury and public scrutiny of your skills. Adding the knowledge that your picture may be up for public ridicule may absolutely deter some from either competing, or from jiu jitsu period.
  4. They’re putting themselves out there. Don’t they deserve a bit of your respect? You’ve turned a really awesome thing into a joke. Are you out there competing and being scrutinized?

Breaking Muscle wrote an article about the Crossfit media team posting intentionally unflattering photos of women and asking folks to caption them. The whole article is worth reading, but here are some snippets:

What they don’t know is the emotional response at the other end of the photo. […]what is the net effect of the humiliation being thrust upon an unsuspecting athlete when they post what is clearly an unflattering photo?

If the subject of the joke is not in on the joke, you can transition quickly from having a lighthearted snicker to laughing at someone else’s expense. And it’s never safe to assume your subject will find the joke funny.

What they can’t predict is whether the female (or male) athlete in the shot is laughing along with them or whether they are in self-esteem damage control.

Another article I read was about a larger gal who had worn a Tomb Raider costume. It circulated around the web and she was the butt of an Internet joke. People left cruel comments. She contacted them and asked them to delete the post.

And of course, they hadn’t really thought of me as a person. Why should they? These images are throwaways, little bursts of amusement to get through a long workday. You look, you chuckle, you get some ridicule off your chest and move on to the next source of distraction. No one thought about the possibility that I might read those words. Far less, that I would talk back.

Your words have power. Your comments are not made privately – you’ve chosen to say these things publicly, and that sucks. I’m no thought police–think whatever you like, but please think carefully before you hit “submit,” and remember you’re talking about real people here, not random anonymous strangers.

“It’s easier to be an asshole to words than to people.”

To the bystanders

Your words and actions also matter. Because women in jiu jitsu are rare, most of my BJJ community is online. Your involvement in the community matters, and sometimes your actions or inactions really matter. Please don’t invite people to “caption this” on BJJ women’s photos, because the unfortunate reality is that by doing so, you are inviting people to make degrading, sexual comments about them. You can delete offensive comments or ban folks who continue making them. You can call people on their shit.

When I saw the captions to the Gabi Garcia picture, I wrote Some of these comments make me sad. Our community is small. Please remember to be kind. When it continued, I contacted the admin and notified him that this was happening. He deleted the post and wrote back saying he tries to delete bad things and tries not to post controversial things.

Kudos to Grappling Weekly for deleting the photo and thread.

It’s not just about what if this person reads it, which they might, it’s also about the other BJJ women reading these comments. It’s about their friends reading these comments. It’s about you as an individual or group helping support women in this sport, and not just when there’s a woman standing in a gi right next to you. Your words and your actions matter, and your lack of words and actions also matter, even just to say “Whoa – not cool.”

So please, think before you post. These are real women and your words and actions affect people, even online.

JiuJiu’s Question: What are your reactions to these sorts of comments? How do you respond? Do you participate? Reminder: it’s totally cool to disagree, but you must be polite, and no public declarations that this is not a problem (or that it’s not a problem when compared to X, Y, or Z).