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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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).
Timely post! I was just fuming at this earlier: https://www.facebook.com/ilovebjj?hc_location=stream
Primola is usually better, but picking a photo like this and asking for captioning leads the little boys directly to sex. It does not help our sport. It only continues to marginalize the female athletes.
Primola was actually an extremely vocal defender on FB of Manto during boob-gate.He posted as I Love BJJ and as himself.
I am not a fan.
Jeez; sorry to learn that. Guess I’ve just been lucky to not see that side of him. About to become a non-fan as well. ;^(
Thank you for taking the time and trouble to address this disturbing trend of female athlete bashing.
Really good blog 🙂 Great point, well made.
I agree with this post but also kind of disagree with it only in the sense that I’ve posted some ‘caption this’ shots of BJJ women on my photography page many times over and have usually comments to be respectful and supporting, minus a few idiots. All depends on your audience I guess. Go women’s BJJ!
With the right guidance, it could be used to demonstrate the diversity and inclusiveness of bjj. Two people, each outliers of sorts, brought together by this awesome sport… or something like that anyway.
I don’t think we should have to ‘hide’ women’s BJJ out of fear for idiotic comments. Granted some guys (and girls) are morons and act like it online but I’ll just continue posting about women’s BJJ with pride and delete and ban those fools as they come – ‘caption this’ contests and all.
Mike, I’ve liked your fb page for some time now. You take a lot of beautiful shots and capture some great moments, but I can’t believe ALL of them are like that (Beyonce meme, anyone?). After reading the Breaking Muscle article JiuJiu linked above, I wonder if over time, your audience has been self-selected based on the pics you choose to post (not to mention, I didn’t know you deleted/banned anyone). The pics you do caption contests for are funny because of facial expressions, odd positions (we’ve all been in them), or because of the magic of photography (i.e. levitation), but I rarely (if ever) see you post pics that look crude or so unflattering to the athletes that a whole thread of mean comments come out. Just some thoughts on your success as a page owner. 🙂
Good post. I refrain from posting captions because although I would never degrade anyone let alone a fellow BJJ practitioner, comments can be misconstrued. Comments should be uplifting instead of tearing down individuals. I admire women bjj players for their detail to technique, skill set, and tenacity.
I would say that some of those comments were pretty dang racist as well…
Good reminder, most of these guys prob just weren’t thinking it through and would not make comments like that about a BJJ woman they knew personally. It is not always easy to be the only female in a studio and treatment like that could certainly dissuade some participants. Probably same thing for the shortest guy, skinniest or fattest guy, only guy of a race, etc. help your fellow teammates out!
The people who laugh and joke wouldn’t survive a round w/ a female bjj player. Get from behind your keyboard and get on the mats, cowards
“Some of these comments make me sad. Our community is small. Please remember to be kind.” This EXACTLY! I am so sick of people typing things on their computers that they would never EVER dare to say in person and thinking it is ok. It is NOT ok. A jerky mean comment is a jerky mean comment. Period. Just be kind.
um how about the orig poster doing some moderation and deleting posts that are crossing the line. this is the Interweb and there will always be some flamers. asking them to stop is just inviting more of the same, they feed of stuff like this..
This has happened to me….It wasn’t sexual just cruel. I don’t know if it was meant as a joke or if my friend who posted the picture responded to this person but I do know that I decided not to allow someone I don’t know or who knows what I’ve gone through to allow to judge me. I wiped the tears away and went to training that night.
I make many posts about BJJ, Judo and MMA to my Facebook page. It’s how I communicate with the several schools I’m involved with. Likewise, I see many of my peers making similar posts to their FB pages. I have seen many questionable comments attached to them. Most of those are just friendly teasing, some of them qualify as down right harrassment and a few of those are of a sexist nature.
But this just occurred to me; Not everyone who reads posts on my wall is associated with the grappling community. Some are family, some are old friends from high school, college or the Navy. Quite a few of the latter are still pigs.
Anyway my point is just this; Do we know for sure that all of the trollish comments are coming from within the BJJ community? Certainly some of them are, but I find it … uncomfortable … to imagine a BJJ student commenting on Emily Kwok’s mount instruction the way you described. On the other hand, I could very easily picture a BJJ lay-person making that comment.
Interesting – hadn’t occurred to me that non-BJJ folks would be commenting on these. Considering that lots of comments appear on Sherdog or Reddit, I know that at least a portion of them are. And honestly, I can’t imagine a non-BJJ person watching Emily’s video past the 1:00 mark – it’s a fairly dry instructional as opposed to MMA candy or the like. So no, we don’t know, but the amount of them, especially on a Grappling Facebook group page, would suggest that yes, the bulk of them are. I can imagine a random comment here and there from non-BJJ folks, but not the majority. Speculation, though. Honestly thank you for the double reminder that we don’t live in a vacuum.
Two weeks prior they posted a pic of her with an invitation to comment. It went sidesways very fast. I posted on their wall to have more respect for a world chapion and they did respond and and they did remove it. You can probably still see my request on their wall.
Why in the world would they do this twice in as many weeks? ??
You may be applauding their speed and effort to remove the hurtful comments, however it makes me wonder if they really get it.
I am a fan of the websight and I invite them to respond to a two time offence.
Great post, but would you please credit the cartoonist who made the (topical) illustration you are using? You hotlinked to the image, so you presumably know who made it.
Fixed! I inadvertently clicked “link to picture” rather than “link to url.” It’s by xkcd and if you click the picture it will take you to their site.
Putting myself in Gabi’s shoes, I see how hurtful these comments can be. Humans can be cruel. Ultimately, I believe it comes from some insecurity of their own and I see them as pathetic people. The community is lucky to have someone, like you, who chooses not be complicit.
I would question the intent of the person who posted the picture for people to “capture this.” Obviously they knew how people would react and knew there would be hurtful comments directed towards Gabi’s size. I just hope those who made those comments are random people and not people who practice the sport. Not excusing it, but if you train you really should be more sensitive towards ANY woman who trains and competes.
Good post. I remember seeing the “caption this” post and read some of the comments. It made me really mad to see the things people were saying about Gabi. She is a tremendous athlete who works really hard. She didn’t deserve any of those comments about her size or gender.
I think is funny though that people will step in to defend Gabi, but not Cris Cyborg. The comments that people made about Gabi were pretty much the same as what Cyborg gets all the time (and was getting long before she tested positive for banned substances). She’s a hard working MMA/ BJJ athlete as well and was being ridiculed about her gender or having a penis, just like Gabi.
I’m not saying anything about the author of this article, because I think it was a good one and totally warranted. I just wish that more people would stick up for all females in BJJ. No woman should be subjected to any comments about looks, or size, etc. People need to stop being rude, because lets face it if any of those people were standing across from Gabi or Cyborg they would be shitting bricks and definitely wouldn’t have anything bad to say. So if you can’t say it to their face, don’t post it on the internet.
Again, great article!
I also agree. Because someone has made a choice you don’t agree with is no reason to make cruel comments or berate them. Or if you do, don’t publish it publicly.
I as a woman who does bjj in my work place, have hated seeing the effect of boys laughing at other boys when my 8 year old daughter taps them out, the boys get made fun of, and then my daughter suffers the angst from that boy and no one wants to train with her. People who judge others are teaching their children to do the same…imagine if it was your child, sister, mother, brother, loved one or even yourself being hurt for being who they are by someone else’s actions or words. Would it change the next thing that came out of your mouth?? Next time you say something, imagine your child is there learning from you how to see others….you can be that first step in making them a better person.
People talking trash, joke or not, will forever be a part of life. When you ask someone to caption, know what you’re getting yourself into. I am very honest, blunt, and crude. However, my intentions are to never hurt someone’s feelings.If that happens, hey, not my my intentions, but oh well. About 95% of the shit I say is a joke.
A MMA website posted this on facebook “Video – Fallon Fox suffers defeat for the first time as a pro versus Ashlee Evans – Smith. #mma” which I would agree is news, but it was fairly expected that the transphobia would fly in the comments and it did.
“I’m glad he got the estrogen beat out of him”
“he got beat up by a girl lmao”
Is this something you just don’t post, or more closely censor?
I don’t touch mma because there is waaaay too much sexism and it’s not my sport. So I turn a blind eye to it.
But yes, it sucks.
well said. Thanks for being a BJJ public defender.
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