There was a big to-do recently over on http://womensmma.com – they posted about a now-removed Youtube video in which Dean Lister demonstrated a move on a female partner and with his body, made it look like she was giving him a hand job.

WHAT HAPPENED

Dean Lister was giving a seminar. The team’s coach asked him to play a joke on a female teammate. It was executed, and according to folks there, everyone laughed, and everyone had fun. It was a team joke, thought of by the instructor.

However, the video was released into the wild. People who were not in on the joke felt [insert strong negative emotion here]. One of those women wrote an article, then pulled up other instances where they believed Dean Lister was a Big Bad Misogynist. Dean and Dean fans got defensive and lashed out, calling the woman a Big Bad Misandrist.

The student came forward, confirming it was a joke:

Everyone, I am the student from Millers Martial Arts. This is a terrible mistake and just a poor example of poor journalism. I have not been ‘violated’ in any way. This was only an internal joke between us three. After all I approved the film to be posted in social medias. I am so sorry that Dean has been put in a bad spot, and I expect a public apology to all of us involved; Dean, my coach Jeff Miller and my self. Dean is an outstanding coach, and I look forward to train with him again.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE VIDEO

Is it 100% possible that everyone had an awesome time and it was all funzies? ABSOLUTELY! Is it also 100% possible that the women felt really incredibly uncomfortable but felt pressured into saying that it was okay simply because she wanted to fit in? ABSOLUTELY! Will we ever know? NOPE!

We weren’t there. We can only see the video. We are not in on the joke. Is it possible that we overempathised with that woman and saw her laughter as hiding discomfort? Absolutely! Is it possible that we imagined ourselves or our female teammates in that position and felt horrified on her behalf? Absolutely! Because we aren’t in on the joke. Inside jokes seen by outside parties will not be understood in the same context.

THE ARTICLE AND THE RESPONSES

Did the author go overboard? I think so. The terminology she used, the examples she gave  crossed a line. It went from being a comment on the video to being a comment on her perception of Dean Lister, including this:

So, yeah, I guess when you’re convinced women are money-hungry gold diggers and/or trophies you get when you’re famous because you deserve it, women probably don’t have a voice about the things you do to them.

It made a judgment on Dean Lister as a person, and he read them and lashed out. Here are some of his comments:

Truly, you have earned yourself an enemy…

You are a certified Misandrist… You hate men, you hate all men… That’s your curse, I don’t hate women, I love women and I support women’s MMA so get a real life and find something better to do with your time.. Is Oprah or THE VIEW calling you anytime soon? Yeah I thought no of course

Sydnie, being that you are a confirmed feminazi, I thought that you would be under the impression that men and women are equal no???

I don’t need any advice from people like you who don’t have my same level of intellect, teaching credentials or accomplishments…

Every time I see that amount of vitriol, it changes what I think about that person, and not in a good way. “Normal folks” nowadays have access to celebrities, especially in circles like MMA and jiu jitsu, where the fan pool is small, unlike football or basketball. Our world is small. Is it crappy to smack talk a celebrity? Yep. Is it even crappier for a celebrity to then lash out at that person? Yes – more eyes are on that person.

ON TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

There are positive and negative ways that people can handle folks writing bad things about them. One way is to ignore. Another way is to say “Hey, I can totally see why that was misconstrued. Here’s what happened.” Another is to open a dialog, and yet another way is to go full attack mode.

When I have written about Kyra Gracie, I know that she and I are very likely two degrees of separation. She or her friends could very likely read my article. It can be very difficult to write about negative things knowing that the person may read it, or knowing that their friend will read this. There are ways to do that. For example, I don’t (intentionally) resort to name calling, I attempt to be more factual and then talk about my own feelings.

WHY I’M UNCOMFORTABLE WITH “FUCK EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE”

Ultimately, I think this line serves to silence folks. Women make up such a small minority in jiu jitsu, and if sexual or gendered humor comes down to “fuck em if they can’t take a joke” it ends up being polarizing. Folks who are uncomfortable then must choose to either play along or stay silent or take a stand of some sort.

It’s what the author of the article said, but in a more confrontational manner:

It was the joke of the night, and if you think otherwise, you have serious problems. This leaves no room for criticism, especially not from women. Because this is just how men are? They want the freedom to play sexual innuendo-based practical jokes that embarrass women without recrimination and if you disagree, that’s on you?

If someone IS uncomfortable, why not empathize with them a tiny bit? Why not have a dialog with them? Why not examine what you did that evoked that response? Sure, it might just be them being a stick in the mud with no sense of humor, but it might also be a learning experience for you. I know that when I’ve said things that prompted a “wow that doesn’t sound right” response – it’s made me sit and think.

I’ve written about a similar situation – where the intent was a joke, but it didn’t come across that way. It was about a woman who filmed a parody video about “sexy” instructionals, but ended up simply feeling like a sexy instructional. I ended it by saying

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.” Please be responsible with social media.

Again, addressing the action, activity, and attitudes rather than attacking the person. I limited my response to the actual thing that I was writing about. I made a judgment on a video, not about the person’s character.

For the record: if you do come on here, Dean (or Dean’s fans), you are absolutely welcome to leave a comment, but be aware that there is a strict comment policy and the number one rule is “Play nice.” Anyone is totally welcome to disagree, but they are not permitted to be rude.

FROM OTHER BLOGGERS

Megan, from Tangled Triangle, wrote her own response to what happened on her article called “Who Bears the Weight of Community PR in BJJ.” In it she breaks down what happened in the comments between Dean Lister’s supporters and those who were disturbed by the video.

I did have to ask myself though, why people (in this case, Dean Lister) are quick to double down on defending an “inside joke” that likely should have stayed indoors.

Katie from askirtonthemat wrote her reaction to both Megan’s post and the original. Her idea is that we are representations of our sport outside the mat. We are ambassadors and should act as such.

MY TAKEAWAY

The things we do exist in a vacuum. Those who know us have context. Those who don’t will only view us through a single article, interaction, or video. I’ve seen it myself, and yes, I’ve gotten defensive. Someone read my article “5 Disgusting Things Jiu Jitsu has Taught Me” and said “Maybe this isn’t the right sport for you” and I got instantly defensive. I’ve found that when I’m defensive, I shouldn’t respond immediately – instead, step away, take a breath, and say things in a more even manner. They were responding to a single article and making a judgment on me about my character. There was no context for them – they judged me solely by one single article – and that will happen.

Making a proclamation about someone’s character – it’s generally in bad taste. Similarly, going on the defensive and name calling folks does not make you look any better, and in fact, can make you look even worse. We are ambassadors of jiu jitsu. Materials we put out there give impressions of not only us, but of our sport. You can do what you want, but understand that your actions impact others, especially the bigger your name gets. Your actions color people’s perceptions of you and of our sport.

There were no winners here. Jiu jitsu absolutely did not benefit from this situation, and no one was painted in a good light here.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: This article was a bit rambly – I wonder – what are your thoughts about the video, the situation, Dean’s reaction, etc.