I'm going to admit something to you, the Bloody Elbow reader. I hate when we post pictures of half-naked ring girls or any other female involved in MMA. It's a traffic driver though and, as much as people act like it is a sin, traffic is the lifeblood of long term stability and monetization of a website. More than a simple distaste for the act of posting the pictures, it is knowing what is coming in the comments (not just here at Bloody Elbow, but on any MMA site) as the discussion shifts to talk of who would and wouldn't sleep with the woman involved, who is running away from their computer for a fierce masturbatory session and what is the lewdest act each person can think of.
It's an ugly side of this sport's media and fanbase. While demanding people take the sport seriously and turning red with anger at the giggling of the uninformed when someone is locked in full guard, we are often all too willing to reduce women in MMA to soulless sex objects.
This treatment of women as props on the grand stage of MMA has allowed Quinton Jackson to repeatedly get away with dry humping reporters while we shake our collective head, laugh and say "Oh, that Rampage! He's so crazy!" Now, in the wake of UFC 130, he's at it again. This time making a joke about Karyn Bryant making him horny and then motorboating her before telling her to leave before he humps her. Give the video a watch:
Bryant is being a "good sport" about the whole thing and I'm sure some are going to say that her acceptance of the situation makes it all okay. But, we all know that Bryant, who is trying to build up her site, is more at risk than Jackson should she express any discomfort over the idea.
Let's not forget the reaction to Heather Nichols of Cage Potato when she spoke to Sports Illustrated about her experience with Jackson. Jackson "dry humped" her during an interview and, when Nichols told SI that she was uncomfortable with his actions it was met with the expected reactions from the dredges of the MMA world. Nichols was "asking for it" and should be happy that Rampage "put her on the map."
The message was loud and clear: stand there, hold the microphone, be cute, don't make the fighters look bad and be happy anyone knows who you are. Nevermind that they only know you as "that girl Rampage humped, LOLZ!"
Now, I'm all for a good laugh, but its incidents like these are partially what is keeping MMA from gaining real widespread mainstream acceptance. Bob Reilly is probably sitting in his office as I type this working feverishly to add the clip to his latest anti-MMA Powerpoint presentation he will be presenting to the New York State Assembly in the coming months. You can bet that the UFC adding mandatory anti-sexual harassment or sensitivity training to the agenda of next year's UFC Fighter Summit, if it doesn't before then.
Brett Favre's incident with Jenn Sterger was the reason the NFL began its anti-sexual harassment training and policy and its safe to say Rampage will likely be the reason the UFC does the same, and so they should.
It's a good point, but it is an issue with more than the top MMA promotion and a handful of fighters. It's that we, as a fanbase, are all too willing to accept the constant objectification of women.
Cage Potato's article reads like something well meaning. But right above the headline is the link to the "Ring Girls" section. While it's great to act as though Rampage's antics toward women are bad for the sport's growth, it's hard to take that stance too seriously when you're also writing:
Holy crap. If you're interested in watching Bellator ring girl Jade Bryce rub herself down for two minutes, you came to the right place today. My God, this chick. Video not safe for work, unless you don't mind embarassing yourself at the office.
At yesterday's weigh-ins, Felice and Nicdali produced one of the greatest staredown photos in recent memory. (Whether you prefer this one or Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort pretty much depends on if you prefer chicks or dudes. Sorry. That's the deal.)
Sexual harassment? Bad. Gay jokes? Good.
And, of course they ran a "Hottest Women in MMA Grand Prix" to bring out the best comments possible from the readers.
It's unfair of me to single out Cage Potato just because they're an easy target at this moment. It's more widespread than one specific site and one specific incident.
Trust me, I realize the irony of my grandstanding on the topic when, just a week ago, Bloody Elbow ran the Kelli Hutcherson Maxim photos. It'd be stupid to say that beautiful women from the MMA world who take part in modeling shoots shouldn't be acknowledged. But the first step toward changing the sport's treatment of women is in changing the way that women are talked about.
There are ways to talk about women involved in the sport (even the ones that do sexy photo shoots) that doesn't involve the debasement of their status as human beings. It may not be the difference in gaining mainstream acceptance, but it's one of the things that can make a difference in being evolved and intelligent fans when it comes to more than just muay thai and jiu-jitsu.