Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Ronda Rousey knocked out her very vocal rival Bethe Correia in her opponent's home country of Brazil. In 34 seconds.
In the weeks leading up to the bout, interviews with Rousey popped up everywhere. She responded to comments about her "masculine" body in one interview with this now oft-repeated quote:
I think it's femininely badass as f*ck because there's not a single muscle on my body that isn't for a purpose, because I'm not a do nothing bitch.
As a female athlete, fit pro, and ardent feminist, I cheered her from afar and felt excited that here was someone who was unapologetically confident and expressing it in a way that helps other women embrace their strength, abilities, and muscles as well. Awesome. She's setting an example of what authenticity and feminine power and strength (in every sense of the word) can look like. (Note: I'm not saying that you have to be outspoken and cuss and be ripped to be considered a strong woman, just that she is one example of being unafraid of being herself)
This is my charge, my passion. To help women to build a life and body they are proud of, whatever that looks like. To give them the tools to feel more at home in their bodies. To be, as Jen Sinkler of Thrive as the Fittest puts it, "Unapologetically Strong." Fitness and nutrition are just the vehicles for change that I utilize.
But the sad truth is we still have a long way to go. Everyday we are bombarded with Photoshopped images of bodily perfection, media headlines that shout, "Get a Bikini Body in Just 14 Days!" and "Lose Your Belly Fast!", as well as a carefully edited glimpse into the lives of our favorite fitness competitors and models on Instagram.
Everyday we can see where we stack up against others and basically get hit over the head with where we fall short. This comparison trap (which I wrote about here) leaves our self-confidence battered and bruised. We have to fight tooth and nail to cultivate confidence as women, and it is effing hard work. Personally, I have struggled my entire life to get to a place of self-acceptance and confidence in my abilities, body, and self. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting closer each day.
Which is why I am both saddened and irritated when I read comments on social media judging women's bodies so harshly (no matter what they look like) and tearing them down in every way. Even more so if they are a muscular, fit public figure like pro physique competitor Dana Linn Bailey and Ronda Rousey.
And it's not just the internet trolls. It's everyday regular people (who would never say such a thing to someone's face) who are chiming in as well. I confess that I too used to make those kind of judgments about other women in my head or to another person --- "Who does she think she is?" or "She's way too muscular for my taste" or "She's way too full of herself."
But ultimately, these comments and judgments came from a place of insecurity. I hated my body and had zero confidence, so I needed to take these women down a peg or two in my mind so I could feel better about myself. And I had such a narrow opinion of what a woman "should" look like, shaped by the magazines I read and the movies and tv shows I watched. I feel ashamed to write this all out, but in the interest of transparency, it's true and relevant.
I feel like these two insights are part of the reason why we are so quick to put down and criticize muscular and confident women. We feel threatened by them. They are challenging the status quo. They are becoming "bigger" and taking up space in the world --- physically, mentally, emotionally. Expanding the definition of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
That challenges our beliefs as a society and as individuals. And anytime our beliefs come into question, we feel defensive and tend to lash out negatively in response. Hence the "manly" and "arrogant" comments directed at Rousey and women like her. And to keep women and women's athletics in 2nd place and not quite equal to men's sports, as shown in the greatly unbalanced coverage, support, and viewership.
We are so used to women being self-deprecating, super humble, and self-effacing in regards to their abilities and accomplishments that when someone comes along and does the opposite, we are taken aback. We expect female athletes to downplay their talents and achievements and "play small" off the field/mat/court. We expect them to be a bit insecure so that we still feel okay about ourselves.
When Rousey proclaims that her body is made for more than just being an ornament and she has worked too hard to not be proud of and confident in herself, we want to automatically think, "Who does she think she is?" We think she's cocky and arrogant, as evidenced in the comments I've seen posted on social media lately.
I for one am thrilled that Rousey is so vocal about her accomplishments, abilities, and confidence. It's incredibly difficult to put yourself out there in any arena, but to be a female in a male-dominated, violent sport like MMA fighting requires ovaries of steel. You have to be confident. There is no room for doubt. Your belief in yourself has to be unshakable. Your focus laser-like and unwavering.
Rousey is showing us what is possible when all of these things come together. When we show up authentically and unapologetically. And when we take that risk over and over, day in and day out, it doesn't matter what the haters say or think.
And we give other women and girls permission to do the same. To not dull their shine to appease others. To take up space. To go out and make things happen.
An interesting alternate view:
"Ronda Rousey is Not Your Feminist Hero (and That's Okay)" Fit is a Feminist Issue