Ronda Rousey is living, breathing, fighting evidence against the still-prevailing idea of women’s inherent physical inferiority. But she’s also quick to distinguish herself from “other” women, writes Stephanie Convery.
Ronda Rousey has been hailed as everything from a freak to a feminist.
Undefeated in mixed martial arts and the current Women’s Bantamweight Champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, she is often credited with single-handedly changing the gender dynamic in one of the world’s fastest growing and most popular combat sports.
Rousey’s supposed feminist credentials stem partly from this trailblazing: it was only in 2011 that UFC president Dana White said there would “never” be female fighters in the UFC. Now, the promoter’s highest paid champion is a 170cm blonde woman. But how feminist is Rousey, really?
In some respects, stories about her seem to come straight out of urban legend. In one particularly amusing anecdote, Rousey goes to the movies with her friends, and confronts a rude (female) patron whose male friends gets shirty in her defence. But when the confrontation turns to shoving, they find out the hard way that the pretty woman in the leopard-print dress just so happens to be an elite martial artist on the fast track to a bronze medal in judo at the Beijing Olympics.
That same Olympics, in 2008, was also the last time Rousey lost a fight: to Dutch judoka Edith Bosch. Rousey’s domination in martial arts since then has been so complete that spectators are lucky if they catch a fight that lasts more than a minute. Her first professional MMA fight lasted 25 seconds; her two most recent challengers for the UFC Bantamweight title, Bethe Corriera and Cat Zingano, lasted 34 and 14 seconds respectively. Not that her opponent for the title fight this coming Sunday in Melbourne should be underestimated – 34-year-old former boxing champion Holly Holm is also 9–0 undefeated in MMA and the match is expected to draw record crowds.