Should Matt Brown Reap the Whirlwind for His Ridiculous Comments About Women's MMA?
The last piece I wrote for Fightland concerned my disappointment in Ronda Rousey for not displaying the kind of character traits I hope for in a champion, and not just because she’d dodged Miesha Tate’s attempt to shake hands after their fight two weeks ago. That was just the “cherry on a shit sundae,” as I explained it to a friend.
A few days later, a woman I know from Alaska who had at first adamantly agreed with my stance in that post wrote to me and said, “You know, I called Ronda names for not shaking Miesha's hand. Then I thought about someone who fucked with my family… and I’ll be damned if I ever shake that cunt's hand. Excuse the language ... I hardly use the word but I can't say her name without it falling out.” I remember the person she was talking about, I remember what she did, and that statement made me reconsider everything. As a result, I no longer think I can fairly blame Ronda for dodging that hand on the chance that there really was something that transpired behind closed doors between her and Miesha that I could empathize with in a similar fashion.
I say this because otherwise I’m going to sound like a huge hypocrite when I explain why I don’t think UFC welterweight Matt Brown is necessarily the chauvinistic man-demon he’s being made out to be for the recent comments he made on his podcast, Legit Man Sh**, about women’s MMA, especially the one that’s got everyone so worked up: “If I’m going to pay $60 for a pay-per-view to watch women fight, they should at least be topless.”
The first time I heard about that comment, it was in an article titled “Matt Brown Says Female Fighters Don’t Have KO Power and Would Prefer They Fight Topless,” and, true to my often-reactionary form, I was quick to reply. “Aurora Ford says Matt Brown doesn’t have what it takes to beat Carlos Condit, and would prefer that he gets KTFO when he tries,” I wrote in the comments section. The whole situation drove me crazy. I used to love watching Matt Brown fight.
As a female, a lover of women’s MMA, and best friend to one of the top-ranked women’s bantamweights in the world, I hate it when guys say shit like Matt Brown said. I can’t stand it when I’m sitting near a dude who is making gross comments about a woman while she’s fighting, for the same reason I hate Internet trolls who would never dare say the things they type on their keyboards in person to whoever it is they’re typing about. More than once I have gotten cranky enough to turn around at a fight and say, “That girl would knock you clean into next week if you ever said that shit to her face.”
But while I hate to hear it, I am not nearly idealistic enough to think that Matt Brown is the only guy out there who feels comfortable saying those kinds of things in the presence of his buddies. All my life I’ve had more male friends than female friends. I have been “one of the guys” since I was in the single digits, and part of what that entails is that they don’t feel like they have to censor what they say when I’m around. During my life I’ve heard dudes make jokes about an almost frightening variety of things that aren’t funny at all in real life, from assault to necrophilia. And though there are some people who would say that I shouldn’t associate with people who laugh about serious matters because it indicates something bad about who they are deep down, I don’t agree. So long as I’ve always witnessed a person’s actions embodying fairness, tolerance, and kindness, I frankly don’t give a fuck what they say while drinking beer around a campfire or wrenching on an old piece of junk in the shop.
And I’ve heard a lot of things similar to what Matt Brown said coming from men who I know are not chauvinistic man-demons (and from some who definitely are). Some of those same guys are very close to me and my family. One in particular made generous donations to a female fighter friend who was struggling to make it through fight camp because, while he is your typical T&A-loving kind of guy (and is not quiet about it), he is also inspired by her hard work and general bad-assness.
What I’m saying is, guys are guys. Some of them, maybe, have evolved enough past their primate tendencies that they don’t have the kinds of thoughts that prompted Brown’s comments … but I can’t think of anyone I know who falls into that category. The difference is that some will say it and others won’t. But to pretend that the vast majority of straight men have never once considered what a given female fighter looks like topless would be optimistic to the point of delusion, no matter how much we wish it were true. When I hear a man claim that he’s never even entertained the thought of such a vulgar concept because it would objectify women, I’m not sure I trust him.
I’ve often supported people whose ideas and comments weren’t popular based on my appreciation for the fact that he or she was not tailoring their behavior for cameras and microphones. I don’t like Ronda’s actions or comments sometimes, but I do respect her I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude toward how they’ll be received, and I don’t think I’m alone there. Does it make any sense for me, then, to turn around and assert that Matt Brown shouldn’t be allowed the same courtesy, even if I don’t like what he had to say?
What is it exactly that we want from Matt Brown and other ambassadors of our sport? Do we want them not to have controversial opinions? Do we want them to only voice those controversial opinions where the public can’t hear them? Do we want our fighters to be genuine and real and free-thinking, or do we want them to be politicians? Seems to me the MMA world has to make up its mind.
[Ed. Note: Normally we would provide a link to Matt Brown’s podcast, but it appears to have been disabled since yesterday.]
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