Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is it Okay for a Man to Hit a Woman?

This issue came up recently when UFC women's bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey was discussing calls that, due to her dominance in her division, should consider fighting men.

Said Rousey, "I don't think we should celebrate a man hitting a woman in any kind of setting." 
Her mother added "That's a stupid idea," she said. "Seriously, that's a stupid idea. I'm as much a feminist as anyone but the fact is that biologically, there's a difference between men and women. Hello, duh. A woman who is 135 pounds and a man who is 135 pounds are not physically equal."
The vast majority of people that commented on her statement agreed with the sentiment - under no circumstances should a man hit a woman.

I probably would have agreed with the statement if it weren't for Shelly and I getting involved with mma and Brazilian jiu jitsu for the last two years. We train together regularly. For those that don't know us personally, Shelly is tough, strong, and pretty sadistic. Our weight difference usually hovers around 20-25 pounds. When we spar, we regularly go 100%, which occasionally includes striking (punching and kicking.) 

Shelly on the verge of choking me out.

My experiences in this setting have radically altered my perception of the issue. First, I learned that Shelly's really fucking tough. If I don't go 100%, she would easily kick my ass. Second, by not going 100%, I'm doing her a serious disservice from a training perspective. She's not going to get accurate feedback which will lead to sloppy technique and an over-inflated confidence in her true abilities. Most (but not all) of her other male training partners "go easy" at least some of the time even when the particular training should be done at high intensity. That seriously annoys her. 

So back to the question - is it ever okay for a man to hit a woman?

This blanket policy, to me, reeks of misogynistic "chivalry." The assumption that a woman is incapable of punching or being punched simply because she possesses a vagina is ludicrous. I can guarantee Rousey could out-strike the vast majority of the similarly-sized world's male population. Hell, I can guarantee Shelly could out-strike a lot of dudes. There is a discernible biological difference between men and women when considering the entirety of both genders, but failing to consider individual characteristics is silly. How about a better idea? Instead of saying "a man should never hit a woman", how about we say:

A stronger or better-trained person should never hit a weaker or less-trained person.

Seems like a more reasonable rule of thumb.

The Domestic Violence Issue

Rousey's opinions, rightfully, are shaped by the domestic violence issue. Unfortunately, framing domestic violence as a gender issue causes many problems. The most serious? It sets up a climate where female-on-male domestic violence is seriously marginalized. Here's one study that reports males are victims in 40% of DV cases. Because of this, I advocate another useful policy: 

Only use violence in a recreational, consensual setting

These two policies, taken together, eliminate the gender issue and eliminate the domestic violence issue. If a woman wants to fight a man, they're of similar size and skill level, and the both consent, why would that be wrong?

What do you think? Is it time to abandon the "never hit a girl" mindset? Leave your answer in the comments section!


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