It was bound to happen really-just a matter of time. You would think that some old Etonion with a funny accent (probably) and equally questionable fashion sense would be the one to comment but in fact it was a female reporter from the Daily Mail who made my blood boil.
The title of the offending article
What a girl! But it doesn’t feel quite right watching women beat seven bells out of each other for a baying mob of boozy men. By Jane Fryer (Daily Mail PUBLISHED: 23:26 GMT, 9 August 2012)
The article was the usual Daily Mail drivel which was brought to my attention by a proper reporter-yet I found that amongst my non-karate friends, this topic was actually receiving a huge amount of air time. (Except of course if you were Irish, ‘cause with Katie Taylor in possession of the one and only gold medal for Ireland no one had a bad thing to say about the sport or the winner!)
What’s more, I found that actually I didn’t really have a compelling argument to the case, mostly because I had never thought about it in detail. It never occurred to me that I, as a woman shouldn’t be engaged in an activity where I needed to exert force over another (equally weak) woman. The thought had simply never entered my head.
Brainwashed? Perhaps, I started training at a young age and was more capable of throwing a mae-washi geri than, eh, darning. So the question therefore I guess would be, what would I be like if I had not chosen a sports focus in the martial arts? Growing up in rural Ireland, there wasn’t a huge range of sports on offer. You went to the local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) pitch and tried out for Football or Hurling (Camogie for women) and if you were lucky, they had a hall to get changed in, otherwise you were at the side of the pitch in a huddle trying to stay dry/warm/decent. I was gifted a hurley and sent each Friday to the local pitch, I loved the competitive nature of the sport, loved the physical training-but you know what, it just wasn’t for me.
Karate was a family bet, that’s how I got involved, my Uncle is a big wig in Wado Ryu and disillusioned with Taekwon Do my sisters sought out a karate club. We knew nothing about karate, styles, instructors-nothing. My father made a bet that I wouldn’t last a month, the bones of 30 years later and he is still waiting for his £10 (punts). As junior grades we weren’t separated from the boys for anything, not even the changing room, which was a wee small room at the back of a church hall where we all pilled in, until the parish priest noticed and overnight a partition was put up!
But you know what, I loved every minute of training, I would get bubbles in my stomach before training, countless arguments with parents about drives to training so that we were on time. Gradings, competitions, seminars, international events all started to come at me and each one was a personal achievement and a step further along the journey.
No one ever told me what I was doing was wrong or unladylike, so I have to ask myself if it is the audience of the Olympic games and the spectacle of female fights that has brought this attention. That said tho, I have fought in many countries in front of many many large audiences, only once did I experience any negativity towards women, this was a religious based demonstration and thankfully caused no major disturbance.
The argument from our good lady in the Daily Mail is the distasteful egging on of competitors by drink fuelled spectators, but to be honest, as any competitor will tell you, the audience more or less disappears and all you can focus on is your strategy, tactics and a respectful regard for your opponent. Competitors work hard for events, before, during and afterwards. There is simply nothing worse than watching an event and thinking how slow you seem to be moving!!
So to Jane I say this, watching two trained athletes in action should enthuse you no matter the sex of the individual, because beauty, heart and ambition will burn brightly in each competitor, especially at Olympic level. You had a chance to comment on something huge, to make a positive statement for women athletes but instead you choose to put us back in the dark ages.
That’s it, I am off home to cook dinner for my hard working partner, ensure his suit is washed and ironed and sure after that I might bake a cake.