As someone who fell in love with boxing I’ve found myself increasingly struggling with defending the sport’s public moral stance concerning gender representation in the ring. It is one thing to have to explain that boxing is not all about beating each other bloody but another to have to convince people that boxing itself does not objectify women who, literally, have nothing to do with what is happening in the ring. Scantily-clad ring girls have a long tradition in boxing, MMA and kickboxing. They hold up signs with the upcoming round number to the audience and this is where their task ends.
Our recent advances in gender equality demand the removal of ring girls. But many people in this field of entertainment refuse to comply, saying ring girls are part of the sports. Being passionate about boxing, I say: ring girls are not part of the sport! What they are is a stubborn remnant of a time where men prided themselves on depriving women of their agency and believed a woman should only be in the ring when she is undressed. My gym treats everyone who wants to box equally and so do other gyms. The mindset towards gender equality has changed and so should the custom in public competitions!
Unfortunately, the majority of old-established entertainments hold on to the misconception that misogyny is still part of combat sport. They maintain this image and make the public believe the sport is inherently against women. It is burned into these people’s brains so that they do not seem to make an effort to follow their own argument’s logic. So here I am making the effort for you.
I will show that the 10 most common pro ring girl arguments lack a logical conclusion and beyond that only function as an anti-argument that deconstructs itself.
I will show that being pro ring girls can logically lead to no other conclusion than actively approving of, and participating in, maintaining men’s social power over women.
- “They tell us what round it is”
True! And without somebody reminding the audience what round it is, it gets difficult to keep track. Yet, if it were only about showing the number of the round we could simply put people of any gender and age into the ring. Children, for instance, like the ones walking with the soccer players up to the field. But we all know, too well, that this is not the point of ring girls. They have to be female, young, and physically attractive.
Informing the audience is just a minor matter, not the key purpose.
- “They entertain the crowd while waiting”
The purpose of entertainment is important to the viewer, no question. So, why not show the girls in a full body astronaut costume? Surely that could be hilariously entertaining! Arguing for the sake of entertainment is like in point 1 just part of the truth. Ring girls solely aim to entertain in a certain matter; the visual stimulation of a heterosexual, male audience. A genius might argue “some women enjoy looking at them, too”. Well, if everyone’s taste mattered, why not introduce ring boys walking along with ring girls as the standard? Female audiences enjoying female bodies is a nice side effect but not the motivation behind it.
“Entertain”, in this case, has a very narrow meaning. For the accuracy of this argument we should exchange “entertain” with “skyrocketing the testosterone level” and “the crowd” with “men”. Now, encouraging men to get wet dreams in-between the rounds when watching sports is an unsettlingly strange motivation.
- “It is a man’s sport”
Just because the majority of boxers are male it does not follow that men own the sport. There are numerous, great, female athletes in the ring who are driven by the same passion and goals as their male colleagues. BOXING!
- “It’s tradition, they have always been there!”
The Oxford Dictionary defines “tradition” as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”. To state the decisive implication in that sentence: A tradition is not necessarily moral. Due to this mindset women’s boxing was not part of the Olympic games until a few years ago. Traditions reflect our cultural standpoint and culture does not stand still. It is in a constant flux. A healthy understanding of when to question traditions should be a given in 2018.
- “Having ring girls doesn’t harm anyone”
Keeping ring girls is wrong on so many levels, for this tradition has its roots in a patriarchal mindset. Let me break it down to the most fundamental issue. As clarified above, the person must be female, and her purpose is to get guys to fantasize about her. The arena becomes a highly gender segregated environment in terms of which social role both sexes play. Problem is: this trope goes way beyond the arena and is embedded in social and cultural matters. We find its reflection in music videos, posters, advertisements, movies, and pretty much everywhere. When constantly exposed to an environment that sexualizes and reduces women to their body, this will inevitably be internalized.
Psychological harm works differently from physical harm and is yet harm! Basically, when supporting ring girls, you agree that your mother, sister, and daughter has the social function of existing for your guy friends’ pleasure.
- “But the ring girls feel confident”
They do, and the reason is just as simple as it is alarming. Most sectors in society make them believe their worth is intertwined with men’s evaluation. By implication this means they lose all self-esteem the moment men lose their interest in them. That is a false security. Rather than teaching that solid confidence comes from within, women are taught to undress to feel valued. The only natural thing here is the conclusion that derives from it. Ring girl’s self-esteem depends on men’s affirmation of how fuckable they are, and this is not confidence, this is subordination.
- “It is their free will. Nobody forces them to do so”
This is a tricky one. Are we actually giving people a choice to act outside social conventions when repeatedly criticizing and body-shaming them whenever they dare? “Free will” has been debated hundreds of times and is still a blurry concept. Fact is, to act on free will one must have more than one choice. The choices here consist of subordinating yourself or being made to believe that one has failed their social purpose. The latter can barely be seen as a fair option as humans are social beings who naturally strive for acceptance instead of going against the grain. Women are pressured to fulfill their culturally ascribed roles and choosing to be a ring girl is merely choosing the instrument that enforces these ideals on you.
- “Boxing is just one sector and cannot change how the world perceives women”
If the spectrum of being wrong was represented by the distance between sun and earth, this statement would swirl around somewhere in another Galaxy. . . far, far away….
Sport is highly valued in society. All kinds of people are brought together with the sense of unity. Athletes and coaches are people we look up to. We admire them, and some strive to become just like them. The amount of role models from combat sport are mind-blowing. So is the influence of the entertainment that represents them.
- “THE WRITER MUST BE AN UGLY, EMBITTERED, FEMINIST!
For the arguments sake, let’s say that was true. First of all, the point of feminism is nothing but gender equality in treatment and opportunities. Consequentially, anyone against feminism is pro inequality. If that is the case, there is something downright wrong with you. Secondly, being ugly and embittered still would not diminish the accuracy of my arguments.
- “I’m still in favor of ring girls”
Well, when logic fails to convince a reasonable person of basic human decency then there is only one thing left to say:
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
(Quote ascribed to Benjamin Franklin)
Boxing is an amazing sport and so is watching a great bout! It is more than people randomly punching each other. It deserves all the appreciation in the world but therefore it must lose its negative image of being a testosteronal stronghold. Times have changed and so should the world’s attitude to women’s placement in the arena. It is in the ring WITH BOXING GLOVES!
Thank you, Alex and Charlotte, for allowing me to use this great picture and, of course, my awesome boxing club!