I read an interesting blog post recently by Dr AnnMaria DeMars, mother of UFC champion Ronda Rowsey, where she basically defended the actions of her daughter following her win over Miesha Tate at UFC 168 in December of last year.
Following the fight, Ronda refused to shake Miesha’s hand, in what many people saw as a classless act of poor sportsmanship. It incited widespread booing by the crowd in attendance, so much so that it almost drowned out Ronda’s post-fight interview in the Octagon, and later went on to be the subject of ongoing discussion in the media and on social networks.
Shortly after the fight I posted a congratulatory note to Ronda on our Facebook page for her victory, and even there she attracted quite a number of critical comments for her decision.
The bitter rivalry between these two athletes is certainly no secret to any UFC fan, but as Ronda pointed out in her post-fight interview, it was what she saw as Miesha’s disrespect that prompted her to snub her opponent’s offer to shake hands:
“For me, family comes before anything, even the boos and cheers of the crowd. And I feel like it would disrespect what she had done to my family if I shook her hand. As I said, she did an amazing job but I can’t shake the hand of someone who spits on my back.”
Personally, I didn’t see Ronda’s actions as poor sportsmanship at all.
Refusing to shake your victor’s hand – that would be sulking over a loss. That would be poor sportsmanship.
Taunting your defeated opponent after a victory – that would be gloating. That would be poor sportsmanship.
But refusing to shake an opponent’s hand after having defeated them, for reasons external to the fight, in my opinion, doesn’t qualify as poor sportsmanship. Now, it could be argued ad infinitum whether or not Ronda’s reasons for her actions were enough justification. At the end of the day that’s up to the individual, and in Ronda’s view they obviously were.
Anyhow, this whole episode got me to thinking about something that I really find quite annoying, and that is people who judge or criticize others, when and only when they consider it socially safe to do so.
As someone who administers a Facebook page and other social media accounts dealing with fitness, and who visits dozens of related social media accounts on a daily basis, I come across a lot of critical and judgmental comments and posts by people.
But interestingly, over the several years that I’ve been involved in this area, I can honestly say that I don’t recall once ever having come across a negative or derogatory comment aimed at an overweight woman.
Why is that?
Well, simply because it’s considered inappropriate, politically incorrect and socially unacceptable to criticize someone for being overweight. Society sees that as cruel, so people are generally too afraid to do so publicly. By criticizing an overweight person they run the risk of being labeled insensitive and bullies, and of attracting hateful criticism themselves.
But criticizing a woman for being too thin, too muscular, or for having surgical enhancements? Well, that’s a whole other matter. That’s socially far safer and can therefore apparently be done much more freely.
Countless times I have read posts and comments such as “she needs to eat something”, “someone give her a burger”, or “that’s unhealthy” in response to a photo of a woman who’s seen by some as being too thin; comments such as “she looks like a guy” or “that’s gross” directed at a muscular woman; derogatory comments about being fake directed at a woman with breast implants; and so on.
Notwithstanding the fact that more often than not, these individuals who criticize seem unable to distinguish between someone who is unhealthily thin and someone who’s simply slim and toned, they nevertheless take it upon themselves to be cruel and judgmental, simply because they feel they can get away with it without any backlash.
On the contrary, they generally expect support for their comments. They believe that by taking the so-called moral high ground and preaching about what they see as intentional unhealthy, dangerous or “extreme” practices by others, it gives them license to . . . let’s call it what it is . . . be haters.
Being overweight is far from healthy. The negative health effects of obesity are widely understood and well documented. So then, why do these morally superior people who are seemingly so concerned about the health of strangers choose to limit their criticism to just thin, fit or muscular women and not overweight women?
It’s simple – they’re cowards.
Am I suggesting that we should be criticizing overweight women more? Of course not, that’s not my point.
Ideally, no one should be criticizing anyone. We’re all individuals, some of us are naturally thin and some are naturally heavy. Some have to work hard to lose weight and some have to work hard to gain it.
But all that aside, there’s far more to each and every one of us as people than our appearance and our physical size. That’s not what defines us as human beings. So no one should be judged or labeled by that criteria.
My point is that if someone insists on being critical of others, then they should at very least have the guts to be honest about how they feel about everyone, and not just single out the soft, easy targets because they’re too afraid of saying something that will go against public opinion.
They shouldn’t just hate on people where they think public opinion will support them, or where they know that they themselves won’t become targets of criticism, because of what society deems to be okay or not okay. That’s straight out cowardly.
These people pretend to have sympathy for those that society labels as “no go zones” for criticism. But it’s not sympathy, it’s fear. Fear of being criticized themselves.
Saying what’s on your mind, even when you know it will be unpopular, takes courage.
That’s why I admired Ronda Rousey’s decision at UFC 168. Refusing to shake Miesha’s hand after the fight was bound to draw heavy criticism and put her in disfavor with the crowd. Societal convention dictates that you must shake your opponent’s hand, otherwise you’re a bad sport.
As I mentioned earlier, personally I didn’t see it as poor sportsmanship under the circumstances. But the majority of people no doubt would have – because she broke the rules of convention, and that makes people uncomfortable.
Ronda knew that, but instead of bowing to conformity she stuck by her beliefs and stood her ground, regardless of the inevitable fallout. That takes guts, especially for someone like her who’s in the public eye.
To me it’s refreshing to have a role model like Ronda Rowsey in the public attention. Someone who isn’t afraid to break conventions, say what’s on her mind, and be her own person, for better or worse.
She certainly has caused some waves but I think that’s a good thing. She’s a great example of someone who doesn’t bow to society’s expectations, but rather has the strength to march to the beat of her own drum, whether society likes it or not.
You have to admire that!
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