For years, I’ve wanted to believe that mixed martial arts is at the forefront of an equality movement in sports. Most women’s sports either have no professional sports league, a severely under supported one (NWHL, WNBA) or a bastardized version of sport (don’t get me started on the Lingerie Football League).
Women in mixed martial arts have been given opportunities to thrive that can only be matched by tennis and figure skating. Women fight three, five-minute rounds in non-championships bouts and five, five-minute rounds in championship bouts, just like their male counterparts.
This is something that has made me proud to be a mixed martial arts fan.
But for all the good mixed martial arts could do to help push women in sports forward, there is a constant presence on my screen that brings it all back down to earth.
Every time I sit down to watch the sport, there’s a scantily clad woman in my face, showing off her physical attributes and, as a secondary, carrying a ring card.
There was a time, many moons ago, when ring card girls served a somewhat practical purpose. In boxing, where world title fights are 12 rounds and used to be 15 rounds, it makes sense to remind fans in attendance what round they are on. It’s easy to lose track. While there are obviously ways they could do this without a mostly naked model, I understand the necessity.
But this is 2017. And mixed martial arts is three or five rounds.
We don’t need a constant reminder of what round is approaching. Mixed martial arts fans may not be Rhodes scholars, but most of them can count to five.
Today, ring card girls serve no purpose. Hearing the things fans of mixed martial arts will yell at ring card girls makes me embarrassed to love this sport. In what other setting is okay to whistle at a woman? I hope trading in your decency for a drunken high-five from your bud was worth it, broski.
Hoots and hollers, cat calls and sexually derogative remarks are the norm from fans in the audience as these ring card girls (they are women, not girls, but maybe that’s another conversation all together) walk around the ring at every event. When I think of a young woman who wants to enter the sport, I can’t imagine how this makes them feel.
Calling the practice sexist would be an understatement. It’s completely demeaning and embarrassing. It serves no purpose, brings no fans to the arena and is clearly chauvinistic.
Let me be clear: This is not a shot at the women who take these job opportunities. Rather, it’s a plea to promoters across the world to get their act together and treat women with the respect they deserve (this is looking at you too, boxing. And while you’re at it, start showing some love to female boxers).
So here’s a challenge for all you promoters out there: have some decency and stop using ring card girls. It is a bigoted practice that served little purpose in its infancy and no purpose in the modern world. It is an unnecessary part of the combat sports presentation that should be abolished.
You want to support women in combat sports? Give them a spot to fight on your card.