Martial Artist in a Skirt?! What?!

Check out this short article about Alexis Davis and her involvement in the drive to get mixed martial arts legal in New York State.  See if you can spot the sexism amid the actual relevant information.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) —Alexis Davis looked more like legislative staff than a Las Vegas-bound professional fighter as she made the rounds Tuesday at the New York Capitol as part of another push to legalize professional mixed martial arts.

The state Senate voted 44-16 to make New York the final state to permit pro bouts, its latest such vote in supporters’ six-year bid to make MMA legal in New York — and the lucrative New York City market. But the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in the Assembly, which has declined to follow the Senate and authorize the New York State Athletic Commission to regulate the sport like it does boxing.

The 29-year-old Davis, a native of Port Colborne, Ontario, near Buffalo, did interviews and met lawmakers just as other fighters — including Ronda Rousey, an ex-Olympic judo medalist and Davis’ bantamweight opponent July 5 — have come before.

In heels and skirt, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound Davis cut the figure of just another statehouse regular. Only the biceps evident under her purple blouse gave her away.

Davis said she came to the sport by way of a hometown gym at 18.

“For me it was getting in shape,” Davis said. “I fell in love with it, the competitiveness of it.”

The choke hold remains in the Assembly, where several legislators say the combination of kickboxing, judo and wrestling is too brutal and a bad example for children.

Supporters cite 60 Assembly co-sponsors and say it will pass if that chamber’s leadership allows a vote. They argue that the sport is on television, at venues in New Jersey and Canada and at Indian casinos within the state, and that regulation will raise it from the underground.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Tuesday they’ll discuss it in that chamber’s majority Democratic Conference.

“I don’t know if I want my kid doing it,” said Sen. Joe Robach, a Republican from Rochester, who voted for the bill. “But this is America.”

Davis, with a 16-5 professional record, said her parents often attend her fights. “They get a little nervous. After the fight, they can relax. My mom, she can’t eat all day.”

Davis could recall only one injury in a fight, a broken nose. She fights now for Ultimate Fighting Championship, which provides medical insurance. She hadn’t read the recent University of Toronto study of concussions and match-ending head trauma in contests between male fighters, concluding it was higher in MMA than football, hockey or boxing.

“No offense to any of the women but, when you come to this sport, it seems less likely dealing with women that you’re going to have to deal with concussions,” Davis said.

Davis, whose fiance teaches jiu-jitsu, said she doesn’t fear Rousey, whose signature move is bending an opponent’s arm opposite the elbow joint until she quits. Davis says her own is the rear naked choke.

They described her clothes! Did you see? Women’s clothing continues to be news even if the story isn’t about fashion.  Women politicians are a great example.  When we ‘trespass’ into a man’s world like politics or martial arts, our clothing is scrutinized.  When it’s critiqued it has to do with policing our bodies and mitigating the effect of our femininity in a so-called masculine space.

But this case with Davis is slightly different.  Her clothes aren’t being criticized, but they’re being noted not because they are in some way relevant to the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York. (They aren’t. At all.)  Instead, they’re being noted because in our society, the prevailing view is that femininity and martial arts don’t mix.  It’s a surprising rarity, apparently, that Davis would express herself in typically feminine professional clothing when her profession is a mixed martial artist.

Fact: It is not surprising. It is not a delightful contradiction.

Did they really expect her to show up in a sports bra and fight shorts? To the New York senate?  The perfectly normal and unremarkable choice for a martial artist to wear professional clothing to a senate hearing is not newsworthy nor is it unusual.

They talked about her parents being worried about her! This one just confuses me.  I can’t see why this is at all relevant to a) her career or b) her legal work with the New York senate.

There is a lot of loaded meaning in how we perceive adult women’s relationships with their parents.  I think that many parents would be worried for their grown children engaged in any dangerous career – professional fighting, firefighting, the military, aerial acrobatics – but including a comment about a doting mother in this article? Why?

(Even if Davis offered up that story on her own, it’s up to the journalist to decide what’s newsworthy.)

These kinds of comments can be, again, meant to soften and feminize a ‘strong female character’ so she is less threatening and more relatable, to combat the apparent contradiction of femininity in a masculine space.  To combat the apparent contradiction of so-called masculine traits in a woman.

Maybe it’s relevant because one of the issues in this negotiation was that children could be injured? But wouldn’t there be more substantial information about the rate of injury in children and adults to participate in MMA? I think there totally is.

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