Engaging With Men

I feel the need to pre-empt any complaints here.  I am not a sexist or any other label other than a realist.  If you disagree with what you are about to read, there’s a fair chance you won’t agree with that statement.  That’s cool.  Off we go…….

Men reading this know something women don’t.  We care enough about small changes to moan amongst ourselves, but daren’t risk repeating it when we get home.  How many round table pub conversations have happened along these lines:

“The wife wants to re-decorate the living room again.  No idea why, but I’d rather just do it and have the quiet life.”

Hundreds.  Thousands.  Hundreds of thousands.  We do care about the decor, the changes, but we accept that women on the whole have the power in 99% of relationships to dictate how life shapes up.  It just happens.

But in boxing, it is men that hold the cards.  Boxing has been sold to men for decades, they are the prime consumer.  The majority of money coming into the sport has, and likely always will, come from men.  It’s our house and right now, that should be respected.

Women’s boxing is a growing sport, but it isn’t established yet.  Will it ever be?  Time will tell, but in order to do so, women have to get behind their own.  Men already have a product they support, and will give women’s boxing a chance to bed in alongside it.  But to really be successful, it is imperative that women back the sport too.

What won’t help the cause though?  Women stepping in and changing the décor.  The recent debate around should/shouldn’t there be ring girls in boxing has been backed by some high profile candidates on high profile platforms (BBC Breakfast News stands out with Stacey Copeland). 

Let me give a word of advice; men will look dubiously upon women if they walk into a new environment and start to make changes to ‘the norm’.  Are ring girls needed, in bikinis and skimpy outfits?  Of course not, it’s not a necessity to a boxing match.  But they are there, they have been there for as long as most of us can remember and we are comfortable with them.
For women boxers to start making statements and backing causes to have ring girls removed will only get the backs up of men, steer them away from women’s boxing.  By trying to drive changes from a wider social climate (however insignificant to the sport) you immediately start to make men think that you will want to make other changes.  This suddenly becomes not just about ring girls.  You’ll want to re-decorate the next room.

Men (those that I interact with at least) are pleased that women are becoming more involved in boxing.  Whether that is participation, supporting, commentating, presenting, debating.  It doesn’t matter on your gender if you’re an enthusiast of the sport.  But accept this one thing:

It will take women’s boxing far, far longer to establish itself if their upcoming stars start trying to make non-essential changes to the way the sports looks and feels.  The core consumers of the sport, those that the broadcasters and the money-men/women are appealing to, will turn their back on women in boxing if they think there is a wider agenda.  Of course the core demographic won’t turn their back on boxing if ring girls are banned – but accept, they will be sceptical of women’s boxing if it is their stars that cause it. 

You don’t walk into a new office job and before you have your feet firmly under the table, start demanding that the water cooler be changed.  You wait until you are established. 

Look at the wider picture of ‘How does women’s boxing create superstars, generate income and inspire future generations?’  Use your platform as a female boxer to tell us consumers why female boxing is important and why men and women should back it. 

Of course the counter argument to all of this is:  ‘Take away the ring girls, let the next generation be inspired by the athletic abilities of female boxers.’  Absolutely, that is the right aim to have.  But if you try and do that before female boxing is widely accepted as a product, you’re fucking it up entirely by making men sceptical of your intentions.  The potential damage you are causing to women in boxing by arguing over a relatively trivial point is damaging to the long term aims.  If those calling for this ban can’t see that, then I worry about the ability to grow the sport at all.