After listening to the lasted episode of Jay Jack Uncensored, and talking with a few women who also train at the Academy, I've had an interesting series of questions and thoughts that I think are really worth discussion; especially for the women who are training or want to train jiu jitsu. A teammate, Julia, brought to light this idea with her heartfelt and honest blog. (I'd recommend reading it), and I wanted to elaborate on that same idea. What defines feminine? Are women who train still beautiful, feminine, and capable?
Not only are women training on the mats a rarity within the BJJ community (and thankfully that is quickly changing for the better), but the preconceived notion that women who train instantly fit a particular "mold" and meet the criteria of any or all of the following: masculine, aggressive, intense, butch, etc.... (I am sure you can think of 50 others) ...... and if you don't consider yourself those things, then training isn't for you....which is bullshit.
I am writing about this because I have struggled with this idea in the recent past and I have encountered quite a few other women who have also admitted to struggling with this idea. Writing this blog is confirmation------ you are not alone. When I signed up for BJJ about three years ago now, in NO way shape or form did I think I would blindly convince myself that I was less of a woman---less feminine. Yet, suddenly I found myself struggling with these thoughts that I no longer looked beautiful. I felt "masculine" because my knees and shins were covered in bruises. I stopped wearing makeup because it interfered with training and would rub off and get in my eyes. I started powerlifting and covered my skin with tattoos. Surely "feminine" was shot to hell now. To make matters worse, I roll hard--- I may not be 100% skillful yet as a newer blue belt, but I like to push myself and I don't want to feel placated by the men in my gym. I thrive on intensity. Combine all of those ingredients and the recipe yielded the perfect mixture of feelings for abnormal, out of place, masculine and less attractive.
But why did I feel like that? It took me a bit, but I've come to realize that women like me aren't society's definition of feminine. Perhaps then, we need to redefine that word. We need to stop emphasizing that beauty is powerlessness, skin deep and a certain body structure. We need to cultivate a new definition of beauty. Women are powerful, courageous, and strong and to deny that is a shame. Real RAW beauty is heart, kindness, and courage---and every woman should feel her strength. Even if that means weighing 150lbs (like me) and being able to squat more than some men.
On the contrary, masculine is associated to mean powerful, stoic, emotionless, and fearless. I don't know about you, but I certainly didn't feel like I was any of those things, yet somehow I didn't feel "feminine". Again, society has taught us that to be "normal", to fit in, we must meet those criteria--and again it's bullshit. I've had to really own my "adjectives" such as aggressive and intense, and recognize they are not weaknesses, but my strengths. I would never want someone to think I am less than those qualities--it does not make me less than.....they are as much a part of my being, and to deny that is still a shame.
Our gym is amazing, and it is an atmosphere that enables women to embrace their inner strength; whatever that seems to be. There is not set definition/label or list of criteria you need to display in order to come train at the Academy. We have women who are tall and thin, whose hair cuts and styles are considered "alternative", express ourselves through tattoos, own quirky personalities, and can "hang with the guys". We get to roll with the toughest men in the room on any given day, and pour every ounce of our hearts, sweat and even tears onto those mats in efforts to redefine beauty; to be fiercely feminine.