This is an interesting rant by a western coach over the custom of female fighters in Thailand having to enter the ring under the bottom rope. I leave his name out because there is no reason to be personal about this, I'm more interested in the weave of thoughts here.
These are screenshots because after commenting on the post I was banned from continuing to comment - no big deal, it's his space and Muay Thai internet debate pretty much sucks. This is a huge, balls-out rant about the needed equality for women in sport and in particular for fighting, and it really strikes a powerful nerve in just the pure intensity of the celebration of Miriam Nakamoto -- hey, she was GOOD, one of the best ever. But most views on gender (and race and ethnicity) are not purely of one thing. I took pretty strong exception the characterization of Thai female fighters as generally being "treated as sex slaves and servants" (outlined red above) - does this guy even know much about actual Thai female fighters? After I made my first comment about this I believe he edited the word "treated" to "viewed" and then after making the post private to a circle he edited "sex slaves" to "after thoughts".
Despite the changes this is a common trope of the passionate male, western pro-female fight "expert" that I've seen, the idea that Thai female fighters are somehow on the edge of becoming (or in this case, treated like) sex workers. Steven Wright also forwarded this idea as well. It's all part of the fantasy image of the "poor" Thai girl, forced into horrible conditions, and that these conditions make female Thai fighters inferior to the liberated, socially embraced western female fighters of the world. It's a complicated argument. He's very right that female Thai fighters are NOT treated in the way way as male Thai fighters in Thailand, and there are huge cultural (and economic) reasons why. And yes, the bottom rope custom is intimately woven into this. But the willingness to slip into these frankly bizarre and uninformed fantasies about Thai women, is just sexist and to me also (Orientalist) racist. Yes, there are lots of sex worker issues surrounding the plight of Thai women in various socioeconomic groups. But the willingness in the west, especially for men, to see the factuality of Thai women as fundamentally that of having a sex-worker status, especially when it seems that these men often have very little knowledge of the real lives of the Thai female fighters they are supposedly championing, is troubling (and no, I know of very few gyms in Thailand now where women cannot train in the ring with men). We saw this again and again, in the early days, when western men tried to troll Sylvie's fighting - the Thai female fighter is fundamentally just a poor girl, a child, a sex-worker in waiting. This is part of a big western (male) fantasy projected onto an exotic land they don't really know, a land much more complex (ethnically, by class, by belief) than they are willing to believe. Almost every top Thai female fighter I know of I would probably characterize as Middle class. Middle class by western standards. You want to see what these women look like? Here is a list of them Sylvie wrote about, the best under 48kg << these women are not generally treated like sex slaves, servants, and nor are they even viewed as after thoughts, anymore than one might say western female fighters are in their gyms.
To his credit the author amended his words after making the rant private to a group of people. But I'm really interested in how these two thoughts: Women are Equal! AND These Asian Women are like Sex Slaves? can unconsciously compliment each other. The fact of the matter is that Thai female fighters are among the best in the world. In my opinion they are better, all things being considered, than their natural counterparts in the west, as a whole. Historically there have been some obstacles to actually showing this though: The best western female fighters (Nakamoto, Kitchen, Randamie, etc) historically have been giants to the best Thai female fighters and for that reason either large western fighters don't end up fighting the best Thai talent (if Thais at all), or when they do it can be with a significant weight advantage. Even to this day many of the top western fighters (Barlow, Meksen, van Soest), when weights are more equivalent, do not fight top Thais in Thailand - in fact these fighters hardly have fought each other. And importantly there are fundamental differences in how western and Thai scoring is done, something that leads to misunderstandings in East vs West matchups, and there are differing motivations at times. There is no "international stage" on which to judge Thai female fighter talent - no, the IFMAs have not been taken particularly seriously by most Thais. Yes, Thai female fighters do face a very different place in the gym than do male Thai fighters, something part of the problemized position of women in Thai culture, but it is incredibly disrespectful to describe that place as generally being like that of sex slaves, in any way, or that this status has lead to a general inferiority of Thai female fighters. The "sex slave" characterization trope for Thai women is a loaded one, instead of respecting Thais, one is just forwarding old stereotypes. Thai female fighters have devoted their lives to fighting. They deserve the respect of what they are, fighters who have long trained and fought in their National art.
As to the bottom rope, this is such a complicated aspect of Muay Thai in Thailand it is very hard to untangle. Some Thai female fighters feel disrespected by the custom, some find it to be very meaningful and proper. Because the Muay Thai of Thailand is fundamentally a performance of traditional, hyper-masculinity, pulling on the threads of gender may unravel some of that respected cloth. There is to me no clear, principled answer here (Sylvie feels differently I suspect), but rather important principles that clash. But I do present his rant here because it contains some very powerful imagery in favor of female liberty. But in this case, the fact that the author seems pretty dis-conntected from Thailand itself (it's realities, its people, their beliefs) his particular brand of "Fuck your traditions!" feels a little not right.