The Male Gaze and Women’s MMA pt. 5: Doing something about it
Individual interviewees in this article say that the male gaze affects the marketing, promotion, and match-making in MMA to a degree that the best fights aren’t being made and that athletes suffer missed opportunities. Some have emphasized the great deal of pressure for fighters to be someone they are not, as well as stress over the fear that their best efforts won’t be enough to help them achieve their goals (or decent earnings) in a sport they love.
They admit that the added stress might have affected performances or even their desire to remain in the sport.
This small sample group were asked whether big promotions like the UFC or Bellator had a responsibility to eliminate some of the issues discussed so far. And they were near unanimous in saying that promotions did not bear any responsibility to change what they are doing, as these organizations are independent companies who can act as they please. Though, many added that they would love to see promotions choose to act in a way that treats female fighters like male fighters, who succeed based on what they do and not who they are.
Shannon Knapp says her own promotion, Invicta FC, “absolutely” has a responsibility to give fighters the best opportunities based on their performances.
“As Invicita, and as females, we just have to continue to fight the good fight. Because, we can't tell people how they have to react or how they should run their businesses. They're not going to listen to us. We just have to keep standing strong and show that there's more to women’s MMA than pretty faces. There's depth, there's talent, and that deserves recognition.”
Regarding other promotions, Knapp says, “You can't tell them what they need to be doing or should be doing. But I think companies have a responsibility to put on great fights. That's the commitment they’ve made.”