Launched this year, the “He for She” campaign is looking to enact gender equality across the planet. The top supporter has been actress Emma Watson, who had a passionate speech this past September in front of the United Nations.
The campaign wants to mobilize one billion men and boys as advocates and agents of change for gender equality by September 2015. As it stands now, over 200,000 men and boys have signed up at HeforShe.org from over 190 countries.
There is a great collation between “He for She” campaign and the supporters of the women’s divisions of MMA. The following is a letter I sent to the campaign as an example on how the male fans of female fighters are helping evoke change and gender equality in sports.
If you haven’t yet, please sign your name to help support the campaign at HeforShe.org.
To fellow “He for She” Supporters:
First off, thanks for the continued support of the campaign and proving that anyone, male or female, can help make gender equality a reality worldwide.
I would like to tell you a story of encouragement and something I have been a part of for the past six years. In what has been a game dominated by men, mixed martial arts has done the most in the sports world to find acceptance and support female athletes.
I am one of several male reporters who cover the female MMA divisions exclusively. Most people ask “Why only they female end of the sport?” Some people think it’s because of reverse discrimination or “I like how the female fighters look”. This isn’t the case. I am a fan of both the male and female divisions, but the women in particular have an appreciation of what they have accomplished and the opportunity they have earned through hard work. They also fight with a passion inside the cage that a male fighter can’t match. Their sportswomanship, for the most part, also shows them as solid role models for respect, character, and determination.
I am not alone. In terms of writers, more than half are male. Same can be said about sponsorships, with more than 50% from male owned businesses.
The story of women in MMA is interesting in itself. A decade ago, it was hard for a woman to walk into a MMA gym and get training. There was the idea that a woman in an all male gym would “cause drama” and some places, sorry to say, still believe in it. The female fighters soon overcame the problem. One of the best coaches in the business, Greg Jackson, opened his doors to female fighters over a decade ago and formed what was one of the first female teams in MMA. Many found success including former InvictaFC champion Michelle Waterson; current UFC fighter and multiple time world boxing champion Holly Holm; and Julie Kedzie, who fought the first ever female MMA bout on cable tv and is the current matchmaker for InvictaFC, the predominant promotion in MMA for female athletes.
Speaking of InvictaFC, the audience is more than 50% male. Many of the male fans see the women as athletes first and their gender second.
Internationally, I have seen the trend in many countries; including Arabic nations; of female fighters trying their hand in the sport. More than 22 countries this past year held female fights.
In terms of the future, I have interviewed several girls as young as eight who have stated they want to become MMA fighters when they grow up. Behind them are coaches and fathers who are willing to teach and support these girls. From helping them in their free time to traveling with them across the country to compete, male coaches and fathers are proving that they are a part of making these girls’ dreams come true.
The sport still has a way to go. The salaries, for the most part, are not equal to their male counterparts, and there is still the battle overcoming using looks to market the female athletes.
I know this is going to be a long road for gender equality in all aspects of life. Ironically, it is a fighting sport that has shown great progress in gender equality.
Let this be a great example of how males do have an impact and can work with their female counterparts to enact change.
Keep up the fight for our mothers, sisters, and daughters. You are making a difference.
– MarQ Piocos, News Editor