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Mixed martial artist Miesha Tate kick-started her professional mixed martial arts career back in Tate gained her initial fame after her big win at the bantamweight championship of the Freestyle Cage Fighting promotion back in The star recently made headlines after she announced her much-awaited return in the ring and the fighting match has been scheduled for July.


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Women who compete in martial arts and combat sports challenge gender norms in their profession but often embrace them wholeheartedly and even overdo them in their personal lives, finds a UC Riverside study published in Sociology of Sport Journal. The findings underscore the need for caution when asing a feminist label to an organization or activity simply because it features women in powerful positions.

Hamilton, who has also been an MMA competitor and coach, noticed a discrepancy between how women fighters perform gender in their sport and in their personal lives. Many women who were physically powerful, highly aggressive competitors seemed to be involved in personal relationships with men even stronger and more assertive than themselves. Hamilton interviewed 40 WMMA athletes about their relationships and feelings about femininity.

Almost all of the heterosexual women, the majority of his sample, said although they loved being strong and able to defend themselves, they preferred to be with a man who could protect them. They subscribed to the masculine ideal of a man who is willing to risk his own safety to protect his family.

The ability to provide physical protection was the essential quality of being a man. Being smaller and weaker than a man also made the women feel more desirable.

One participant said being with a man smaller than her made Mixed martial arts dating feel even bigger, which made her feel fatter, less feminine, and undesirable. Differences of size and strength are perhaps even more important to the gender and sexual dynamics of heterosexuality for these MMA fighters than they are for other straight women, according to the study. They looked for men who were taller, heavier, and even able to pick them up and carry them. Some pointed to relationships that had failed because the men felt insufficiently masculine around them, or because they felt unattracted to a man less masculine than them.

The paper states that in their MMA careers, all of the women worked tirelessly to ensure that they were bigger, stronger, and more physically capable than their opponents. In their intimate relationships, however, most of the straight women sought to be smaller, weaker, and less physically capable than their partners to combat feelings of feminine insecurity.

Because of this gender insecurity, most of the heterosexual women, regardless of race or ethnicity, exclusively dated hypermasculine MMA fighters. They have to be more masculine than me because I am a woman and there is supposed to be a difference. Many of these relationships also revolved around other conventional gender norms, such as the belief that women are more nurturing and should make a comfortable and supportive home while the man provides economic and physical security.

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In fact, the ability to protect a partner was important to some. Header photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash.

Follow US:. October 19, Gender insecurity prompts women MMA fighters to date hypermasculine men Challenging gender norms in sport can lead to overdoing them in intimate relationships. Author: Holly Ober. Related Articles.

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