I came across something written by a capoeirista the other day that pretty much infuriated me. However, I did promise in my very first post that there would be no ranting, so I will restrain myself!
(Actually, what I would most like to do is copy and paste what I read here and then carefully, logically, thoroughly deconstruct it line by line for all of you. However, doing things like that sometimes has repercussions, here in cyberspace. As a result, we’ll all have to settle for a general post on the same topic, but with a slightly different [read: enlightened =P] point of view.)
When playing women in the roda, do not hold back. It irritates me even to be writing this post, as you’d think playing women in the roda (technique-wise, not dynamics-wise) is no different from playing men in the roda; basically, this should be a completely pointless post, with a pointless title, except for the fact that there are people out there who sadly believe otherwise!
Their argument goes like this: Women are naturally physically weaker than men (how true this statement is and its implications, etc., we’ll leave for now). Thus, men–and let’s say stronger women–should play “down to their level” to level the field, or to protect the woman from accidentally getting hurt in the roda. Let’s call this the Chauvinist Theory.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the basic intentions behind this way of thinking. The exact same idea is legitimately applied to beginners: play more slowly and carefully against them because they don’t know quite what they’re doing yet or aren’t strong/quick/good enough yet and might get hurt. That’s for beginners, people who presumably have little to no capoeira skills yet, and so that makes sense. It’s relatively safe to assume that you need to go easy on beginners in the roda, because as beginners, they are less skilled by definition. However, the Chauvinist Theory incorrectly links just strength directly to one’s joga ablity, then assumes that as women, we are less skilled by definition. Which is interesting, because since there are countless female capoeiristas at levels higher than beginner, do these people think that their mestres have one corda graduation standard for women and another, harder graduation standard for men?
I’m reminded of a line in the Antigone Magazine blog post to which I directed all of you in my “Why Write About Female Mestres? The Feminist Catch-22” post. According to the Antigone post, which was on misogyny in anti-Hillary Clinton facebook groups, “If you dislike a male politician, then there is something wrong with that particular politician. If you dislike a female politician then you often find something lacking in the entire female sex.” People who buy into the Chauvinist Theory seem to suffer from the same mental lapse: if you accidentally hit a man in the roda, it’s because he wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t quick enough or just basically needs to improve his capoeira skills; if you accidentally hit a woman in the roda, however, it’s because she’s a woman and therefore you should go easy on every woman you play from now on.
I can hear the bulls bellowing…I think they want their crap back.
What people should do–and this is supposed to be common sense–is assess each opponent individually. (I’m honestly cringing at this paragraph already; it seems like such a given!) Maybe she’s a woman who definitely is not athletically gifted, so in this case yes, give her a chance to do something while playing. And maybe she’s a natural at capoeira, better than you are, and she’s really adjusting her game down to your level. The point is, you don’t judge someone’s capoeira ability based purely on their gender. There is absolutely no logic in that–none, whatsoever! By playing down to all women, you are not only holding yourself back from a chance to improve and from what might’ve become a really good game, you are deliberately stunting the progress of the person you are playing. This is even worse if you are supposed to be the person’s teacher; your role is to challenge and improve your student’s game, not pander to what you think is their beginner’s comfort zone (if they haven’t progressed beyond it already)!
I know/hope that this post was entirely unecessary for most of you, but I felt it still needed to be put out there. (Plus, it was either that or physically hunt down the guy and drag him into a few games with some of the girls from my academy, and I don’t have the time for that right now.)
p.s. This entry’s picture was done by a friend of mine! Isn’t it awesome?