“Beaten by a girl” – why would that be embarrassing, really?

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One thing that I have thought about during the last few years as I have been in a relationship with a woman who practices and teaches martial arts, is why on earth – in the year 2018 – it still is such a sensitive topic among so many men to admit a woman is better than us at self defence and fighting.

A man who has never played a single game of tennis wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that a professional female tennis player is better than him at tennis. And a man who has never studied astrophysics would hardly be hesitant to admit that a woman with a phd in astrophysics is in better command of astrophysics than him.

Yet, for many men, the idea of getting “beaten by a girl” in a fight is still a source for embarrassment, humiliation – and even feelings of emasculation! When I have talked to my male friends about it, there have been many jokes, questions and statements that in one way or another points out the supposedly embarrassing situation I am in. And some guys more or less refuse to accept that my wife, as a hapkido expert, is way better than me at fighting and self defence. I have to say though that so far no one has been mean spirited or scornful towards me, which feels good because it was something that I was somewhat worried could happen, before I decided to talk about it. With that being said, two guys I talked to even went so far as to openly claim that they would not want to be dating a girl who has enough martial arts skills to be able to kick their butts, no matter how nice and beautiful she is – because, they said, it would simply be too embarrassing to bear!

My wife has also told me that it’s not uncommon for newbie male students and much lower ranked guys to be visibly blushing after losing to her (a 5th dan black belt and instructor). And there have even been some instances where the guys have quit the martial arts classes all together after being defeated by her or one of the other females there! And then there are the extreme examples of boys and men who just don’t want to learn how to fight from a woman at all – no matter how much experience she has!

It has to be said too though that not all men feel there is anything embarrassing in admitting that a woman is a better fighter than them. In particular, my impression is that men who actually have some martial arts experience generally don’t feel that admitting that a female practitioner is more skilled is any reason at all to be embarrassed.

Personally today, my feelings of pride, admiration, inspiration, fascination, excitement and love for my wife and her martial arts expertise completely drown out any negative feelings of embarrassment. I love that she is a martial arts teacher and wouldn’t want things to be different in any way!

But I remember very well how frustrated and embarrassed I felt after her first martial arts demonstration with me where I learned just how easily she can kick my butt. So in a way I can relate to how many guys feel about the topic.

So what is the reason behind these feelings of embarrassment? They obviously aren’t based on logic, reason and the modern ideas of gender equality that most people share. So I can only guess what’s going on. Here are some of my thoughts.

Gender roles 1 – men as “protectors”
As I wrote in an earlier post, society and men themselves are generally used to seeing themselves as the “protectors” in a relationship with a woman. Thus, fighting is seen as something closely related to the male identity and therefore, when a woman is better at this, it can instinctively be interpreted by a man as if he losing some of his manliness. ย Obviously this isn’t true, but I believe that’s how a lot of people subconsciously think.

Gender roles 2 – fear of being made fun of
Because of the norms and gender roles we have in our society, a man is generally expected to be better than a woman at most physical activities. Thus, sadly, a guy who loses to a girl at fighting/wrestling/martial arts risks being the target of attempts to tease and ridicule him, like “you throw like a girl” etc. This creates an environment where boys/men are taught that losing to a woman in this kind of activity is embarrassing.

Gender roles 3 – the stereotype of women as the “weaker sex”
Traditionally, women have been seen as “the weaker sex”. The only real life basis of this stereotype is that women on average are physically smaller and not as strong as men. Being strong and tall can be an advantage in many situations. However, there are very few activities in modern life where physical size and strength is the single factor that determines success. Skills, training, experience, intelligence etc are almost always much more important factors. So the talk of women as “the weaker sex” is both wrong and demeaning. Yet, when it comes to things like physical fighting the stereotype is still present in people’s minds and society’s views on gender. And following this (outdated and completely inaccurate) way of thinking, losing to a woman could make a man feel weak and failed in his manliness.

Ignorance about the basics of martial arts
Surprisingly many people still see size and strength as the by far most important factors when it comes to a person’s capabilities of physically defending himself/herself. But in reality, as with most other things in life, skills and experience are much more important. And that’s where martial arts – several of which are even designed specifically to enable a smaller person to defeat a bigger and stronger attacker – comes in. Women are of course just as capable as men of excelling at martial arts skills and techniques – and even have some advantages over men. Yet, the mistaken but common view that fighting is basically all about size and strength can make it seem like an embarrassment for a man to lose a fight to a woman, just because she is smaller than him, when the question really should be who has the most skills and experience.

Genetic heritage
During the tens of thousands of years that humans evolved as a species, there was no such thing as martial arts. At that time, fighting really was almost exclusively about physical size and strength – and obviously it would have made sense to assume a bigger and stronger man would always have a huge advantage over a smaller woman. I think we, as humans, still have some of those old “cave man” instincts inside of us. Maybe our instincts aren’t yet used to the concept and implications of martial arts.

Sexism
Lastly, of course, there are some men who are misogynist jerks who look down on women. A man like that would not want to admit that a woman could kick his butt. Fortunately that is very much a minority of all men.

Well I think these are the explanations I can come up with right now. If you have anything to add, you are very welcome to comment!

takedown

 

22 thoughts on ““Beaten by a girl” – why would that be embarrassing, really?

    1. mywifeisablackbelt Post author

      Yes it’s definitely very common. Personally I never felt at all emasculated (thankfully). But it was hugely frustrating that time it first dawned on me just how easy it is for her to for example throw me and immobilise me, even when I try my hardest to resist.

      And from time to time I still get a feeling of “does not compute” when I look at her recognising that she can kick my butt lol. ๐Ÿ˜›

      You’re welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 5 people

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  1. Renard Moreau

    ๐Ÿ™‚ It is nothing to be embarrassed about. It simply means that she was better than you.

    Now, if you were a martial artist with a black beat and she managed to beat the living daylights out of you, you would have a good cause to feel embarrassed.

    Liked by 2 people

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  2. Jay

    Some guys have their masculinity tied up in some weird shit. First of all, have some respect for the martial art, and the person who mastered it. Female masters aren’t taking anything away from you.
    Although neither of us has any training or other fight skills, and my husband is much bigger than me (6’6) and athletic, and I’m 5’3 and not, we both agree that I might win in any fight – against each other, or someone else – if it really counted for something, I’m tough and wily and can use my anger for great feats. I’m motivated, and he’s more of a lamb. But I think we both agree that gender roles are shit and neither of us is going to feel bothered by this. He respects me, I respect him. But I absolutely agree that there is far too many of those negative reactions in the world, born of sexism and insecurity.

    Liked by 4 people

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  3. The BYH

    “Traditionally, women have been seen as โ€œthe weaker sexโ€. The only real life basis of this stereotype is that women on average are physically smaller and not as strong as men.”

    No, not the only basis. One real-life basis of this stereotype is the simple truth that women get pregnant, and men don’t. And throughout history pregnancy has been much more common than it is today (in the West, that is). Yes, it is a stereotype, but it is also a deep-seated biological imperative that can’t be dismissed. After all, even the best female fighter is extremely vulnerable if she’s pregnant.

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  4. Axel M

    For a pitty gender role 2 is still mainstream: During public sparring at our kickboxing summer camp my female opponent knocked me out cold (accidently, how she later said). However most of the guys and girls made fun of me, the guy, who was koed by a girl in less than a minute

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      1. mywifeisablackbelt Post author

        Sure – no problem asking! Well, it depends on what you mean with similar experiences. I have never practiced any martial arts myself, so my wife is way better than me at that sort of thing. Even though that is very much to be expected, given the fact that she is an expert and a professional martial arts and self defence teacher, as I mention in this blog (and wrote about in other posts on this blog) I felt quite embarrassed and frustrated especially the first time she demonstrated her skills on me. Honestly, even now years later, knowing that I basically don’t stand a chance against her in a fight still is a bit tough on my ego as a man and I can even feel some embarrassment about it. But as I also mention above, my positive feelings towards her easily drown out any negative feelings, so it’s not really a problem. When it comes to other people’s reactions, it’s not uncommon that people joke about it or have other, I guess you could say “negative”, reactions, but that too has actually rarely been a problem for me. In the beginning I was worried people might make fun of me, but that has been very rare indeed.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Axel M

    Thank you for your detailed answer. No mention,it is clear, that an expert is better than a laico. In my case, we both should have been at the same level, what made my defeat really “ego crushing”, espescially the jokes from the audiance. I know, that shouldn’t be, but it’s till hurting.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. mywifeisablackbelt Post author

      No problem! And yes, the fact that an expert is better than someone with no knowledge/experience is obvious – and yet I still feel a bit embarrassed by it. Because she is a “girl” and because I am physically bigger and stronger than her. So I can understand how you feel too, because if you are at the same level as her there is in a way even more “expectations” that you shouldn’t be defeated by her.

      Liked by 2 people

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