Tomorrow night will be historic for Women's MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and women's sports in general. Female fighters Gina Carano and Christiane Santos will be the main event in a series of fights that will air on Showtime.
Gina Carano has been dubbed "the face of women's MMA" partially because she is one of the best fighters in the world and partially because of her "good looks" that the media likes to focus on. Christiane Santos is just as good of a fighter if not better in some areas, but she is less well known. Partially because she is not an American fighter and partially because she isn't doing Maxim photo shoots like Carano.
A lot of coverage on Carano has to do with how she is a "knockout fighter with knockout looks." I always laugh when I read coverage like this. (WHAT? A woman can be pretty and feminine AND be good at a sport? SHUT UP.)
I do, however, want to give a lot of sportswriters credit because a lot of them covering the event tomorrow night are focusing on the fight, the fighters, the tactics they may use, etc. without bringing looks into the discussion.
But, alas, there is one "special" piece I'd like to discuss, and it comes from none other than Sports Illustrated, perhaps the most well known sports magazine of all time. Here is the title of the article by Ben Fowlkes: "Carano-Santos set for Strikeforce main event on Saturday."
Here are the first couple of paragraphs:
Let's go ahead and admit the obvious: If Strikeforce's main event this Saturday night were a beauty contest instead of an MMA fight, it would be a blowout. With her classic features and girl-next-door charm, it's not surprising that Gina Carano is the one doing magazine layouts while Cris "Cyborg" Santos is more likely to get hired to work security at a beauty pageant than participate in one.
But what should be equally obvious is that good looks have never won a fight. When men compete, never do we even bother talking about it. It's irrelevant, and not terribly interesting.
Yet with Carano and Santos, the 'Beauty and the Beast' comparisons seem unavoidable, and "Cyborg" has had just about enough of it.
Yes, completely unavoidable to refer to two serious female athletes as Beauty and the Beast ...even though though there have been dozens of articles today that have managed to avoid it.
What's funny to me is that he starts off the article by discussing the "attractiveness" (or lack thereof) of the fighters and THEN goes on to say that looks are irrelevant and it's a double standard. (a tiresome one at that!)
The fact that it's even part of the discussion in women's MMA is an obvious double-standard, and a tiresome one.
Then how about you DON'T DISCUSS IT. If Gina Carano wants to pose in Maxim magazine, that's her prerogative, but Sports Illustrated is NOT Maxim. Let Maxim talk about what a "hottie" Gina Carano is, and just talk about the sport.
Apparently that's too much to ask because even after he finally gets around to talking about the actual fight, he still has to bring it back to the looks.
The trouble is, the issue becomes complicated somewhat when Carano is involved. Her fame is inextricably tied to her good looks, despite her undefeated record.
This is true, she should be recognized for her fighting ability and other fighters shouldn't be denied coverage because they don't have Carano's good looks. But it's articles like this that perpetuate the idea that we should watch Gina Carano because she's "a hot fighter", not "a good fighter."
As for Christiane Santos, the author seems to think she is at a disadvantage because of her "beastly" looks.
Santos, whose career hasn't suffered all that much even without Carano's looks, isn't concerned.
SAY WHAT? You mean you can be a successful fighter even without good looks? SHUT UP.
My final bone to pick with the piece is that even though both fighters are mentioned in the headline, only Carano is pictured. Typically, if you're doing a piece on a title fight/main event, BOTH contenders are pictured. But I guess we can't have people looking at a fighter who isn't as pretty as Gina Carano... so if you're wondering what the "beastly" Christiane Santos looks like, here's a picture:
Pretty much looks like an MMA fighter, and a normal woman. Minus the rippin' abs.