Fact Checking TheMarySue.com – “When Role Models Become Problematic: Ronda Rousey and Transmisogyny”

Ronda Rousey – think what you will of her, but her name is one that makes both men and women’s ears perk. She’s an Olympic Gold Medalist in Judo and is undefeated in her MMA run. She’s transitioning into an acting career as well, with this post coming on the heels of a Variety.com exclusive article stating that Ronda’s going to play herself in a planned biopic of this woman’s interesting and inspiring life story.

Kicking ass in pink

Kicking ass in pink

So when I was looking for the subject of my blog’s first post, imagine my delight on finding an article from TheMarySue.com decrying Ronda for ‘trans-misogyny’ for comments from a years-old interview. Rousey’s interview touched upon the (admittedly needlessly mean) comments of UFC fighter Matt Mitrione in regards to a Male-to-Female transgendered fighter by the name of Fallon Fox.

“She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.” said Rousey

This seems to be where the article’s author, , has decided to dwell.

I guess it’s good she’s using correct pronouns? *sigh* Rousey has competed against intersex athletes in Judo before, but didn’t take issue with that because “that was something they didn’t choose,” showing a fundamental ignorance about what being trans even means.

Nowhere in the source article did Ronda state to pretend to know what being ‘trans’ means. I would postulate that Ronda’s experience against intersex athletes and her MMA training under the legendary Gene LeBell has afforded her the experience to determine the difference between genders on the mat.

The very physical nature of FTM or MTF transitions are a choice. Let’s look at some definitions.

Gender Dysphoria is the name of the psychological condition that is associated with the ‘transgendered’ phenomenon. Transgendered people feel they are not the gender they were physically born as. This can lead them and their doctors to the decision to physically alter their body to match the gender they identify with.

Intersex is the term for people whose genitals do not match either male or female exclusively at the time of birth. Unlike transgendered, this is not a choice for the Intersexed person. They may identify more as male or female, but nature has determined their hormonal makeup and gender abnormality. They do not make the choice as to the initial state of their body.

While a transgendered person may feel they do not have a choice as to their gender, this onset can happen late in life. This is why the diagnosis is listed as a mental health diagnosis and not a physical one. Intersexed people can have variable hormonal makeups from birth, but in a transgendered person, this is not usually the case. We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Continuing with Teresa’s article,

What’s worse is that Rousey claims she came to these conclusions after “doing research.” If she’d actually done more than a cursory Google search as a part of this research, she might have come to learn that trans women undergoing hormone replacement therapy actually lose muscle mass and bone density, which means that they wouldn’t have any advantage over a cis woman in a fighting sport like MMA.

In the article linked in TheMarySue.com’s piece, Huffington Post (it’s like a game of telephone!) links to this article from Bloodyelbow.com relating the original interview with two surgeons who have experience with sex reassigment surgeries regarding the concerns over Fallon Fox back in March of 2013.

In this article, Dr. Sherman Leis states:

…she probably does not have a significant advantage, if any at all. Especially because she wasn’t a big man when she lived as a male. She’s 5’7 and slight of build, and basically the size of an average female. Factor in that she’s been on hormones for so long, and has had the surgery, she more than likely has the muscle mass, bone density and strength of most females.

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox

That very well may be true. Looking at the physical statistics of Fallon Fox, she’s only ten pounds heavier than Ronda and the same height. However, are Ronda’s concerns invalid? Let’s take a look at what she stated again:

… it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage.

Note that she said bone structure, not bone mass or muscle mass. While it is well documented that men have higher muscle mass and bone density than women, that isn’t what Ronda is contending. She’s contending it isn’t fair because of the bone structure.

So what difference does male vs female bone structure have on competitors?

Sexual dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism

In an excerpt from Women’s Strength Training Academy by Frederic Delavier:

The morphological differences between women and men are the result of differences in the volume and proportion of similar anatomical features. Generally speaking, the female skeleton is not as massive; it is smoother and more delicate with impressions—hollows or bumps—that serve as muscle insertions or provide passage for tendons, which are less accentuated.

Why is this important?

According to this study from the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, as well as this article by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, males have larger skeletal size and bone mass than females, despite comparable body size. This is relevant to the situation regarding Fallon Fox due to claims by the Transcend Transgender Support & Education Society in a Male to Female transition guide that states “Once your bones have stopped growing after puberty, feminizing hormone therapy won’t change the size or shape of your bones.” This statement rings true with findings that determine that indeed, once men reach the age of approximately 18, their bone structure is set for life.

Combine this with the recent findings that suggest that male facial structure is molded by violence and built to withstand trauma due to evolution and it is entirely possible that a Male to Female transgendered person has a distinct biological advantage in games of violence over a naturally-born female.

Despite the use of hormones to diminish this advantage, it is inherent to the masculine male skeletal structure in general.
Going back to Teresa’s article, she states:

If trans female athletes had so much of an advantage over cis women in competition, wouldn’t they be winning every sport in which they compete all the time? Wouldn’t cis female athletes be getting disproportionately injured all the time? That just doesn’t happen, and it’s disheartening to know that someone like Rousey, who had the potential to be a role model for all women via her sport of choice is not only operating from a place of willful ignorance, but from a place of fear – a land of scary, transmisogynist “what ifs” that have absolutely zero basis in fact.

This likely has to do with the fact that the incidence of transwomen in physical sports is small enough that no, logically, this would not be occurring without large amounts of MTF transitions involved in Women’s sports. The scientific evidence states that while hormone levels can control muscle mass, as stated above, men have a distinct advantage from their very skeletal structure. This advantage is PRECISELY what Rousey was referring to, and as with her policy of bonking her brains out before fights, it’s scientifically sound.

*double sigh*

It’s sad and infuriating to watch a woman of Rousey’s stature, one who’s fought hard to get women their due in her field, turn her back on women who are not like her. Rousey is a hypocrite who flouts gender norms when it suits her, but throws women under the bus when it doesn’t. I can no longer respect her big talk about body positivity and being persistent and not being a “Do Nothin’ Bitch” when she’s unwilling to afford trans athletes that same respect. No matter how many belts she wins.

ronda-rousey-wwe1

Rousey Rockin’ Wrestlemania

The problem inherent with this article as well as all further articles we’ll be discussing in this blog is that the inherent intent is to discredit someone for normal behavior. Rousey’s concerns regarding fighting someone who grew into a male body before transition isn’t Transmisogynist. The author of this article isn’t the one being pulled into armbars and getting punched and kicked. She’s viewing this from a position of entitlement, a position of comfort that makes it easy to call out anything she can perceive as a “shortcoming”.

What is more troubling is the fact that this difference of opinion seems to be enough for proponents of this sort of social justice to attempt to slander prominent female figures. Ronda Rousey SHOULD be an inspiration. She’s accomplished something great. She’s gorgeous and she fights, proving to future generations of girls that this is a possible choice for them.

Ronda’s a role model for girls and women everywhere. Her legitimate concerns about fairness based on gender dimorphism can’t take away from her precisely how inspiring she is.

All you have to do is look at it with reason.

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