Australian Girls in Gi is sexist

“If anyone started an Australian Boys in Gi, you girls would lose your shit. It wouldn’t be allowed ” ~ Facebook genius, November 2016.

Other popular variations also aimed at myself, Australian Girls and Gi and its members since 2010:
  • Australian Girls in Gi/womens only events and organisations are reverse sexism (reverse of what, isn’t sexism just like regular sexism? …Maybe this one beeps as it backs up?…).
  • If men did anything like this it would be shut down or illegal.
  • You obviously hate men/hate training with men/are activated/can’t take a joke.
  • blah blah…lesbians (in this context commenter assumes this is an insult).
  • blah blah…feminists (in this context commenter assumes this is an insult).
  • If I wear a pink Gi/bow in my hair/wear a dress etc can I come too? (in this context commenter equates femininity & infantilism, offers to ’embarrass’ themselves to be or by being, included).
  • “Haha bro *tags male friend* this is the group/competition/training for you bro” (context: commenter assumes being female is an insult or joke)
  • Plus too many other comments of a similar nature.
I’m not sure how many days you’ve been on the internet, heads up on this spoiler alert for first timers: the comments section on any public forum is often misguided, fuelled by emotion and opinion, sometimes disheartening and quite often straight up misinformed. It can be a special place where we can readily find opinion posing as fact, feelings posing as rights, cowards posing as heroes.
Pro tip: Stay safe people. If in doubt, do some research first and try to remember that being offended isn’t illegal or a violation of your rights. Feeling threatened by a movement or idea that doesn’t effect you is likely a waste of your time.
These tips could help save you some confusion. Or energy. Or both.
A helpful guide to Australian Girls in Gi for those that haven’t yet researched:
(And I quote directly from the mission statement easily found on their public website), “AGIG aims to foster, develop and increase the involvement of women within the sport and martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. AGIG works to increase female participation at both club and competition level, with a focus on retention of students within their current team.
By creating opportunities and events for female athletes, AGIG works continually toward equal representation of genders both on (participation) and off (management/administration/leadership) off the mats.”
An easy and recent example of successful gender equality in sport is Crossfit.
BJJ could absolutely achieve this same equality, just with less kipping.
Men and women are equally represented and fostered, with equal opportunity for professional and non professional athletes. If they can do it, BJJ can too and if we genuiely can’t, why is that? Is there resistance to this vision? If so, why so? (ooooh, that’s an entire article in its own right, another time Jess….another time…).
What we’re talking about here is an organisation, or organisations, that aim to focus their entire energy on the growth and development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for all. The organisation and structure of AGIG doesn’t aim to exclude athletes but rather focuses on a budding area within our BJJ community that (we can all agree) continues to require support and is yet to become firmly established. The point of comparison is the current participation of male athletes; this is AGIG’s goal.
AGIG is one of very few groups in the world purely dedicated to the overall benefit of the entire community (as opposed to being club, federation or affiliate specific) while focusing on an area that requires development; to the benefit of all.  We could all literally double our amount of team mates (or, for gym owners, memberships and revenue) simply by having as many female members involved as male members.
A win for everyone.
For those that don’t like training with or sparring with women…if half of the training floor is in fact women, each of us are more likely to find ourselves a training partner that is better suited to our needs. More women, for the nay-sayers out there that are slow to catch up, means you would potentially have to deal with/train with women less! Amazing how that works. Let me break it down for you:
She probably wouldn’t choose you (the non supportive bloke) over a female and/or supportive training partner well …ever… if given the choice really but right now with her limited options you are more likely to end up training with her than not. Imagine a world where she has 10 more appropriate choices for training partner before choosing you (just like you do now with her).
Again, a win for everyone. Even the nay sayers.
Currently, across the Australia and the globe, men are widely able to opt to train with other men either at their Academy or at competition. Women do not always have this same option. This means that not only is there fewer options for women for the same experience as men (training with, learning from, competing against, being mentored by, aspiring to etc etc someone of their gender) it often means that this experience is simply not an option at all. For many gyms to have a few women, let alone one, is still not guaranteed.
Yes there are certain places that don’t include women for religious or cultural reasons; but this is not the main reason for most gyms to not currently have female members. Other factors are in play.
Consider the training life of a female grappler in 2017, in particular one who is currently a brown or black belt. She has only recently (as the sport has increased in popularity and become more widely acceptable for women) begun training with a handful of other women on a regular basis. Typically she out ranks them by miles, literally years and belts ahead. She has very few women, if any, of her rank and size to train with within her gym, region or even country. She is likely offered straight finals at most competitions she enters and yet still charged full price. These straight finals are often merged weight or belt categories (or both) at the smaller competitions. She is offered little, lesser or no remuneration for these super fights when her male counter parts are repeatedly offered cash bonuses or prizes. Her opportunities are limited not by her own enthusiasm but rather those that haven’t yet even considered being involved in the sport at all.
She got to where she is, just like you, with pure grit and determination but has also always been out numbered by men.
Girls only Jiu jitsu groups and events throughout the world are working on equality, not exclusion. I can understand the confusion here if you simplify to small picture and ignore the bigger picture. These female focused initiatives are about creating an overall equal experience for all by focusing attention on a minority group. Yes, you may feel left out when events pop up that are female only but lets reflect on all of the women that have experienced that exact same feeling of exclusion when looking across a sea of men to choose from for during every day training, being the only person in the female change room or, even better, the only person that doesn’t have a change room onsite for her at all (still a common one throughout the world).
It sucks and womens only groups that then offer womens only events are merely trying to even the playing field (playing experience), not create division within the community.
It is relatively simple people math (shuuuuush you, its a thing orright?). Men currently have options to train with both men AND women. Women have many options to train with men but few for training with other women. Equalling out these options, or working toward equal opportunity for all does not take away from anyone’s experience, nor should it be seen as a threat.
So WHY have female only events, why not just get more women in the sport. Simple, right?
Well it’s not that simple, no.
Yes, we have a LONG way to go at a club level when it comes to working on the acquisition of female members but as anyone is gym sales know, retention is just as important as sign ups.

So with the discussion of acquisition of female members to be raised at a later date, lets look at retention and development of female members.

Over the past 6 years we have observed that the gyms with strong numbers of female members (vs the gyms with one or two females) have one thing in common….(one thing aside from all of the obvious needs to thrive such as willing and invested coaches/team mates etc). What is that one thing?

Women in leadership roles. 
There is a clear and proven cause and effect in play here. One that has been repeated with great success many times over.
Look at Absolute MMA, Atos Brisbane, Adelaide BJJ, AET Tullamarine, Fight Club Mackay. HUGE female teams, all with female coaches, owners and leaders. Fight Club Mackay had 28 female members on the mats on the evening of this blog. What is their secret?
Female shared ownership of gym + female coach + female only class options.
What is clearly important to female grapplers is the sense of belonging (to a group or team) and further to that, that there is indeed a place for them on the mats where they are respected and taken seriously; a place where they too can thrive and be accepted as well as potential for growth toward leadership roles or the option to look to female leaders for guidance and inspiration.
What’s the easiest way to prove you are able to offer this to a female? Show her a female you’re already accepting, respecting and developing. (“Here’s one we prepared earlier” FTW.)
So WHY the female only events or organisation? Why not just hire female coaches?
Not all gyms are able to offer leadership roles to anyone let alone someone based on gender over merit. Not all gyms have the time slots available for female only classes.
No one is expecting BJJ gyms to do so without reason or ability; and this is exactly where AGiG offers a solution.
AGIG is a location non specific, team non specific, affiliation non specific organisation that continually shows each member (and the wider community) that women have a rightful place within the community and are always welcomed, fostered and respected, no matter their skill level, age, size, affiliation, amount of training each week, fitness level etc etc. AGIG also creates opportunities for leadership for women within the community without  individual gyms needing to hire staff or create roles for women if they are unable to afford or organise (for whatever reason).
When we know that women who come to our sport are just as capable as men, we fail when we don’t retain them. AGIG focuses on helping ALL GYMS with student retention; AGIG, just like you, wants to keep ALL of your female students and team mates. The AGIG organisation works to ensure athletes feel inspired, supported, prioritised and valuable so that they will stay long enough to make their way to senior ranked belts and become the female athletes that will serve to draw more women to your/their gym.
My thoughts are this: if you need a men’s group to fulfil a need that is lacking in your team, training and community, I’m all for it. Hells, I’ll even support you in your pursuits if it is proven to help grow and develop our sport for all.
To the nay says I say: Attacking female only groups within our community because you think it is sexist and shouldn’t exist, well I can’t help you with that because we are not on the same page. I wish you well in whatever work you are doing to develop the community.
Until the day that people stop tagging men in AGIG event posts with the hilarious ‘This is the event you should enter Johnno, LOL’ AGIG, and therefor I, will keep doing what we do.
Until women are not seen as inferior purely because there’s not enough yet involved to prove otherwise, we’ll keep doing what we do.

Until there is literally no reason for AGIG to exist (because there’s no need to strive for equality any longer and we have achieved all AGIG’s goals) we’ll keep doing what we do.

All the best,
Jess Fraser
Black Belt
Creator of Australian Girls in Gi

Photography credit:
© Fiona Gumboots – http://www.thegumbootchronicles.com/
All images are copyright and not to be reproduced, distributed, published, altered, manipulated or used without my permission.

One Comment Add yours

  1. “AGIG aims to foster, develop and increase the involvement of women within the sport and martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”

    That’s the part that resonates with me. It has nothing to do with gender. I’m a man. I’m part of AGIG. I wear the patches proudly and I support female grappling.

    If you’re opposed to that, then you’re (probably) a fucking idiot, bro.

    Like

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