Are feminists actually criticizing UFC fighter, Ronda Rousey, because she, at one point, lacked an understanding of how transgender bodies respond to hormone therapy? Are they really upset that she hasn’t the knowledge of a person who has endured a transition or who has done extensive research on the matter?
Recently, Teresa Jusino of The Mary Sue expressed her disappointment that Rousey, with all of her publicity, is not a staunch advocate for transgender athletes. She explained, “Having heard Rousey talk about important stuff like body image was also hugely encouraging, as she’s often criticized for having a ‘masculine’ figure. … One would hope that someone who challenges ideas of what ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are would be more understanding of, if not entirely knowledgeable about, transgender athletes. For Rousey, however, this is not the case.”
She afterward notes that although Rousey was critical of transphobic remarks from reporter, Matt Mitrione, two years ago, her response was not sufficient in defending transgender individuals. She even argues that Rousey consented to his views.
The basis for her argument? The following quotations regarding transgender fighter, 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. … I understand the UFC doesn’t want to be associated with views like (Mitrione’s). I’m also glad they didn’t straight cut him.”
“It’s not something that happened to [Fox]. It was a decision she made. She should be aware in her career after that, it’s going to be an arduous path. I don’t know why she’s surprised by that. It’s going to draw a lot of emotions. … What if she became UFC champion and we had a transgender women’s champion? It’s a very socially difficult situation.”
Based on this assessment, Ronda Rousey is guilty of little more than ignorance. After approximately two years of hormone replacement therapy, depending on the individual, transgender women are said to lose a percentage of their bone density and muscle mass, effectively rendering them equivalent, as far as physical strength goes, to cis-women.
At any rate, trans athletes are permitted to compete in various sports so long as they are legally the gender they claim. However, Fallon Fox is not yet allowed to fight in the UFC. It is not surprising Ronda Rousey assumed she would be at a disadvantage when she made these remarks two years ago.
She is a fighter, and yes, a role model to some, but she objectively said nothing to offend the transgender community. She spoke her mind based on the facts she had at the time and the questions thrown her way. As an inclusive society, we should support her in her learning, rather than admonish her for her ignorance.
After all, ignorance is no reason to reject a person, and a difference in opinion is not cause to disrespect her. Ronda Rousey has earned the esteem of the public, and has done it in the name of women. Who knows? With a little time, she may champion fairness among all women — trans, inter, and cis — in her sport! There is no need to tarnish her image over a misunderstanding of a complex issue.