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Am I the only person unhappy about women boxing?

Sports like wrestling and boxing are training women to be as aggressive as men

By on Monday, 27 August 2012

London Olympic Games - Day 13

I know this question is the most politically incorrect one could raise in these exultant, post-Olympic days and that I’ll be met with shouts of derision or sheer disbelief, but I’ll ask it anyway: should women engage in the sport of boxing? When I saw the photographs of Olympians Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams fighting in the ring I felt aghast – and I still feel that way. It might seem a victory in the on-going feminist struggle for women’s complete equality with men, but it strikes me as a hollow victory; a blow against the nature of womankind; indeed, a step backwards for civilisation.

I had better state here that I have absolutely nothing against the two young women who won their boxing gold medals. I understand that Katie Taylor, aged 26, who won Ireland’s first gold medal as a lightweight, and who already has won four world and five European titles, is an evangelical Christian who regularly attends a Pentecostal church and who prays before her fights. In almost any other sport she would make an excellent role model. She is now wondering whether to turn professional. Nicola Adams, aged 29 and from Leeds, a flyweight, who has struggled for years to get sponsorship, sounds equally talented, dedicated, modest and charming. She has commented that “It’s great to think girls might take up the sport because of me. It’s a great sport and it’s an honour that people are looking up to me in that way.”

Scouring the newspapers for a smidgeon of support for my own position, I have not been able to find one dissenting voice in the accolades Katie and Nicola have been receiving. Jonathan McEvoy in The Mail On-Line enthuses, “You have to remind yourself the two slight figures in the ring, hidden behind their head guards, are not blokes.” He reflects, “At the acute risk of being called a chauvinist, I had…some misgivings. I am not sure my concerns amounted to a reasoned objection. If women want to box, who are we men, or indeed their fellow women, to say they shouldn’t? Nor is it a logical misgiving when you consider that women take part in rugby, taekwondo and wrestling. They can all be more injurious than amateur boxing with its protective gear…” Watching Nicola Adams in the ring he is quite won over: she “even had this sceptic’s support, 100%.”

Amir Khan, the 2004 Olympic boxing silver medallist, is on record as having once said, “Deep down I think women shouldn’t fight. When you get hit it hurts. It can be very painful”. It appears he has now changed his mind. He wants to promote Nicola Adams, declaring “I’m happy to take Nicola under my wing. I will make her a world champion.” Sir Clive Woodward of the British Olympic Association is also a champion of women’s boxing, stating exultantly that “We have arrived at true equality.”

I am sorry to sound a curmudgeon in all this. I am just wondering if everyone is too punch-drunk at the sight of our gleaming gold medal table to ask if it is appropriate for women to punch each other hard on the head and face in several bouts, with a view to knocking each other down (or out?) Women are not the same as men so why do we have this need to prove ourselves “equal” to them in every way? The sexes are different in personality and character as well as in physique; they are complementary, not interchangeable. Men are physically stronger, more aggressive; they are the sex who traditionally went into battle to protect the hearth and home. Women were supposedly the gentler sex in the best sense so it was thought, with gifts of compassion, caring, sympathy and intuition; the sex that civilised men by creating a home for them and their children (or in these days, creating a kinder, more humane atmosphere in the office). Why is it “chauvinistic” to say this, or to feel you have to apologise for acknowledging, as Jonathan McEvoy has admitted, that you have “misgivings”? Why are Amir Khan’s instincts “deep down” now seen as wrong?

The age of women’s rights began with a noble cause: the right to vote. But this endless battle for literal “equality” has ended by making fools of us all. Personally, I think we are all pretending we enjoy watching women, looking at a distance “like blokes” in their protective head guards, attacking other women in a deliberately aggressive, close contact sport that has been traditionally and rightly a male preserve. Either people are afraid to say the sight makes them uneasy or everyone has become more decadent in their tastes. For the record, and as McEvoy raised it, I also don’t like the thought of women doing taekwondo, wrestling or rugby, other masculine-type contact sports. It’s not that they are “unladylike”, a word with class connotations of “gentility”. It’s that they are unwomanly in its deepest sense. They are training women to be aggressive – and men are already aggressive enough.

I am not trying to stereotype women as shrinking violets. Catholics have the person of Our Lady as a model and guide. She was amazingly strong, steadfast and courageous – but also intrinsically feminine, not a pagan warrior queen. If we want women to behave like the fabled Amazons we are embracing neo-paganism. Judaeo-Christianity once gave us a more truly civilised sense of the particular genius of women – and it did not include participating in essentially male sports. Perhaps in countries where a Catholic culture is still alive or in a faith where women can identify with strong role models like Edith Stein or Blessed Gianna Molla, there is less of a craving to imitate men?

I think I’ll need protective head gear for saying all this.

  • Ron Van Wegen

    “Gone are the days when boxers were permitted to deliver blows to the brain-case…”
    What on earth do you mean by that?

  • Ron Van Wegen

    Are there any other “sports” where the purpose of the sport is to physically injure the other person in order to be victorious?
    Certainly, injuries happen in all sports but they are not willed directly.
    I believe that deliberately attempting to destroy a part of God’s creation without due cause is immoral.
    I’m a man and an orthodox Catholic and I have deeply considered this for many years.
    I also know that I enjoy watching boxing but I refuse to watch it.
    I congratulate the author of this article and I challenge others to use reason and Catholic teaching to argue their point.
    One final question…
    Men are not allowed to hit “below the belt” for obvious reasons.
    Are women allowed to hit below the neck?

  • BTyler

    You spend an awful lot of time here!

  • Ronk

    No you are not alone. The writers you quote, and most of the commenters here, have confused EQUAL witrh IDENTICAL.

  • paulsays


  • Carl

    I think that boxing is very degrading to the character and nature of women.

  • rightactions

    In the U.S., women make $0.77 to the man’s $1.

    This claim has been repeatedly proven to be misleading.  Women don’t choose to work the same jobs as men.  For example, women strongly tend to avoid unpleasant, dirty, dangerous jobs, jobs requiring overtime work and extended travel away from home, and jobs with direct line-management or profit-and-loss responsibilities.
    Also, spending money is much more pleasant than earning it and in that, the consumer spending of men has been judged by various sources (including Oprah Winfrey’s organizations) to be only $0.16 to $0.20 the female’s $1.  I guess that’s what feminists call female disadvantage.

    We don’t receive equal pay for doing the same jobs and same amount of work.  Why?  Because we are women.

    That’s true, but not in the manner Dara wants you to believe.  In the U.S., women gain more pay for less work.  Their hourly wages are often higher – yes higher – for “doing the same jobs and same amount of work”.  Plus, females take more paid time off and their benefit packages are more lucrative.
    I recommend that people read Warren Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More.

  • Sahsah52

     shouldn’t 50% be more masculine than average?

  • Charles

    The 15% of women that are actually masculine by nature have joined forces with the 15% of men that are feminine by nature (not addressing homosexuality here) to try to culturally impose on the rest of us their desire to live as the other gender. Most of these did not fit in normal society and were Tom Boy girls  or ultra sensitive men when growing up and they ended up where many people who are different end up, the Television and Movie industry. That’s why this minority has so much influence. Although they have a right to live as they please, we must give them hell for trying to impose their gender bending lifestyle on the rest of us.

  • Meena

    Although not a boxer, I have met women who do box.
    I believe that the rules of boxing are designed to avoid injury. There is no deliberate attempt to cause injury. 

  • Meena

    Harm is not a certain outcome in a high proportion of boxing matches.

    Nowadays it is a very rare outcome, and almost unknown in women’s boxing.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     I hope it stays that way and shows men’s boxing the way foreward.
     A salutory story is that of the late Becky Zerlentes a professor of geography and economics.
     She was knocked down in a boxing match and died of probably subdural haemorrhage.
     The problem with rarity in statistics is that if it is you its 100 percent.

  • Mother of a boxing woman

    If you are going to drag Our Lady into your justification, I’m sure she would be against men fighting also.

  • Web9876

    Excellent response to this writer….Sue Fox

  • Anjanorman

    Bullocks! I was 8 when I decided to be a vet, against all my surrouding family. I was 17 when I entered vet school. I was 32 when I had my first chid and 33 when my husband had enough of me being so dedicated to horses, He told me there was a sport that woukld suit me and that was boxing, I started and I loved the diversity of the sport.  I am now 46 and I have 4 children. I am still actively coaching and exercising the sport of boxing and I would love everly single girl fo this country to engage in boxing or any other sport. What could possibly be wrong with that?

  • Oconnord

    What utter rubbish. Where did you get the arbitrary 15%? A figure that, by coincidence, applies to both genders. You are trying to mix cultural habits with a ridiculous idea of masculinity or femininity.  If I wore pink undershirts and walked arm about shoulder, or waist, with my male friends, you, I’m sure would call me feminine. But in Pre-Victorian Britain that was common male behaviour, particularly amongst soldiers. 

    In modern times behaviour has also changed. My father never did more than greet his own father with a handshake. But he now greets his sons, after any long absence, with a hug and kiss. Does this make him effeminate?

    You don’t seem to realise that as the stigma is removed from “gay”, both effusiveness and stoicism are perfectly acceptable. You can object if you find either of them unwarranted if applied to you. But they just aren’t labelled by gender any more. 

    But perhaps you’d still consider me in the “15%”, I don’t work in a “macho” profession like construction, I greet some of my friends with hugs, whether male or female, I’m well mannered and slim built. I think the odds are you’d think I’m feminine by nature.

    But you would incorrect, I could re-build your bathroom, or any other room. I have a 30″ waist, as I’ve gained 2″ since I used to box as a teenager, 20 years ago. I am so confident in my sexuality as to embrace gay friends and attend gay venues. In fact, in real life, I don’t bother correcting people like you anymore. You’ll think what you want to think. 

    If you are so superficial as to judge a person to a masculine or feminine standard you invented, you are a lost cause.   

  • Oconnord

    I wish it was as honest and innocent as you say. Here we are talking about Olympic boxing so you are correct. Unfortunately the world of professional boxing has long been a sewer, although much improved.
    Still though in male boxing, the Olympics is often seen as a simple stepping stone. Female boxing (achievements), to the most extent, are seen as goal in itself.  

  • Oconnord

    What’s most frightening here is the tendency to refer to “women” as if they were a group of sheep. It’s one of many articles with this subtext, but I’ve yet to read one that refers to men in the same manner. The CH never presumes that it’s articles by male authors will apply to all men, but it’s articles by Mrs. Philips are addressed to all “women”. (Admitted by title and sub-title, which may be editorial choice, but the point stands).

    Mrs Philips represents the tiniest of catholic women, and much though I like here writing she is an anachronism. She is a well educated, well meaning, catholic writer, but without any understanding of being a catholic woman in this world. Even her reports about the experiences of her grandchildren are tenuous, who didn’t lie to their granny when growing up? 

    The CH needs female contributors, representative, confident, but above all female.  

  • Marco

     As usual Oconnord missed the point. I don’t deny your right to live as you please. I just say that if you want to impose your lifestyle on me I have every right to give you hell about it. If every conservative made a point of turning off TV shows that attacked traditional lifestyles, the Hollywood freak show just might come to an end.

  • Krisco Williams

    You are not alone. I too agree with you. There are many more but they might not come out and say so.

  • jill

    Dara, to this point, I would like to add that “bulk” does not equal “aggression.”  There are plenty of female boxers like myself who are small (110lbs) and while yes, there is some aggressive energy there, there is also a willingness to learn the science, the art behind boxing.  This is why we love it.

    While here, I wanted to address the 15% of women are masculine comment.  That’s ridiculous! How did you measure that?  In addition to boxing, many women besides myself, love wearing high heels, make-up, fashion, and nurturing others.  So, am I masculine or feminine?  Which percentage am I in?

    The last thing I want to say while here is:  Why is it always the staunch Christians who judge the crap out of everyone?  I was raised Catholic and hate the hypocrisy.   “Love and accept all others the way Jesus would.”  Yes, I can get with that, but then there is countless judging and bashing of those who are homosexual, females who desire to box, etc.  These are desires that are inherent in our beings so why would they be “wrong?”  Yes, you have your opinion to “not like” it, but don’t go making up ridiculous statistics and arguments to support it.