Now, I wasn’t exactly searching for equality in that particular place. I just happened to realize one day as the years had passed, and I had grown older, that it had always been there. I am talking about the dojo, where I train martial arts. A dojo, for those of you who are in the need of a little Japanese cultural injection, is the place where you train martial arts such as: Karate, Ju Jutsu, Kenjutsu, Aikido, judo, Kendo etc.
But before I come to my wondrous discovery of equality in my dojo, let me dedicate a moment to talk about what equality and feminism mean to me. When I was younger. Okay I will need to reveal my age here. I am 37 years old, born in 1982 on one of the coldest days in the history of Danish weather forecasts; -32 degrees Celsius. So we are talking the 90’s and 00’s, when I was a teenager and into my early 20’s. In those days you almost could not mention the words feminism and feminist without getting a pair of rolling eyes and a mocking snort thrown your way. Usually those rolling eyes belonged to men, because God knows it was tiresome for them to listen to women’s challenges on the path of equality, where burning bras were coming at them like Molotov cocktails. Actually the image of women lighting up their bras in the street is a myth. It comes from a demonstration in front of the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in 1968, where women had gathered to show their disapproval of the competition. A trashcan was set up labeled with the words “Freedom Trash Can”, and women threw pieces of clothing, high-heeled shoes, and some bras also found their way into it. Some people report that the trashcan caught fire, but this was only for a brief moment, and the fire was quickly extinguished. The image of burning bras (although there are no actual photos) and phrases like bra-burning-man-haters caught on quickly and helped the critics of feminism to ridicule the women’s movement. However the image is completely false. So, bye bye burning bras.
Men were simply tired of hearing about women’s problems — of course they are not just called problems, they are called “women’s problems”. It was just completely inappropriate for us women to be bothering the men with such indifferent problems as our human rights.
“Here she goes again, will she ever shut up, what do I care, get back in the kitchen, is it really that bad?”
Those were the attitudes that met me, when I as a young teenager or woman wanted to discuss my freedom to walk around in a short skirt without being called a hooker, freedom to not having to see a semi to full naked women advertising something, that has nothing to do with women or nakedness on every street corner, on TV, on internet and in magazines on a daily basis. Freedom to make the same amount of money as my male colleagues, freedom to go for a run alone in the park without the fear of being assaulted, raped, harassed, stared at and the list goes on and on. Even in a modern country like Denmark, often classified as the “happiest nation” in the world, you could experience the deep resentment from men towards feminists and their cry for equality. The thing that bothers me the most is the fact that women were ridiculed, and the problems of inequality were diminished, often referring to them as being silly and exaggerated. Today, post #metoo, women and their fight for obtaining equal rights around the globe is finally being taken more seriously, although on the other hand, the critics of feminism seem to have grown even more conservative. Instead of calling us bra-burning-man-haters, we have now been labeled with the highly offensive name: Feminazis. Not too long ago I heard a Danish politician express:
“Feminism is an anti-democratic movement and does not belong anywhere in a modern government. It wants to make policy for one part of the population, and it is the worst-case identity policy.”
Let’s get a few things clear. Feminists fight for EQUAL rights between all human beings. They do NOT fight for women to have more or better rights than men. Men should probably be quite satisfied knowing that women ONLY want equal rights and not revenge. Furthermore, feminism is not the female version of machismo, as some people seem to think. Men who think women should have the same rights as them are feminists, and luckily there are more and more of them everyday.
As I started out by saying, I found equality in the place, where I train martial arts together with 15–20 sweaty men of all shapes, sizes, nationalities and colors. We get close. We get REAL close. If you have ever seen a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition (fighting on the floor), you know what I am talking about. And for you, who are not familiar with this sport, try to think of all the most awkward and strange positions imaginable. I’m sure most of you have heard of and perhaps also practiced the sex position 69 — in martial arts we call that North and South. Yes, we get down and dirty. One minute you have your face in an armpit and the next in the groin of someone. It is not uncommon for your opponent’s sweat to drop into your eyes, his or her hair to come into your mouth, and hands desperately grabbing anything they can get a hold on.
Fighting standing up is no different. When you throw someone, you have to get close, in some cases, move your butt back towards the person standing behind you to shift his balance point, and in that way lift him up. For punching, you might knee someone in the genitals by accident, or they might punch you in your chest. Here is the thing, if you have to think about how embarrassing or awkward it is to place your butt in the face of another guy, or when he pushes his body down on your chest, or a hand accidentally grabs a boob, you will loose the fight. There is no time to be embarrassed, and so we are not. We are just not embarrassed, because there isn’t room for it. I have known some of the guys for 10 years, and I truly believe, that when we are inside the dojo, they forget I am a woman (I know this because sometimes they forget I have breasts), just like I forget, they are men. We are just human beings. Some are bigger, some are stronger, some have more stamina, and some are technically more advanced. We are all different, but it has nothing to do with our gender. You would think that in a place where force and size is fairly important, the difference between man and woman would be more noticeable, but it could not be further from the truth. I love that the men in my dojo hit me like they hit the other guys, I love that they are not embarrassed about being close to me (and also not take advantage of it), I love that we respect each other, I love that they expect the same from me as from anyone else, I love that sometimes I win a fight, and sometimes they win a fight. And most importantly, I love that we don’t think about being men and women, but just enjoy the present moment with the qualities we each have.
To succeed in creating equality for men and women (and everything in between) we don’t have to forget about who we are. Men and women are different in many ways, but at the same time it is interesting to remember, that the human DNA sequence is about 99,5% identical no matter our nationality, sexuality, race, color, gender etc. That means the difference between me and you is only about 0,5%. Now, that can really put nationalism, racism and sexism into perspective. Having said that, we do of course have our differences; one of the more obvious ones being our reproductive system. However this does not justify the lack of equality, that most women are experiencing today. Women don’t have to take of their bras, and men don’t have to start wearing dresses (they can of course, if they want to, but it is not necessity for equality to bloom). All we have to do is just respect each other for the various different qualities we posses, and expect the same of everyone regardless of their gender.
I hope one day my dojo will be a reflection of our society, and not the exception as it currently is.