|I must admit that, post Ali, I haven't had a lot of interest in boxing. In the sixties and seventies it seemed to be a global cultural phenomenon. Maybe because, aside from the Olympics, it was the only sport that seemed to be televised and viewed across the world. I've noticed the steady rise of women's boxing, but only in passing. Angela Meyer may have a similar overall view of the sport - I can't be sure - but she was certainly intrigued and captivated by Mischa Merz's Bruising, an account of her life in the ring. Meyer interviewed the author for her weblog LiteraryMinded.|
You mention in the book that women are encouraged to be aware of aggression, or aggressive exercise as catharsis, but are generally discouraged to take it as far as fighting. Do you think many women might be held back by what they still see as 'inappropriate' displays of strength and ferocity?
I think probably less and less with each generation. Women of my age (without being too specific) were probably more self-conscious and you still hear them worry about building too much muscle or looking strong. And in some of the classes I have taken they are appalled at the suggestion of hitting someone. Even when I ask them to hit me, who has been hit many times and is virtually immune to it, they shake their heads as if I have asked them to decapitate me. Others are more keen to give it a go and a small number of them can be quite dangerous and I have to really watch myself with them. Back when I started, though, aggression by women was still regarded as something only the insane or hysterical would do or maybe a last resort for a woman being attacked. People struggled with the idea that it was functional rather than emotional and that physical aggression has legitimate application in sport. But this idea that you only hit someone if you're upset or out of control made it hard for women to take it on. They quite naturally didn't want to look crazy. And fair enough. But these days I see teenage girls really mixing it up and getting very physical and aggressive in sport without a second thought. I think there's a parallel with surfing. Women's surfing has really taken off in the same time frame as I have been boxing and they had to deal with the same doubts and discouragement. But then men were teaching their daughters from young and so a whole bunch of women have popped up fully formed. But there is still a bit of resistance with boxing. Men still say things like 'girls are too pretty to box' as if there are no pretty boys also boxing. It also implies that a woman's looks are more important than anything else about them. But I've seen quite a few women now with slightly bent noses and frankly, it enhances their looks. Maybe that's just me seeing them through the skewed eyes of a fanatic. I tend to regard anyone with a broken nose as being slightly more beautiful.