Posts Tagged ‘Malissa Smith

03
Feb
18

Our daily truth

“We are meant to put an end to sexual assault.” Sterling Reithman from her statement to the court at Dr. Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing in front of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

 

Each day seems to bring more and more to the fore of the truths women and girls live with day after day.

And yet to read it in print, on social media, or watch it all unfold in a myriad of visual images whether in news accounts, the meaning of the colors women wear to events, in video clips from the courtroom—it would seem as if this is the first time we ever knew about it. I liken it to Captain Renault’s line in Casablanca when ordering the closure of Rick’s Place: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling’s going on in here.”

 

 

My first encounter with the fact of life all women live with was when I was seven. There was hole in wall in the bedroom my brother and I shared. A plasterer came to our house to fix it early one morning. My mother went back to bed. My brother and I played in the living room, but after a while, I went into the bedroom to watch the plasterer work. The man was fairly short and stockily built with dark, slicked back hair that fell into his eyes and a swarthy complexion. I was standing there for some time when he turned around quite suddenly. In doing so, he whipped out his penis and started to jerk off. I stood stunned for some time before I could even consider reacting—when I did it was to run out of the room. I stood at the threshold of my mother’s tiny bedroom, but saw she was sleeping. I was loathe to wake her up and frankly frightened because she had admonished me to “let the man work in peace.” I was also not certain what I would even tell her, and so I remained frozen in inaction. Shortly thereafter the plasterer left.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Season 15, Detective Benson and a serial rapist

In the scheme of things, I guess I was lucky. He didn’t sexually assault me or physically molest me—so what was a mere “jerk off” complete with grunts and licking lips. Besides, assault and molestation are usually the provenance of trusted figures in young girls (and frankly young boys) lives: parents, step parents, family members, trusted friends, teachers, coaches, Boy Scout troop leaders, babysitters, priests, pastors and rabbis, doctors, and on and on. It’s usually only later that we become fair game to the sexual predators in the outside world who manipulate, cajole, blackmail and betray their positions of trust to get in our pants one way or another—and that’s only the people we know. Then there are the rapists who grab, molest, rape, abduct, torture, murder and everything in between.  It is so much a fact of our daily lives it is the fodder of our nightly doses of police procedurals on television–and yet we remain shocked and surprised.

My particular litany of woe that includes a myriad of events from childhood well into adulthood is inordinately important to me. Those experiences perpetrated on me by people close to me as well as strangers shaped my life and my choices, my sense of self and my being, and has informed my sense of safety across a lifetime. This latter is of particular import because it defines my womanness as much as anything else. Just as the choices I’ve made to overcome those experiences informs who I have become today.

The point is, yes, absolutely #MeToo, but this is also so much bigger—and we stand at a pivotal point in the conversation where victimization by male sexual aggression and the pass they seem to get from the dominate culture is perhaps, finally being called out for what it truly is: a crime. However, while there are and have been many laws on the books, if women are not believed, their victimizers will not be prosecuted. Nor will these experiences suddenly stop–because they will not. They are perpetrated daily in large ways and small ways and until the culture changes to understand the concept of “no,” this will continue unabated.

When I was researching for A History Of Women’s Boxing, I teased out an interesting phenomenon in the early 1900s. At that time it became acceptable for women to practice boxing and other martial sports. When figuring out the strands in popular culture that would allow this sea change, I discovered in some instances it was to allow women the opportunity to learn self-defense. So there we have it–a problem identified, and a means of resolving it by allowing a variance in the strict gender binary. Would it were so simple.

Ask yourselves this: How is it that a 12-year-old girl complaining about a doctor sticking his fingers into her vagina is not believed?

If our lives are informed by our choices, our lives are also informed by the experiences heaped upon us of which some we control and some we do not. Next time you see me in the gym working out a 7:00 AM, understand that while I am there for many positive reasons such as a love of boxing and a desire to remain fit, I am also there because ensuring I can defend myself is the only way I know of to make myself feel safe: protect yourself at all times.

 

05
Sep
15

We only have each other … women’s boxing

We only have each other … women’s boxing

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Six Women’s Boxing Champions at Gleason’s Gym: (l to r) Melissa St. Vil, Fire McLeod, Heather Hardy, Ronica Jeffries, Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley. Photo credit: Hosking Promotions

Women’s boxing has garnered a fair amount of press in the United States of late from the split-draw IBF Female Super Bantamweight title fight between Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea (24-2-1) and Luna “La Cobrita” Avila (12-2-1) on Shane Mosely’s Pay Per View extravaganza, to the announcement that Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (33-2-3) will fight UFC’s reigning WMMA champion Ronda Rousey in November on the UFC193 card in Melbourne, Australia.

Action will also be heating up in September with a series of bouts featuring East Coast professional female boxers including the return of Alicia “Slick” Ashley (22-10-1) in a WBC Female Superbantamweight title fight on September 15th, Shelito Vincent (14-0) in an 8-rounder at Foxwoods Casino on September 12th (with the top of the card broadcast on NBC), Ronica Jeffrey (13-1) in a 6-rounder on September 11th, and Amanda Serrano in a 6-rounder on September 10th.

Added to that mix will be Australian boxer “Shotgun” Shannon O’Connell (11-3)  making her North American boxing debut in Toronto against Canadian fighter Sandy “Lil Tyson” Tsagouris. The two will battle in an 8-rounder on the undercard of a PBC/Spike TV card headed by the Adonis Stevenson v. Tommy Karpency WBC World light heavyweight title fight.

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(l to r) Susie Ramadan, Alicia Ashley, Shannon O’Connell, Photo Credit: Hosking Promotions

Ahead of her fight, Shannon O’Connell along with two-time world champion Susie Q. Ramadan (23-3) have embarked on a tour of the U.S. with their trainers, promoter Lynden Hosking of Hosking Promotions and U.S. advisor, Eddie Montalvo. The tour has led the two fighters to New York City, and the world-famous Gleason’s Gym where both women had the opportunity to meet with the likes of Keisher “Fire” McLeod, Ronica Jeffries, Melissa St. Vil, Alicia Ashley, and Heather Hardy–a veritable who’s who of women’s boxing champions.

Girlboxing had a chance to meet and talk with O’Connell, Ramadan, promoter Hosking and Heather Hardy who sparred Ramadan for three tough hard-fought rounds.  While the interviews were brief, the sentiment expressed was one of optimism for the sport over all and most importantly of the need for connection and support among the fighters as they battle for recognition and opportunities to practice their art.

Here’s what everyone had to say:

25
Jun
14

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

Here’s to the ladies who punch …

A History Of Women's Boxing

Today’s my big day.

The culmination of over two years of work on my new book, A History Of Women’s Boxing.

I get to strut my stuff in the ring at Gleason’s Gym and speak to an audience of assembled friends about the courage, bravery and pure gumption that women have shown for the past three hundred years each time they’ve donned the gloves. Oh yes, and smile a lot, sign books and jump around with glee!

It’ll be a moment to savor — though I admit to a plethora of doubts:  Did I get everything right? Did I forget someone? Did I make the point about pushing social and legal boundaries enough? Will the reader understand just how brave it was for a young and plucky Barbara Buttrick to insist that she had the right to box in 1949?

The historian’s lament plagues me a bit too. There’s never enough time or materials or opportunities to interview — except perhaps if the historian is Robert Caro, be still my historian’s heart.

The writing process is also a marathon battle — reminiscent of the endless rounds of the bare knuckle boxing era.  If we consider that there are “championship rounds in boxing” — of which Layla McCarter knows a thing or two having insisted on the right to fight 12 three-minute rounds more than once —  plowing through a writing project that is voluminous in the best sense nonetheless gets very, very tough as it heads towards the final chapters.  In my case I overwrote by about two hundred pages, which necessitated a mad scramble to cut, cut, cut. Talk about taking shots — those words were my children, and in my “humble” opinion, the points made were as important as any in the final cut of book, but like any gut shot, one sucks it up and moves on because that’s what happens.

If the writing was at times an arduous task, the overriding sensation, however, was one of deep, deep respect for the women who ply their trade as boxers — such that the project became a true labor of love.  Just the act of climbing through the ropes is, in my estimation, a resounding statement of defiance against the strictures that continue to be imposed on women as they go about their work-a-day worlds — nevermind what that meant in the 1970s when women took to the courts to gain the right box.

It still boggles the mind that women’s amateur fighting was virtually illegal in the United States until 1993 when a young 16-year-old girl named Dallas Malloy sued for the right to compete, not to mention Dee Hamaguchi who opened up the right for women to fight in New York’s Golden Gloves in 1995.

I mean what was that? Amateur boxing was illegal which meant women had no safe means of learning to compete other than to turn pro? Hmmm.

I’ll add that the quickest way to become a feminist is to take on a history of women’s anything project.  Talk about a wake up call! Wow!

Gussie Freeman

As I wrote the book, I admit to having favorites, women like Belle Martell who not only was the first licensed referee in the state of California, but who was also a promoter for amateur fights, took the tickets and then jumped in the ring in a ball gown to announce the bouts–the first women to do so. Belle also tried really hard to promote women in the ring in the early 1950s with the idea that they’d save a sport that was dying on the vine due to television. Gussie Freeman was another one. Talk about a character, she boxed briefly in the 1890s, but made such an impression people still remembered her 50 years later.

Dixie Dugan

When I was a kid, our history textbooks consisted of stories of kings and queens, generals and presidents, with very little about the men and women whose lives collectively swayed the shape of society as the centuries passed.

As a microcosm of society, the history of boxing provides an interesting perspective on social interactions between people, the power of popular culture and issues of race, class and the exploitation of labor. Throwing women into that mix provides a more nuanced understanding of those same issues. For one, women’s spectatorship became an important ingredient in developing boxing as a sport from the 1790s on!

The image of a woman in boxing gloves also became a potent symbol of the changing place of women in western society at points in history, most notably in the period between 1880s and the end of World War II when the place of women was upended in a clear line.

That we still question the place of women in the ring today is just as telling. Yes, there were and are those who object to boxing period no matter who contests the fight, but the notion that female boxing is an anathema still seems to finds its place in the conversation about the sport, which goes to the heart of the argument about the “place” of women in society. Ugh …  still?

Regardless, women push through it all anyway and climb through the ropes knowing their muscles have been honed into perfect boxing shape to leave it all in the ring having given their very best.

All I can say is that I am very, very proud to have contributed in some way to sing their praises.  And yep, here’s to the ladies who punch!

Links to purchase the book:

Barnes and Noble.com 

Amazon.com




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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