Women Bludgeoning Women: On the UFC and Femininity

I had a friend point me to this Sports Illustrated article on tomorrow night’s UFC fight between two women, the first of its kind. The SI author, Melissa Segura, trumpets the bout as a major step forward for women.

Here’s a description of what Ronda Rousey, the favorite, does in her trademark move:

Rousey’s career, however, has been nothing short of freakish. In six professional fights in the now-defunct Strikeforce circuit, the 26-year-old bronze medal Olympic judoka submitted each of her opponents in the first round via her trademark armbar, a technique in which she hyperextends her opponents shoulder or elbow past parallel. Executing the move, with the sound of tendons and ligaments snapping audible to the fighters, Rousey says, is like “When you’re trying to get a turkey thing off and you feel all the cartilage and the tendons and the bones coming off, when you’re pulling it, it really is that exact feeling. It’s gross. But that’s the way it is.”

Read the whole thing.

If you read my humble little blog, you may know that I actually don’t support mixed martial arts for men or women. I have ethical concerns about unnecessary violence, and about supporting it as a Christian. The early church spoke against the gladiatorial games, and was the major force in ending them; the modern church seems oftentimes to be almost the leading cultural supporter for ultra-violent sports. (I play a contact sport–basketball–but am wary of others that involve a much higher level of contact.)

It’s particularly noteworthy that the UFC is sponsoring a fight between two women, though. This has not previously happened. Women do box, of course, but that’s never really caught on in the cultural mainstream. Now we’re looking at women entering the MMA ring, brutalizing one another, tearing tendons, and–ironically–getting one another to submit.

You can’t make this stuff up.

There’s no Bible verse that says “Thou, woman, shalt not snap another woman’s tendons.” Biblical women, furthermore, are sometimes put in a situation where physical violence is necessary–one thinks of Deborah and Jael from Judges 4-5. Every woman is a member in the kingdom of Christ, which does violence against the powers and principalities of Satan. Biblical womanhood, therefore, is fully engaged in the spiritual conflict against darkness, and the women who embody this spirit work hard on a variety of fronts to glorify the Lord. The Proverbs 31 woman is a durable, hard-working, fearless taker of dominion, for example.

But women attacking one another for no good reason? That’s not been a part of the church’s spiritual program. In contrast to a world that preys upon women, the church is to be a refuge for them. Women who are married are to be spiritually and comprehensively protected by their husband in the image of Christ (Ephesians 5:24). Christ did not ask his bride to suffer for him; he did not ask her to go to war in his place. He gave his own body so that his wife, God’s people, could thrive and live.

Like so many issues in life, you have to put together a doctrine on this matter carefully. We often assume that if there isn’t a text explicitly speaking to a modern matter (women and UFC), then the Bible has absolutely nothing to say about it, and in fact to put together a theological perspective is in fact to go beyond Scripture and be “legalistic.”

That, my dear friends, is not right. We have to “put together” views on countless questions. The Scripture speaks directly to a good number of matters, and where it doesn’t, we mine it for wisdom so that we can forge the best possible–the most faithful–view.

That’s what theology is: the application of the Bible (explicit teachings and otherwise) to all of life, as John Frame has said.

Because of this image and its correlation to God’s design, godly men are to treat their wives with reverence and love as the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). What flows from this text? Among other conclusions, women are not men; boys are not raised like girls; women are to be treated lovingly. The church should train boys to shoulder burdens, sacrifice their bodies on behalf of girls, and protect women. It’s not good for boys to fight girls, and it’s not good for girls to fight other girls. The spirit of a woman, in sum, is to be gentle and quiet (1 Peter 3:4). A feminist age running counter in many ways to biblical Christianity opposes this teaching, and trains girls to think the opposite.

But the Bible’s teaching is wise, and good, and for the full flourishing of women.

So when we see UFC sponsoring a fight between two women, we’re not surprised. We’re seeing a worldly rejection of a biblically-informed model of womanhood. We’re witnessing the blurring of sex roles. Many of us, of course, wouldn’t want men to senselessly attack other men, so we wouldn’t support UFC anyway, but we would still see conflict and battle as the province of men, not women, if wars must indeed be fought.

Godly women are spiritually tough. They endure. They fight the flesh and the devil. They persevere. They work hard in their vocation to the glory of the Lord. They’re gentle and quiet, but they’re not weak and wispy. They go to spiritual battle against the forces of darkness. Yet they do not take the place of their husbands, and they realize it’s foolish to blur the lines between the sexes and compromise their God-given femininity. The gospel, we see, frees women to be who they are: distinct creations of God, shaped by his creativity, designed for his glory.

Femininity, after all, is not a curse. It is a gift. It’s unique. The world sneers at it. But God loves it, and God loves women who war against Satan, ironically, by defying worldly wisdom, and embracing a spirit of submission and gentleness.


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