Monday, September 17, 2012

How to deal with an inappropriate woman in your academy.

This topic came up in a discussion recently, and one of the participants offered to write a guest post here on the subject.  I should point out that this type of misbehavior is extremely rare (I've only seen it once in nearly 4 years of training) and this is not a case of "She's pretty, the guys like her, I think she's flirting and I hate her."  If you've never experienced this lady in your academy, be grateful-- but on occasion, ladies like this DO check out BJJ and can pose a temporary hiccup in the smooth life of even the most high-minded, professional school.

I'll leave it in their words (anonymously!) but I will add my own thoughts in italics and brackets.  Thank you Anonymous!

The Inappropriate Woman

I.  Who is she?
     A.  She makes comments of a sexual manner while drilling or rolling.
     B.  She interrupts the instructor with comedic sexual commentary.
     C.  She positions her body in a sexual nature on he partner during training sessions. 
D.  She wears inappropriate attire to class-- lingerie in lieu of athletic bra, makeup, omits tshirt or rashguard, or wears tanktops that reveal the lingerie underneath.  Clearly not a case of "oops, forgot to wipe off lipstick after work" or "I'm so new, I only have sweatpants and a t-shirt to wear as I haven't bought a gi yet" or "Woops, wearing a thong and my gi pants have slipped down a bit."  
E.  She speaks while the instructor is speaking, or otherwise behaves in a way that shows she is not thinking about what is being taught.  Any behavior which communicates that she's just passing time while her partner(s) are trying to learn goes in this category.
I'm thinking specifically of a young lady who attended our classes for a while in a very tight tanktop which revealed the edges of a leopard-print underwire pushup bra, with yoga pants, and super-thick cat's-eye eyeliner and mascara.  She also giggled inordinately and seemed to see the boob-smother as her ultimate weapon.

II.  What I want to say to her.
     A.  As a woman, I've had to work very hard to earn the respect of my team, for myself and the women that will follow behind me.  Even if we came into a "well-trained" group of jiu jitsu students who respected us from the word 'go' it's possible to tarnish that and spoil it for women who come after you.
     B.  Every time you are inappropriate on the mat, you diminish my hard work.
     C.  To be a fighter you have to be respected for your hard work and your integrity, not your sexual prowess.
     D.  When you are inappropriate on the mat you are sexually harassing your partner.  You are possibly making it difficult for them to concentrate-- they're paying for this time, and they deserve the opportunity to use it to their advantage.  It may be that they can only train once this week, or once today-- why do you get to put your goals and ego gratification ahead of their goals?  And what if his girlfriend/wife decided that today would be the first time she comes to observe a class... now you have infected her with the idea that girls in jiu jitsu are not training partners, that her man will be subject to predation like yours, and not only should she not come and train, but he shouldn't either.  Gee, thanks.  Jiu jitsu might have taught her self-defense skills, might have improved her relationship to her body or to her man...
     E.  No one should have to tolerate sexual harassment, female or male.
III.  Options a person has to dealing with the inappropriate woman on the mat.
     A.  Zero tolerance - Stand up and walk away.
     B.  Direct method - State, "That is NOT appropriate." and move then verbally instruct them on their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique.  Be sure to use the word "not" instead of "isn't".
     C.  The politically correct method - In private, tell your instructor that said person makes you uncomfortable and why.  Then request that they discuss proper decorum with said person.
     D.  Old School - A sensei of less politically correct times would say, "Class, you seem distracted.  Do twenty push-ups and refocus your attention on the lesson.
E.  When you're a woman and you observe another woman behaving inappropriately:  This can be tricky-- so much depends on your own position and role within the school.  If you're a whitebelt it can be different than if you're a purple, of course.  
  1. The first time or two it happens, hope that whoever she is partnered with will handle things on their own-- or that the instructor will observe and address it on their own.  But don't feel hesitant about bringing it to your instructor's attention privately.  I say this specifically to women because we all know that what is seen as "direct" or "assertive" in a man will often be attributed to being "a bitch" when coming from a woman.  Thus I advocate a little extra sensitivity and discretion in the woman-to-woman interactions.  
  2. If the behavior continues, personally I suggest attempting to partner with this woman every time she comes to class.  Often this is encouraged anyway, because, well, we're both girls.  Make sure she has a good experience with jiu jitsu so that she will want to train for jiu jitsu's sake-- but help her understand her attire, makeup, or word choice will get in her way and in others' way.  If you need to be direct-- take her aside and quietly say "Next time you come to class, an athletic bra and a tshirt will help make sure nothing shows accidentally, and a poke from an underwire can be very uncomfortable."  In fact, when I was new to jiu jitsu, a purple belt gal from my academy took me aside and told me to start wearing a tshirt or rashie over my athletic bra.  I wasn't trying to get attention, I was just bloody hot, and I didn't think I was at risk of accidental exposure.  She explained to my benefit that sometimes a tshirt will be the only thing saving your modesty.  I'm grateful she explained it to me because she ended up being right-- I've had a slip or two and been relieved that she gave me that advice.
  3. You might consider trying to discern her motivation for behaving as she does-- is it sheer cussedness and desire to be the center of male attention? is she just young and over-friendly? is she nervous and retreating to a place of "safety" because she doesn't know how to deal with having a sweaty guy laying on her, or laying underneath her?  And then after class during conversation, paint a picture of your own beginnings in jiu jitsu, and talk about how you overcome those same feelings (or someone else overcame their feelings if you really can't say it with a straight face.)  Sometimes the temptation is to make the chick miserable so she leaves-- but it's to everyone's advantage to train jiu jitsu, on a spiritual as well as physical level, and she might need jiu jitsu more on this plane than you imagine.  So restrain your irritation and help her understand that it really isn't sexual-- make her focus on not getting choked out by someone who isn't presenting a sexual circumstance-- and be friendly throughout so that someday when she looks back on it, she doesn't feel such embarrassment or mortification that she wants to quit. 
IV.  Don't be a hater.
     A.  As much as I want to despise these inappropriate women, I realize that they are human.
     B.  There are medical conditions that can heighten a person's sex drive, which can lead to inappropriate behavior.
     C.  Pheromones and hormones play a part in our behavior. Read more here!
     D.  If a woman has never been physically active and suddenly finds herself in a sea of sweaty male bodies, her senses can be overwhelmed.  This person will not have the social skills to deal with the situation.
E.  This is what I was talking about above.  There are lots of reasons she might be choosing to act this way.  Even if she's had a bad run of luck with men and wants to feel attractive and whatever-- forgive her, and get her back on track.
V.   You've exhausted your options and the person continues to be inappropriate.   
     A.  Boot their tail out of your school,
     B.  If you don't boot the person out, they will cause problems.
     C.  Don't feel guilty for booting them out.


Ruben E Avila said...

This post opened my eyes to the fact that these women should not be judged. Thank you for that. I often have had no patience for this behavior from either men or women. But, now, I think I will work on a little more tolerance and patience.

Cyrus the Virus said...

Who are these women and why don't they train at my gym?! Lol

Shark Girl said...

Great post. Great advice.

Blue Belt said...

At my gym, I will usually (bite the bullet) and partner women like the ones you described here. As a female blue belt, I think it is my responsibility to "protect" my male classmates from predators like her (Grin!), but more importantly, if she is a new student, this will weed out any misconceptions of whether she is simply "man-hunting" or is really interested in BJJ. If she is man-hunting, she'll be put off by the fact that she has to train with other females, and hence she will leave eventually. I myself don't see it as sacrificing my own training, cos I'll use it as an exercise in "helping" a newbie female, or if she has experience on the mats, using the skills I have as a BJJer.

Anonymous said...

ok…i have thought of a solution for this specific problem. i will start a gym that welcomes all of these women and keep them all to myself. thank you.

i should also say that i would supplement my training at a "proper" gym. i would just go to this "special" place for the "fun" of it. However, i agree that this would be a particularly annoying thing when trying to learn in class. i myself would be very distracted and not learn anything.

Georgette said...

To this last commenter: there is a place you can get this! It's called "session wrestling." Google it (NSFW.)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that you're not demonizing anyone here, Georgette. I can tell you I've seen inappropriate men and women alike. 90% of the time, they just don't know it's not appropriate. The rest of it is usually nerves or disappears quickly.

Anne said...

Well said (both of you who contributed to the original post). Thank you for posting this!

Muay Thai NYC said...

I appreciate for this informative and interesting stuff. You have shared very informative points. Thanks for sharing.

Steve said...

Nice Human Resources article. I'm going to print this out for safekeeping. Just kidding.

Anyways, thanks for what you wrote. It's always great to get a perspective from the other side especially on an issue such as this.

We have had a few of these women come through the doors and I've always wondered what other female jiu-jitseiro's thought of them.

If they're dedicated, I've got no issues. If they are there for social hour or because they have a thing for tough guys, I have no time for it.

We have also had some issues with relationships starting up as a result of training together and when they end, it's never good.