Dr Louise Randall, GRIT Founder
When we think of boxing, we think of the fight that happens within the ring. That’s put on for our own entertainment under the lights and in front of an audience. We don’t often think of the fights that happen in the background, of the boxers own personal journeys and internal battles. Sometimes the fight is about getting into the ring, sometimes it’s about trusting your corner to support you, and sometimes it’s about knowing when to not fight and when to finally step out of the ring.
Katie Taylor is the current undisputed woman’s lightweight champion of the world and recently made history with her fight against equally regarded boxer Amanda Serrano. It was the first time a woman’s fight headlined at the famous Madison Square Garden in front of a sold out crowd, and the first time women have earned million dollar purses.
Katie Taylor became a professional boxer only four years ago when there was hardly any appetite for commercial women’s boxing. What a tremendous journey she has been on, not just in boxing but also in her fight for equality. It was only in 1996 that the UK lifted the ban on women’s amateur boxing and not until 2012 that women’s boxing debuted at the Olympics. Katie Taylor may be an excellent boxer, but her fight to even get in the ring is more impressive.
This isn’t a feminist post. I’m not going to go through the reasons why women weren’t allowed to box - if you’re interested you can look them up and decide for yourselves. What I’m more interested in is the current questions and curious into our gender and identity associated with it. In every group we’ve run with GRIT there has been at least one person who would prefer to go with a different name and gender to that with which they were assigned at birth. I will admit, I struggled with this to start with. It was not something that was really on the radar when I was growing up. It comes up a lot in conversation with older generations who struggle to understand the concept of wanting to associate with a different gender. I have since come to embrace it. I think it is great that young people are exploring what gender means to them, what limitations society places on individuals by their gender and what we expect of them and what this means to them. It’s a courageous decision. Young people who question their gender have higher levels of mental health problems and need our support rather than alienation. They are providing us with an opportunity to explore our own beliefs about gender and what we feel we ‘should’ be doing based on that. It’s not always comfortable, but always worth it.
So today I urge you, if your thought process about women’s boxing is “I don’t really like to see women fighting in the ring” to just get curious. Have a look at Katie Taylor (her documentary Katie is inspiring and well worth a watch). Similarly, if you find yourself judging young people who are questioning their gender, get curious. If you were the opposite sex, would you do anything differently? Young people are great in that they are far more accepting of ambiguity, and we can all learn from that. Remember also that not all fights happen in the ring which reminds me of the famous quote that does the rounds on social media: