Is Gina Carano a Feminist?

A number of new scholarly books on martial arts have come across my desk in the last month.  This field is in its infancy and I am exited to be part of the project of defining and inspiring it.  In that spirit, there is much in these works to praise, much to criticize, a yawn here and there, and a few things that need to be stopped dead in their tracks.

So this is the fourth of a series in which I will discuss individual essays within larger works.  The following essays are from a collection edited by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth titled, Martial Arts in the Modern World (Praeger, 2003).


First order of business:  Is Gina Carano, the star of the new film Haywire, a feminist?  Gina has been a star of the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) World for the past several years, she is hot, and she is now a Hollywood action star who is capable of doing her own stunts and fight choreography.  We'll get back to that.

"Women's Boxing and Related Activities: Introducing Images and Meanings," is an essay by Jennifer Hargreaves that delves into the cultural nuances of women and fighting.  She does a good job of covering all the cases, begining with an excellent history of women in the ring actually knocking each other bloody for money, all the way to the porno version of boxing done by strippers.  Is it masculine? Is it feminine?  Is it a special case?  Are they champions? are they exploited fools? are they happy subordinates?  are they victims or makers of their own fate?  Some female boxers in every case love it, some hate it.  Some are in it for dominance, some for money, some for excitement, some do because they crave risk, some seek health, some do it to look beautiful, some do it and find peace.  Self image?  It's all over the map too.  Hargreaves attempts to apply every post-colonial, feminist, culturgina-caranoal criticism she can find to the actual situation and history of women's boxing.  The result?  Not a single theory is consistent with reality.

I have read way too much theory in my life.  My fear is that even though Hargreaves (and many others, Richard Rorty comes to mind) have the honesty after years of studying post-colonialism, feminism, and critical theory to acknowledge it is faulty--people have invested so much time and university money in it, that it will live on as a ghost, haunting us to our graves.  I hope not.

My Great Grandmother was a prominent suffragette in New York.  As my Grandmother explained it to me, "If there was something that boys were good at, I wanted to prove that I could be good at it too."  I stand with my Grandmother on this one, it is wrong to put obstacles in the way of women trying to do whatever it is they want to do just because of their gender.  In the end, that is the only feminist idea that has any merit.

As for the film Haywire in theaters at the moment, it is a parody of b-movies which are vehicles for an action star.  If you go to the late show, sneak in a six-pack of beer and talk during the talking parts, you'll freakin' love it!