It is hard to believe that in 2012 we’re still seeing firsts when it comes to women athletes. The last 40 years have seen the emergence of female competitors who have defied every stereotype once assigned to women—they’re the weaker sex, they don’t have the stamina and they don’t have the grit to compete. Yet, this summer in London a strong and glorious group of international women boxers will enter the ring and compete for Olympic medals for the first time.
Why is it important for women to be allowed to box at a time when there are growing questions that regular trauma to the head can cause permanent brain damage? Listen to these stories. Look at the photos. Watch the videos. Meet the people whose lives have been changed by boxing and who are fighting for the chance to deepen their relationships to themselves by pushing their bodies to the limit. Is it a paradox? Yes. Yet deep in our DNA is the need to fight back and push ourselves beyond the edge—and it’s not just embedded in the Y chromosome.
As a runner I competed in the ¼ mile. This was considered a distance race when I was in high school in the early 1970’s (we were more than a decade away from women being able to participate in the Olympic marathon.) After competing against some very fast girls, I was pushed to understand that this race is an all-out sprint that, if run well, leaves you completely spent. When I ran my best time and fell across the finish line--being inched out for first place--it was among the most thrilling feelings I’ve ever had.
After playing college basketball and covering sports as a journalist, I slowly began to appreciate boxing as the ultimate metaphor for the human struggle. The exquisite challenge of an individual fighting in a controlled environment is about as close as we can get to enacting the epic battles each of us comes up against in our lives.
Yes, it’s the stuff of poetry and prose, but the physical dimension remains a frontier that some people are drawn to explore. If there is one thing we know, violence does not discriminate between men and women; it never has. Nor does gender inhibit the will to define our own destiny and survive on our own terms. Until we evolve as humans to a point where physical violence is not a part of our world, the sport of boxing is likely to remain in our culture--right where the Greeks put it over 2,000 years ago.
And now the time has come for women to help define the way the battle lines are danced.