Yeah, not all of us, but a whole lot of us. Let’s all take a moment to praise the fact that so many young girls are being allowed to enter this sport now in comparison to all of the generations prior. However, lets be real: if you were at least in your early twenties when you found boxing, please raise your hand. While most young men are considered “too old” and “at the end of their career” when they start getting into those early 30’s, most women are just starting to find boxing. How, Lucy, is this possibly an advantage, let alone a “privilege”?? Well, first off, we’re almost all old. So go ahead and write off the fact that you don’t think you can be competitive just because you didn’t find boxing until you were 35. If anything, you’d better hurry up and really max out those 5 years that you’re not in the masters division because have you seen those masters ladies? They’ll eat you alive! They’re pretty much the definition of bad bitches. Why is that? Why do masters women look so incredibly different than masters men?
When we talk about privilege, it’s important to understand that it’s based in societal systems. I hear people sometimes say things like, “Well Black people are racist too!”. No, an individual can be prejudice, but it takes an entire system and history to create racism. The same is true with patriarchal societies that create systems of oppression of women. Yes, individual women can beat on their men, can rape men and young boys, can hate men with all their being and not treat them fairly or discriminate against them. Female bosses could even pay male employees less than female employees in some twisted line of reasoning that they’re reversing the wage gap—but male privilege exists not because of one individual male treating all females in his life as “less than” in some way or another. It exists because of the entire system and culture of our society and the societies, cultures, and systems before us. When I chose to talk about this in terms of privilege, the things that I chose to talk about were things that were based in an entire system and history that has come long before you and will take generations after you to change. Each of these things come out of something that exists deep within our culture and affects us, growing up as women even before we really knew who we were or pushed for our rights as adults to truly come into ourselves, far more than you think. These things are all rooted deep inside of us the same way that young boys are given toys like legos, lincon logs, and expected to rough house and play big. They then are given advantages over girls who didn’t in jump starting their concepts of things like special reasoning, basic math and geometry. They still have that jump start weather that’s who they are deep down inside or will discover later that they don’t like those things as much as some of the other “girly” toys. They still got that advantage. These things that we’re talking about are far deeper inside of us then individuals. Each topic I’m talking about has affected us since before we were able to talk or walk. So us being old women comes as an advantage in the ring from the way that we have had to live life because of our society, history, culture, and system for the last how ever many years old you are.
It comes from a system that demands that we fight, tooth and nail, for our very existence to continue until we hit that 40 year mark. We’ve become so accustomed to walking around vulnerable and fighting for every inch in our lives that we don’t even consider that “a fight” anymore, that’s just life. In fact, you’ve been doing this thing so long that you sometimes hear those young girls talk about “inequality”, but when you hear their examples of what they’re so upset about you just want to wrap your arms around them and say “oh honey, oh honey. Please save that indignation because you are going to really need every ounce of strength you were given to get through the next 30 years where you’ll hit some true road blocks to progress instead of this speed bump.” In fact, as she speaks you listen longingly for those days when you used to think that was the worst injustice that could have crossed your path. Then, after you’ve been fighting for your existence for a while, you have kids and have to fight for theirs as well as your own. Often times even having to protect them from other members of your family (or your spouse’s) that are supposed to see them as their own humans even more than anyone else in the rest of that big world; that are “supposed” to want them to thrive and succeed in impossible dreams in their life more than everyone else. Fighting is what we do, even if we don’t realize it because it’s become so ingrained in us.
Here’s a little lesser talked about benefit to our old age: patience. I am the least patient person in the world. So imagine my shock when a coach said to me, “see, this is why I like working with you old women (I was 26). You’ll just stand in front of this mirror and throw the same thing 10,000 times and just, just expect to have to do that in order to get it right. These young bucks just think they should be able to just do it and quit when they can’t.” He was right, even though I’d never have thought that would be called being patient. I did expect to have to work hard and that it would take weeks—and even months, and sometimes, even years—to truly get down a certain technique. And if you think back over your years, you didn’t always believe that it would. You also didn’t always think of weeks or months as a rather short amount of time to see progress, it used to feel like forever to you. Starting to realize what an advantage your age is yet?
If not, I offer you this piece of gold: we started out this fighting thing when we were “old”, so when our male counterparts start thinking they’re falling apart and complaining that they can’t work to the same levels or with certain soreness or injury, they often quit or their game goes downhill quickly. We started at that “old” mark. If we truly wanted to do this, we were going to have to figure out what exactly needed to be done to take care of those muscles or exactly how much rest our old lady bodies needed, or how we’d have to find ways to work around and through injuries. We didn’t have old habits of being 21 and partying all night long and then somehow, maybe still drunk, making it through a workout practice. Because we were old when we started, we simply already knew that was never going to happen that we’d spar while hungover (or in my case, it took one time of doing it and realizing that punching her actually hurt my hungover old body even more than when she hit me. Luckily, she was also hung over and my coach stopped it declaring it the saddest, most pathetic joke he’d ever seen in his life…you know…six rounds in—we had to learn the lesson first after all) and it was never a habit we had to break.
We were hurting continually since the moment we started trying to punch and get punched with these old bodies, so we had to go home and research what foods or vitamins we should be putting back into these dusty muscles to help them recover more quickly. We had already stopped being able to move or bend quite like that before we started fighting, so we had to figure out how to get that back and then maintain it. Since we were so old, we already knew that we’d need to go to bed before 3 am if we needed to run at 5—which we knew we couldn’t skip since we needed to spar that 18 year old boy and keep up with him. When you’re already on the brink of “old” for your sport, you never actually get “old” because it’s never an excuse for you. You simply have always had to find ways past all these things others call “getting older”, so you don’t even notice as you start to turn the corner into actually older, and before you realize it you’re 55 still kicking these 18 year old’s asses.
Lastly, that age comes with a certain level of maturity that can’t be bought. It’s called organization and dedication to stick to that plan. When I decided to work with primarily women, one of the big hurdles that I had to figure out as a coach was how to make it possible for women with children. We are often the care takers—even when we have a devoted spouse, that burden still usually falls on us. We also, in more recent history, have been given the privilege of having careers. However, without masculinity taking a page out of feminists books, they haven’t (again, only as a whole, because there are some men who have stepped up!) exactly stepped into the home to even the playing field. So we’ve wound up with twice the responsibilities as payment for being allowed to have interests outside of the home. Those kids have to come first. There’s no argument with that. But now we’re often balancing a full time job, care of the home, all the kids programs and homework and needs, and everything else even when we have a spouse. So throwing in time to train with our runs every day, three days a week of conditioning, and 5-6 nights a week of boxing practice just…wow. It made me tired just typing that. And that isn’t food prep, timing meals, recovery time, let alone when it’s actually those few weeks before a fight.
How do we even manage to do everything?? Well, we have to be organized. Once we decided we were going to do this, we had to figure it out. I work with men who have been pros for a while and are getting an opportunity to take themselves up to the next level. They have never planned any of their training schedule or food. They “just, you know, I don’t know, I just do it Lucy.” Okay…well that isn’t going to work anymore. Something that we’ve had to do since day 1 (our organization and discipline to stick to that schedule/plan or else it actually just does not even happen, and if it doesn’t happen then we can’t step in that ring or we’re going to be seriously injured for sure) is something that top level pros are struggling to figure out how to do and that some of my most helpful work to them happens in. One pro just told me yesterday that his workouts for conditioning were amazing. At 36 he’s actually doing the same levels of conditioning he was doing in college wrestling (which he hasn’t been able to do in years) and he’s actually in BETTER shape than he was then, in his early 20’s. “But,” he said, “the thing that’s made the biggest difference, and I can’t believe this, is that you made me plan everything so I’m actually getting all of my workouts done and in a state of recovery, I’m not just getting the right food but at the right time for maximum use and recovery in my body, I’m planning my muscle care and sleep recovery—I haven’t felt this amazing…ever!” I have only been working with this man for a little over a month. That’s what a huge, huge, huge advantage scheduling, organizing, and sticking to that plan is. He plans the week ahead of time starting on Sunday—yes, much like you most likely make sure you all have enough clean clothes for the following week and backpacks are ready to go on Sunday nights. Yep, we’re talking about that exact same life skill that’s been necessary for you for your entire adult life. You’ve been practicing this skill and utilizing it your entire life and had no idea that is was so valuable that it could take a pro into the biggest division he could even hope to go with his career. It’s that important. And you’ve just had this skill just sitting in your pocket. That’s privilege.
So we always have to ask ourselves at the end of each of these things, how do we share that privilege? Reach out to your few close males on the team and see if they’re actually eating. If they’re the type that is willing to listen to you and take to heart your advice, and the timing is right, then pass these things along to them. Only you know if your relationship is good enough as teammates that they want your help. You can offer to help them make their very first schedule they’ve ever done in their life. Then the next week, actually follow up and ask if they followed it. Offer to do your drills of standing in the mirror for an hour throwing the same punch over and over with your male friend who seems to lack the discipline to do it alone. They hate running? Offer to run with them, give them a time, and then stick to that. We need each other to give and take or we aren’t a team. And if you don’t have any males in your inner circle of teammates, then first, maybe you should look around because men and women fight differently and have different privileges they can share with each other. You will be a better fighter if you have both voices speaking into your career. But also, the most important thing that I want you to get from this is to recognize and begin to truly grow these amazing parts that are already a part of who you are. If you can lift them up and intentionally utilize them in the ring then I promise you that you will overcome hurdles that have been stopping you in there for years now.