Ring Card Girls. Three small words. But stand by for big arguments when they’re mentioned in conversation between men and women.
Adam Welsh is a British-based Human Resources Manager with a keen interest in many sports, including boxing. I recently spoke to him about ring card girls.
Most guys, he readily agreed, have the hots for those high-heeled, scantily-clad women who strut their stuff at boxing shows, holding aloft a card showing the number of the next round.
Your average Joe Six-Pack expects three Bs when he attends a fight: Boxing, Beer and Babes, Adam continued. And frankly, ring card girls are such an established feature now that it would be hard to imagine a show without them.
Plenty of women, however, are annoyed and offended by the spectacle. Not only is it frequently considered sexist and degrading, it also creates an uneasy link between violence and sex.
One innovation that alienated many women in the 1990s was the institution of the “Miss Ringsider” contest at Budweiser-sponsored boxing promotions. Wearing high-cut one-piece swimsuits, the women lined up in the ring and paraded one by one to compete for cash prizes, decided by the fans’ votes.
And what does this practice say when it goes on during women's boxing events? Does it serve to highlight, by contrast, the integrity and authenticity of the female fighters? An article in The Ring magazine a few years ago called for promoters to drop card-girls from women’s contests. What purpose would that serve, exactly? One less strip show? I wonder if it would simply reinforce the idea that men are welcome to objectify women, so long as they do it in the "privacy" of their own Playboy magazine, porn channel, or boxing show.
Problematic issues aside, Adam and I agree that there seems to be no shortage of women willing to strip down, step up, and strut for the spotlight. And as long as the audiences at fight nights are predominantly male, ring-card girls are likely to remain a fixture.
In fact, it seems to me that all male-dominated sports (and other entertainments like movies, magazines, etc.) that include female eye candy in one form or another do so for one big fat reason above all. And that is to widen the net.
In other words, promoters and publishers and directors and so on are working hard to capture as many ticket-purchasers as they possibly can. For men who aren’t rabid boxing fans, they offer a walking centerfold fantasy girl between every round in order to “sweeten the deal” and secure the purchase.
Is there an alternative to ring card girls at boxing shows? I think there is.
I love women’s roller derby. We have an incredible team here called the Carolina Rollergirls. If I weren’t boxing, I would definitely go out for this team.
These women, like boxers, are incredibly tough, very skilled at their sport (which is fairly complex).
Just like in boxing, you can sit right up next to the track, but in derby, if there’s a spectacular wipeout — and there are plenty — you can revel in the thrill of possibly getting injured yourself as a tangle of helmeted women come flying at extremely high speed in your direction. Believe me, derby gets pretty involved.
And regarding Joe Six Pack's requirements? Well, in addition to plenty of Babes and Bashing (maybe not quite the same as boxing, but some incredible action), they serve Beer at the roller derby.
Commentators keep the crowd involved, especially by explaining some of the complexities of roller derby play and scoring. They also lighten the mood with funny comments about each of the players, their habits (bad and good), naming (roller derby names are way more fun than ring names), and tactics (dirty and fair).
The Carolina Rollergirls mascot, Evil Ed, is a (fully dressed) blood-splattered skating skeleton who also keeps things lively. There are giveaways, raffles, charity events, music, antics, and any number of entertaining things that happen between bouts (halves) of the game, and after the game the players are frequently available to chat, sign autographs, and get to know the fans.
The audience is about equally split between male and female, and despite the sometimes serious and potentially damaging nature of the sport, it’s also incredibly family-friendly.
That’s two of my boys at a Carolina Rollergirls game. (I didn’t let them get any closer to the track than that!)
I love boxing. Love it. But derby has figured out so many things that boxing has missed.
We may never see roller derby selling high-dollar tickets and winning a mass audience. But if that’s the case, maybe it’s better to be on the fringe.
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