Winnipeg Sun

October 13, 1999

Standing up to the bullies

Teach our girls to take charge of their own lives

By LYN COCKBURN -- Winnipeg Sun

The phone rang last night. It was a friend in Vancouver. She sounded furtive. "I wouldn't say this out loud in public and I hate boxing, but I'm glad she won," she said.

I suffer from no such reticence, so I will announce, loudly and clearly that I am delighted Margaret MacGregor boxed her way to a unanimous decision over Loi Chow in the first professional boxing match between a man and a woman.

A superbly muscled MacGregor had three inches, six pounds and a ton of expertise on Chow who later insisted he had an off night and would have won "on any other occasion." Not bloody likely.

I, too, am no fan of boxing, so what's up with this cheering for Margaret stuff?

A lot.

First of all, there's that little thrill as a woman succeeds in something hitherto reserved for men. Just as the military once was. Medicine. The law. Firefighting.

Then, suppose MacGregor or some other woman fights a man and loses. Imagine for a moment, a gloved male fist slamming into a woman's face, knocking her down and out. Imagine a referee doing a count over the prone and unconscious body of a woman fighter while her male opponent tries to look triumphant.

Hard to take? Yes, it is.

A few years ago, when women were first permitted into army combat units, an irate veteran said, "We can't have our daughters coming home in body bags. Unthinkable." Yes it is. But no more unthinkable than seeing the body bags which house our sons.

The veteran went on to suggest that, good heavens, if our daughters came home in body bags our commitment to war might lessen. What a wonderful thought. A lessening of that commitment might save some of our sons while we're at it.

So perhaps, if we continue the male/female boxing matches, the first time that male fist knocks the woman down, we will be shocked into realizing that is exactly what goes on behind closed doors in far too many homes across Canada.

We know that violence against women is a problem in our society, but we rarely see it in progress. Sometimes, we see a photo of a bruised and battered woman, her eyes black and swollen shut, her face lumpy, her arm broken. What we do not see is the fist hitting bone. Maybe we need to see exactly that in order to take the problem seriously as never before.

If we don't like the idea of a man hitting a woman in public, then we cannot condone it in private.

Put another way, if there is to be any hitting occurring between men and women, I want it out in the open where everyone can see it.

Moreover, I firmly believe that the sooner we start teaching little girls to take care of themselves, the faster violence against women will diminish. Men who hit women are bullies who think life is a schoolyard in which women are the scapegoats, who think that violence is a way to establish control.

Just as many a father has taught his son to box so that the boy, perhaps smaller than his opponent, can stand up for himself, so we should be teaching these same lessons to our girls.

Bullies back off when confronted with those who are capable of defending themselves, that is the nature of a bully. Many a man who thinks he can slap his girlfriend around would slink off upon learning that she can defend herself and perhaps even deck him.

Am I advocating that women become aggressive? No. Am I suggesting that if we enrol our daughters in boxing classes violence against women will disappear? Never.

What I do believe is that in order for women to stop being victims, they have to take charge of their lives.

If Margaret MacGregor represents a step in that direction, then I applaud her. Just as I applaud those women who brought female hockey, basketball and soccer into prominence. Not to mention the women in Montana who played in the new female football league this weekend.

I still wouldn't go see MacGregor fight, though.

Lyn Cockburn can be reached by e-mail at
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Copyright © 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.