Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:
I read with interest your recent opinion piece in the Whitehorse Star advocating the use of mixed martial arts Ã MMA Ã to fight bullying and your statement: “I disagree with any notion that using a ‘fight sport’ is a bad message to get an anti-bullying message across.”
I am inferring from this statement that you may have heard from more than one person about their misgivings with this approach, which you reject outright. Please add my name to the list of those who believe that fighting violence by teaching violence is misguided and naive.
Martial arts have been around for thousands of years and notwithstanding their self-esteem building, artistic and self-defence esthetic uses, it is critical that we differentiate these uses from combating bullying. They are not synonymous. If there were, then bullying might have been resolved millennia ago.
Children, especially boys, get messages from a very young age that to be masculine is to be violent. Within a culture of Hollywood and TV images, music, advertising, hockey head shots, adult and peer reinforcement of violence as a cultural norm, how does MMA address this? How would MMA address bullying within MMA and other fighting cultures? How would MMA address boys forming, fighting and filming fight clubs in Yukon schools?
Did any of the bullied gay kids, girls or women who are verbally, physically and sexually assaulted on a regular basis in Carmacks show up to the MMA workshop? If they did not come, why do you think that might be? Could it be because their abusers might have been participants? What would you say to a young gay boy or a non-physically imposing boy who did not want to fight, but wanted to use their words to combat bullying? What would you teach them to say? What would you teach a young woman about getting away from her older male abuser? Just how would MMA address these very real and most prevalent forms of bullying in Yukon society?
Mr. Leef, I believe that you are sincere in your desire to reduce bullying. But by teaching that violence is an acceptable tool you are reinforcing the notion to boys that being a man is equivalent to being violent. And for those women who are victims of male violence, you are teaching them that using the tools of the master will dismantle the master’s house when it will not. All you will achieve, unfortunately, is the further perpetuation of violence.