Sports Journalist Hannah Robbins discusses the latest controversy with the U.F.C.’s Octagon Girls and whether or not the stir is valid.
When the U.F.C. came to Melbourne, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp wanted the ring girls to stay home. Sometimes referred to as Octagon Girls, these women hold up signs that indicate what round is about to begin in U.F.C. fights.
There is no doubt that the bikini-clad women are being objectified, and politicians in Melbourne wanted to put a stop to it. In remarks earlier this month, the politicians did not want the ring girls to be at the fight.
Capp put it simply: “It’s 2019, do we really still need scantily clad women to wander around the middle of a fighting ring between rounds?”
However, in the days before the match, U.F.C. President Dana White who said “to start going off [on the ring girls], it’s ridiculous.” After telling people to simply look up what the women are paid ($25,000 a year, in case anyone’s wondering), he stated that Octagon Girls are brand ambassadors and are treated well because of it.
The Octagon Girls ban is not unprecedented; last month, a boxing match between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa in Australia saw ring girls replaced by male “fight progress managers,” who were fully clothed, after local politicians and women’s advocacy groups complained.
The simple replacement of fully clothed men begs the question: why do we need ring girls at all? Ring girls aren’t the only place where scantily clad women have been objectified in the name of information. In the last year alone both grid girls, women who stood behind cars at the starting grid and held cards with driver’s names in Formula One races, and walk-on girls, women who escort players to the stage in professional darts tournaments, were banned from their respective sports.
Last month’s boxing switch shows that the information women display could be put in any form and still have the same affect, but objectifying women is so ingrained in our culture that, instead of doing anything to change the problem, men in positions of power continue to argue for the objectification of women as they help men in some form or fashion in professional sports. Even the name Octagon Girls paints them as lesser by calling them girls instead of women.
The omission of ring girls and other such positions in sports is such a simple decision, it should be a no brainer. This much pushback from male dominated organizations shows just how far professional sports have to go before equality is anything more than a tagline used to get more views.