Holly, Round 2, and a Tip of the “Tuque” to Canada

My post last month thanking Holly Holm for her “powerful kick to the head” brought different reactions from men and women. Of course there were exceptions (as you see in the comments following the post), but in general the reaction of those whose paths I crossed fell into two camps.  Men were amused and a little titillated I think. “I didn’t know you were into kick boxing! I better watch out,” with a feigning block of the head, was the gist of it. Women on the other hand were critical that I praised a woman for trying to emulate a man, especially the less attractive aspects of what they consider manliness – brutality.


I was surprised. Both kinds of readers seemed to overlook my point – that when we are confronted with horror at the hands of fellow humans (as in terror attacks), some of us, me included, have a deep instinct to lash out and clobber those brutalizers. Holly offered me that vicariously.


But did I miss something? Is a female mixed martial artist trying to be like a man? Should women somehow aspire to a higher, more civilized way of relating to each other, of expressing ourselves? (For that matter, shouldn’t we all aspire to that?)  I thought about it a lot, and came to this conclusion:  Holly Holm loves to compete physically and to beat her opponent. This is who she is, among a lot of other things. I have read nothing about her that makes me think she is trying to be like a man. Saying that she is just trying to emulate men is insulting to her; it robs her of her human right to pursue her passion, whatever it might be. When a man enters the world of ballet or nursing, is he trying to emulate women because those are their traditional arenas? I don’t think so. Like Holly he is driven to follow a passion that lies on the human spectrum. I hope that I can accept and respect those choices that he, that Holly, that we all have a right to make.


I’m not saying that there is not a power imbalance. Man, because of laws, physique, traditions, social norms, hormones, whatever combination has a history of exerting his power over women in cruel ways. That is a fact and we should all be working to right that imbalance in every place it rears its ugly head. I am saying that fighting and aggression and competition and even giving someone a powerful kick to the head is within us all, given the right circumstances. These are human instincts, often repressed in women and praised in men, and when someone breaks loose and crosses over, so to speak, it is not because that person is yearning to be like the other, but rather it is because that person is human, in all its variety.


As a mediator, I strive to see the humanity in everyone I work with. Each person at the table, no matter how frightened, how angry, how unreasonable, is human at the core, and if I can help the group to see that humanity in themselves and each other, there is hope for a solution that will satisfy all.


tuqueAnd speaking of humanity and brutality, I want to wrap up this year with a nod of appreciation to Canada for welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2016.  The first have already arrived and are settling throughout the country in cities and small towns. Prime Minister Trudeau gave a heartfelt speech laying out the plan and unifying the country in one big embrace of these newcomers. In preparation, hundreds of Quebecers from grade schoolers to grandmas knittinggrandparents have begun knitting stocking caps called tuques, vowing to complete 25,000 in time for each immigrant’s arrival. These tuques are adult versions of the ones that every newborn baby in Canada receives, a tradition that makes sense in a country where snow and ice stick around for many months.


The motto of the “Tuques Project” is “the only true enemy is the cold,” but the tuque seems to represent more than a warm head. It is a symbol of being a Canadian, a welcoming to this land and its people, an acceptance, a sign of belonging. And for these reasons – the practical and the symbolic – I was deeply touched by the gift of the tuque to every new Canadian from Syria, an emblem of their new start, their re-birth in this welcoming country.


May 2016 be a year where we all experience – as givers and receivers – this kind of embrace.

tuque with sign

10 thoughts on “Holly, Round 2, and a Tip of the “Tuque” to Canada”

  1. It is kind of telling when people would praise a woman astronaut, or Ranger, or any other field but not mixed martial arts. The Asians have had women in the martial arts kicking heads for centuries. why not us? I agree that we should be free to follow our passion, our bliss as it were, when it fulfills us. thanks Lucy

  2. I sincerely wish and look forward to the day when all of humanity can get past established stereotypes…because then and only then can everyone of us exercise the human right to pursue our passion and choose our own path and inclination without fear of reprisal.

  3. I understand and connect with what you’ve said. It probably can’t be overstated that Holly Holm is really an exceptional person who meets no one’s stereotypes of a boxer or fighter. She is an incredibly grounded, humble human who entered this as a prohibitive underdog – so the widespread shock of winning paired for New Mexicans with knowing WHO she is made many hearts leap with joy. I’m personally conflicted, though, on the wider subject. Equality and justice are such bedrock principles, still shimmering as unrealized ideals. When I think about not wanting my two daughters to go to war, I also know I don’t want sons in war, either. Yes, Muhammed Ali was and is an exceptional individual too, but as a boxer he’s had to live with brain damage far longer than his actual boxing years. While I no longer watch either sport, I wouldn’t make the decision for anyone else.

  4. We are all, men and women, the sum of so many things made up of our experiences and the people around us. Women need to ignore stereotypes and pursue whatever makes them happy and fulfilled. I too am a cryer and can identify with wearing emotions too close to the surface but that is who I am. I must confess, and this is the Mother and Grandmother coming out, that my initial reaction was concern about “the powerful blow to the head.” I struggle to celebrate this trauma but I love that the underdog won.

    1. Me, too. I’m always rooting for the underdog…and then when the underdog wins, I feel immediate sympathy for the loser. I can’t win!

  5. Lucy, I’m a bit late to the blog again, but I’ll proceed anyway. Think my comments on Holly Round 1 do not fall neatly into either of your two gender camps. I didn’t pick up on the gender discrimination perspective of most women and I didn’t align with the sexist comments of some men. Instead, I was (and am) repulsed by MMA and violence in general, irritated by our acceptance of violence in sports but not when associated with war or terrorism, and confused by my own conflicted attitudes as they have revealed themselves over time. Geoff’s and Linda’s comments reflect, in part, my dilemma. Thanks for starting this conversation Lucy.

    1. …and thanks for picking up the conversation. I find myself shifting daily on the question. And I am troubled as you are by finding myself holding contradictory positions. We are complicated beings, huh?

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