I hate to share videos that objectify women mainly because it makes me want to throw up. Just watching that video I found above has left me with no appetite for the rest of my breakfast. Nevertheless, I thought the concept I want to explore was important enough, and really, there are so many contrasts in that video that when I watch it I swing dramatically back and forth from completely inspired to thoroughly disgusted.
From the moment I discovered this happa female MMA fighter, Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson, I was conflicted. As I posted before, I started with an aversion and disgust at even her name “Karate Hottie” but now I find the name endearing because it embodies the struggle of being what and who she is: a female American martial artist of mixed heritage.
Waterson completely fits into the stereotype of The Submissive Asian Girl and at the same time doesn’t fit them AT ALL.
Asian girls are as girly as you can get.
First of all, just by looking at Waterson, you can see that she definitely presents herself as a girly girl’s girl. The video above is an old one of her pre-MMA, but even today, with her new do, she doesn’t present herself as what would be stereotypically considered “butch”. Of course, she already naturally has the soft features we would associate with femininity, but still, how you present those features can make a world of a difference. Imagine her with a shaved head, tattoos all over her arms, no make up, and maybe a piercing or twenty on the face. That definitely wouldn’t fly for a Hooters girl, which was what she worked as at one point, aside from also being a bikini model.
Asian girls are harmless, friendly, and submissive.
As a public school teacher, I remember parents I’d never met before coming right up to my face and yelling at me with no qualms, although the big white male teacher next door who taught the same exact subject and grade didn’t get such treatment. I looked younger, I was shorter, I was female, and I was Asian–apparently this meant I was a total pushover in the eyes of others and they treated me as such. This is just one example of the sort of treatment I get all the time just because I’m of Asian heritage and female.
Likewise, Waterson is super duper friendly and comes off as very amiable and very harmless. I remember hearing a podcast interview with her where she said “I like to please” while describing herself, and any video or audio of her can clearly relay this aspect of her personality. She’s not only super friendly, she is also always smiling, and she constantly seems to be tuning in on the feelings of other people and trying her best to make the situation pleasant and cheerful, avoiding conflict as much as possible. Add on top of that her youthful look, her height (same as me), her gender, and her visible Asian heritage, and you get podcast interviewers who ask her if she plans to pose nude, like it’s okay to ask a girl to give naked pictures of herself to you, like she’s some piece of meat you can chew on at will (true story).
Breaking the Stereotypes
Waterson comes off as so girly, so sweet, so friendly, and so harmless that sometimes her presence just screams “submissive Asian girl”. But clearly, she is an MMA fighter and a martial artist, the Invicta FC Atomweight Champion, and submissive Asian girl she is definitely NOT.
Wait, I take that back. The Karate Hottie is totally a SUBMISSIVE Asian girl. Seven out of her eleven pro-MMA wins were by SUBMISSION. Just check out how she SUBMITS her opponent with a flying arm bar right here:
Waterson wasn’t always the submission powerhouse that she is today. In fact, in the past, she was that other kind of submissive girl, as she discusses in this interview:
Interviewer: One of the questions I get from a lot of people that know that I know you is that you could be a model, you could be an actor, you could do films, you’ve got a natural beauty. Why do you pick fighting? Everybody wants to know why does she wanna risk everything and fight? What is it is about fighting that you just gotta do it?
Michelle Waterson: That’s exactly what you said. It’s the risk, you know? I think everybody can be beautiful, everybody can be a model. It takes a certain person to be a fighter. Putting myself in this arena, taking this as a career and making this my life has definitely changed my life. I think the reason why I chose this path is because it allows me to confront my fears head on. For a long time in my life, I wasn’t able to do that. I was always the one who was like, turn the other cheek, you know, just didn’t say anything because I was too afraid. I cowarded a lot growing up just because I didn’t want to confront my fears. I realized that you can’t get through life that way, and fighting has helped me become a stronger person.
Most people who see the big, tough white guy Matthew McConaughey the way he looked in the 2002 film Reign of Fire, they would very likely think “fighter”. But when they see the sweet and smiling little Asian Girl Michelle Waterson, “fighter” is probably the last thing they think. In fact, when she was a waitress, people saw her bruises and immediately assumed she was a victim of domestic violence. Waterson is also clearly aware of the stereotypes she’s actively breaking down.
Interviewer: So obviously you’re small, petite, you know, not really exactly a big brute, looks like you’re a bruiser or anything. How did you get into such a violent sport?
Michelle Waterson:…A lot of people do think it’s a violent sport. In actuality, it forces me to really challenge myself. That’s why I ended up loving doing it.
Interviewer: What’s you’re ultimate goal?
Michelle Waterson: I want to represent females in this sport in a positive light. I want people to understand that we train just as hard as the guys do. You can be a girl, you can be girly and fight. There’s no problem with that. It’s just something I really enjoy doing. I guess I want fight that stereotype. You don’t have to be all brute-y, or you can, who cares, whatever. It’s something that people, it’s not just guys, not just girls, love to do. Follow your dreams. Do what you love to do.
In the end, it’s the contrast that makes Waterson such an intriguing media figure. If she was a “brute-y” and “butch” Asian girl, that would break down some walls too, but people would easily write off someone like that as an exception to the rule. They can easily brush off the cognitive dissonance of a strong Asian girl fighter if she was a bruiser because it’s easily excused as “well, she doesn’t even look like a girl” or “she’s just a mutant, REAL Asian girls aren’t like that”.
Since Waterson fits into all the submissive Asian girl stereotypes at first glance, it makes people do a second take when they realize they’ve labeled her as the wrong type of submissive–she’s the kind that will arm-bar break you. The confusion forces people to realize that their stereotypical reality is not quite as solid as it seems.
Arm bar buffet anyone?