Conor McGregor: the problem with machismo

February 24, 2017
Conor McGregor GQ magazine

By now, there’s a strong chance you’ve seen the Conor McGregor GQ cover – dressed in blue jeans, a starched white tee and brown leather jacket, there’s more than a faint whiff of James Dean off it. And, on first glance, us Irish folks should be proud.

There he is now, Crumlin lad done good, fronting the world’s biggest men’s fashion magazine, with an accompanying interview about his career so far and his plans to face – and defeat – boxer Floyd Mayweather.

But, within a few lines, pride turns to ash as McGregor plays up his bad boy reputation with bravado, machismo and not a little misogyny. And look, I get it – we all get it. McGregor’s got a rep to protect, and he’s set himself up as the devil-may-care enfant terrible of an already terribly macho sport. You have to take what he says with a pinch of salt.

But how many salt cellars can we plough through before we acknowledge that McGregor is fitting right into a culture that is already very much in play? Wouldn’t it be more subversive, more anti-establishment of him, if he had the balls to speak respectfully of women – to acknowledge them as human beings, rather than flesh robots, designed purely for his viewing pleasure?

In search of Khloé

“Maybe I’ll search for Khloé’s big fat ass – she’s been floating around Malibu,” says McGregor, talking about his new LA pad and his desire to check out the assets of one Ms Khloé Kardashian. But, lest we think he’s interested in anything more than Khloé’s rear: “I don’t give a fuck about them. I just like to see them in the flesh.”

It’s unclear who the “them” he’s referring to is. The Kardashians? Khloé’s buttocks? The journalist asks if he wants to admire her, and he snorts a rebuttal. “Never put the pussy on a pedestal, my friend. I just want to see it.”

As sentiments go, it’s a familiar one – it seems like just yesterday that the now US President Donald Trump talked about how he can (because he’s male, rich and powerful) “grab [women] by the pussy.” Similarly, quips McGregor: “The double champ does what the fuck he wants.”

Conor McGregor and rape culture

This should be a lightning bolt to rape culture deniers everywhere – but don’t get sidetracked by the word “rape.” Conor McGregor isn’t telling us that he condones rape; what he is doing is telling us, very explicitly, that he views women as objects; that he’s invincible; that power (and, arguably, maleness) entitle him to do, touch, take, whatever it is he wants.

That is rape culture – a culture in which women are reduced to objects and men are, above all else, entitled to do with said object whatever they see fit. “I just have a confidence that comes from my big ball sack,” confirms McGregor.

We should be worried – two of the world’s most powerful men frequently speak about themselves like all-powerful gods, and about women as things to be grabbed, groped and ogled. It’s a culture and it’s spreading – how can we teach our children to respect women and men equally, when the world’s most famous fighter, an icon and role model to many, is telling them the exact opposite?

We can only hope that fatherhood will give Conor McGregor a fresh perspective – it might even be worth hoping for a girl, whose existence may just prompt him to rethink his stance on women, what they’re good for and what powerful men are entitled to take from them.

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  • Reply mairead mcdermott February 25, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    “grab [women] by the pussy.” Similarly, quips McGregor: “The double champ does what the fuck he wants.”

    That’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination there Rosemary, these comments are similar? I read the GQ article and while I agree that it was derogatory of him to say not to put pussy on a pedestal, that line that you quoted about him doing what the fuck he wants, was taken completely out of context by you. It was much later in the article and related to him taking 2 UFC titles. Not grabbing pussy, like Trump.

    Linking him to rape culture…? Very unnecessary in my opinion. And wrong. I usually like your more controversial pieces but this one is way off the mark!

  • Reply S February 26, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    You have used McGregors “I do whatever I want” comment completely out of context. He was referring to MMA when he said that, how do you think it’s okay to then manipulate that comment and frame it in your “rape culture” discussion? I think you need to take that bit out as it’s completely out of context and unfair. And I say this as someone who is not a fan of McGregor. You can’t cry about “character dissection” and then persist to cherry pick quotes from someone’s life and frame them in a context in which they have no relevance in order to gain traction.

  • Reply Justine February 26, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Something is being made of nothing here. As the previous commenter said, you took the “the double champ does what he wants” comment completely out of context (which in itself tells me you know yourself you’re clutching at straws), and you’re honing in on one insulting comment he made when in reality, this man has made his career out of insulting everyone around him, and furthermore, his career requires it of him, Trump’s does not, that’s why Trump’s behaviour is so shocking because it’s a completely unnecessary and appalling approach to what it is to be a president, if however someone entered UFC with the diplomacy and warmth of Obama, I unfortunately don’t think their career would last very long.
    Similarly, while I agree that it is never appropriate to use the word pussy, just to play devils advocate here, if you look beyond that word in his saying never put pussy on a pedastol, wouldn’t that translate to him actually saying never look at “pussy” as an object to be won, so he could actually be saying that women should never be objectified as sex objects, why jump straight to the negative extreme?
    There’s an idea in rhetoric that if you have to resort to comparing someone to Hitler to show that they’re “bad”, your argument must be extremely weak. I had wondered how long it would take for Trump to become the new Hitler in this sense, and based on this article, that’s already happened.

  • Reply Mary Smith February 26, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    An important point and an astute insight into the meaning behind the words here. Rosemary, your bravery astounds me. I cannot understand how people think this is a) OK or b) an exaggeration on your part. While McGregor’s attitude is mainly ‘all talk’ in my opinion, it’s almost definitely feeding into a culture where a president can openly speak about grabbing pussy, a culture that objectifies women (and maybe men too but I certainly can’t speak for men as I haven’t experienced it from their point of view). People can argue with you all they like but these statements dehumanise women – simple as. Have you seen the interview Holly Willoughby and Schofield conducted with the mothers of a teenage boy and a teenage girl who both committed suicide after cyber bullying. People can troll you or a younger woman who is merely trying to speak her mind about how these statements offend them but they don’t realise that their one tweet or flippant comment can have dire consequences. As a democratic society, it is the fundamental right of all citizens to speak their minds; even if that means speaking in a misogynistic fashion or speaking in a sexist manner about men etc. It seems so difficult to keep fighting the good fight but I, and so many women (and men) are so proud of you. You speak for many of us when many of us are afraid to talk about these issues. Thank you so much. Your work is important. I’d love to see you write more of this stuff – it only enhances your credibility in other matters. If I want an honest review of makeup, for example, you are the first port of call!

    Much love. x

  • Reply James Kavanagh February 26, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

    Your post contained no ideas, just tenuous inferences from quotes which do refer to a sport in which unshakeable confidence and a domination mindset are assets.

    But note that you’ve done something much worse than reduce a person to an object. You’ve reduced him to a parody of his gender. Deliberately taking quotes that refer to combat sports and imposing them into a conversation about the treatment of women. You’ve imposed your own domination mindset, using terminology like “rape culture” and “rape” where they don’t belong, hoping to recruit our social disdain for these ideas (a disdain that wouldn’t exist if our culture really did venerate rape) to your ad hoc interpretations of this guy’s words.

    Conor uses the threat of physical violence to dominate. You use the threat of social outrage. But you are trying, JUST as hard to dominate, but while Connor is dominating in consensual competition, you’re doing it to harm him, intentionally, by attempting to soil his reputation by associating him with rape.

    This is not feminism. This is using the ground earned by feminism, and the social abhorrence of things like rape and violence against women, to bully people and advance your own journalistic career. You aught to think very deeply about the harm you do to equality with these things. Your ideas are a product of social progress, not a cause of them. If you want to exaggerate the problem for your own narrow self interest, just know that you’re impelling young, impressionable women towards a hysterical fear of men and how they’ll be treated.

    By telling women society hates them, you stunt their potential. You lower their expectations. They stay out of male dominated fields, even though almost every male I know would love to work around more women. You do this in the interest only of exaggerating the problem, and barely mentioning a solution. Please, please, consider being a voice of inspiration and reason, and stop with the narrow, utterly baseless, identity politics.

    • Reply Rosemary February 28, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Hi James,

      Firstly, rape culture isn’t used to mean that a society venerates rape or celebrates rapists. It’s about a culture and society that essentially normalises sexual assault (such as ass-grabbing in clubs) and trivialises women’s lived experiences (having their asses grabbed, being afraid of sexual assault) in a way that, therefore, results in low rape conviction figures, women being afraid to speak out, rape victims being interrogated about what THEY did wrong etc.

      Secondly, you’re right in that I used quotes from a powerful, well-known man to prop up my belief that many powerful, well-known men have a misogynistic outlook and disdain for women. It’s how writing works. I think or believe X, I use quotes from X to back up my theory.

      And at no point have I said that society hates women – I think it’s important to recognise issues as and when they arise, rather than pretending that these words have no repercussions, among both men and women. I think it’s important. I suspect you disagree, and that’s fine too!

  • Reply Lorna February 26, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Nailed it. Great read.

  • Reply Jeffrey Morse February 26, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    He made a comment about the world’s ultimate fame whores the Kardashians. How terrible. Yeah, I can see how an offhanded comment about their enormous arses they proudly and purposely parade around LA on the TV… inviting attention for $$$… will get Connor labeled a product of “rape culture”. People like the author are so tediously and tritely PC.

  • Reply Jeff February 27, 2017 at 12:27 am

    The way you throw around the word rape culture and act as if Conor mcgregor is encouraging rape is actually disgusting and disrespectful to actual rape victims.

  • Reply S February 27, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I don’t think Rosemary is intelligent enough to respond to James’ post above so I assume it will remain largely ignored.

  • Reply Billie February 27, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Donald Trump had a daughter… Didn’t do much for him!

  • Reply Winston Legthigh February 28, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I am truly astounded by the utter nonsense in this post. You’re clutching at straws, connecting dots that don’t exist and resorting to sensationalist rhetoric to prop a baseless theory.

    The Kardashians, the greatest bunch of fame hungry vampires on the planet, a family predominately made up of females, objectify themselves on a daily basis in an effort to satisfy their insatiable hunger for fame. Every facet of their lives is played out on camera from child birth (the most sacred of life experiences) to marriage breakdowns. Terrible role models for young women and men around the world. They don’t need Conor McGregor to help objectify themselves further, they’ve turned objectifying themselves into a lucrative business.

    Associating McGregor with “rape culture” (definition: a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalising or trivialising sexual assault and abuse) is downright ludicrous and irresponsible in my opinion. He made a crude remark in some people’s eyes. He, in no way shape or form, trivialised or normalised sexual assault.

    As a previously mentioned, how you throw around the word “rape culture” and insinuate McGregor is condoning or encouraging rape is utterly disgusting and highly disrespectful to those unfortunate men and women (yes, men can be victims of rape and sexually objectification) who have been the victim of actual rape.

  • Reply S February 28, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Rosemary: you used his quotes to prop up your belief? I would argue that you completely MISINTERPRETED his quote. You can’t take from x and fit to y just to suit yourself and what you want to say.

  • Reply Jane February 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Hmm, a lot of hatred for the Kardashians in the comments. Powerful, rich, outspoken women…the equivalent programme featuring men would most definitely not result in the same emotional reaction…..

  • Reply E. February 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    I do tire of having rape culture explained to me. I know what it is, just because people don’t agree doesn’t mean they’re too stupid to understand.

    You don’t take a persons comments out of context – especially when that person has a public persona that plays up a certain arrogance, as boxers and fighters always have. Ali spoke of how pretty and fast he was, McGregor plays up on his perceived machismo.

    Some journalists rely on astute, perceptive analysis of the kind of issues that face people in the world today. Some, will just keep jamming the square pegs in the round holes because all they see is round pegs.

    This is not feminism. As a feminist who has been raised by two feminist parents and works with minorities and the disenfranchised, I know what feminism is about. What is isn’t about is misappropriating someones remarks and pretending they say the only thing you want to hear.

  • Reply Penny March 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Load of utter tosh. Misappropriation at its finest. But you’ve gotten all the “omg well done Hun, girl power” comments that you need so I’m sure you’re happy.

    If you are going to continue along this controversial route, might I suggest you get yourself an editor. Someone will the ability to critically analyse a piece you’ve written for factual errors before it’s prematurely thrown out there into the public domain for people to (rightly) pick apart and criticise.

  • Reply Tobias May 10, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Great piece! The comment section is a wash with nit-picking and insecure egos on the defensive. Who else is going to be incensed enough to leave a comment, and what else is new when writing about rape culture? Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Reply Bobsur September 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    the irony escaping Rosemary is that all real men, including tough, self assured, no nonsense men, like McGreggor, even sexist, insensitive men, who may lack tact and finesses, utterly abhor rape and despise rapists. Even among the criminal fraternity they are hated. Using inference and 12 steps of separation Rosemarys managed to both lump McGregor in with rape apologists like ogre George Hook and link him to so called ‘rape culture’. As if theres anything resembling a culture or popular pursuit to the horrific crime.The article stretches to the max to include and attack McGregor perhaps to cynically use his massive popularity and public reach to give her diatribe more traction and exposure. Its a disgusting smear by inference of a man whos represents nothing of the sort and borders on slander if not libel. Knowing McGregor though, he will unlikely consult his lawyers but Rosemary would have been much better off having a sit down with Connor, explain her objections to some of his past comments and then ask him to help educate through example and conversation, his large fan base of young men on how some attitudes and comments can actually impact very negatively on women and how as men we do need to be aware of this and move away from old mindsets..

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