HEMA, Women and Data!

Things that make Hemaists uncomfortable

The questionnaire contained several questions regarding uncomfortable situations that fencers might be confronted with, all of them were about the HEMA training environment or community.

One question that had a stark gender divide was “What was asked of me was above my skill level/I felt overwhelmed”. Only 2% of men reported having had this experience often with 50% never having experienced it at all. For women this is different- 17% said to have experienced this often and only 27% never with 55% experiencing it “rarely”. 
The following graph highlights another issue;

A drastic difference can be observed regarding gendered remarks; only women answering the survey experience this „often“.

Women who filled out the survey also reported feeling more compelled to lie about the level of discomfort they are in. 89% of men stated to never have done this at all while 10% of women say they have experienced this often and 23% rarely. 
Furthermore, 13% of women who filled out the survey stated that they are often made to feel like they don’t belong, a feeling reported only by 2,4% of the male participants. Of course, this is a very broad descriptor, yet it could be a symptom of an underlying multifaceted problem which will be addressed in more depth in the discussion part of this article.

Why didn’t you speak up?

„I did not want to be perceived a killjoy or weak“

female participant

„Was frequently made uncomfortable by a club member (staring, facebook messages, comments about my body), did not take action because he was the best friend of the trainer and I was new to the club.“

female participant

„I am often the only woman in training and not so mobile and persistent – I stand out anyway.“

„I didn’t want to create „drama“ and be thought of as a complainer.“

female participant

Why did you speak up or take action?

„We need to take action and to call it out so it wont repeated to others and I am actively to make HEMA a better community at least through my club“

„I feel as a larger cis male if I can’t train safely or without fear few people will be able to. It’s up to folks like me to make the community safer for those who don’t have a voice or don’t want to put their bodies on the line for that.“

I had over the years quite a few encounters with situations that I felt were uncomfortable and excessive. Cases of unnecessary violence, excessive sexuelisation and straight up bullying. Sometimes I was the victim, sometimes it was others. In the beginning I remained silent, but I was lucky that I experienced that others around me were speaking openly about the incident they felt inappropriate, leading to an open debate. So I spoke up as well and experienced the same.

male participant

I’m one of the instructors. It’s duty of care.

male participant

To build a kinder club enviroment.

male participant

You fix problems by fixing them, not by not doing anything about them.

male participant

Women and gear

HEMA gear, be it protective, necessary, fancy-looking, sweat-absorbing or otherwise, is a big part of this martial art and topic of many social media discussions. Naturally, we included multiple questions about it, in the survey. We are planning on publishing an article dedicated to this topic in the future. Looking at gender, purchasing behaviour and overall fit stood out to us.

Male participants report that they perceive buying HEMA equipment as less expensive, even cheap in some cases, compared to their female peers. Twice the percentage of women compared to the percentage of men selected “too expensive, I had to stop buying gear”, no woman selected “cheap, I don’t have to think twice”, 20% perceived it as “very costly” with only 11% perceiving the cost of equipment as reasonable (22% of men selected this answer). 

Financial inequality might also be a barrier preventing women from taking HEMA up as a hobby, as women perceive the financial investment to get started as greater than male HEMAists do.

On top of this, gear does not seem to fit female bodies as well as their male counterparts. 40% of female fencers can only comfortably wear certain gear if it is custom made. In comparison; only 25,4% of men stated this. 

As written above, men that participated in the survey stated to be slightly older than women, which could moderate the differences in perceiving the price of HEMA equipment. Another factor might be the higher need of women for custom fit gear, which typically is more expensive than ready-made gear. Again, there is a multitude of other possible explanations for the perceived difference, the discussion of economic inequality between genders might also be part of this.

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