Conor McGregor: the problem with machismo

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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.