These are frequent occurrences, Van Soest told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition ofThe MMA Hour. But there are some instances where she just refuses to take it and does something about it.
“At least every day,” Van Soest said of receiving harassment on social media. “At least once a day. It’s not relentless. Sometimes it’s pretty quiet or it’s pretty mild. But then there’s sometimes where somebody just has the nerve to post something so vulgar or so inappropriate or so rude, I cannot stay quiet. I have to respond. I think a lot times they don’t expect a response. Like I’m not gonna see it. And I think it’s kind of important in a sense to be like, ‘Hey, just because you’re sitting behind a computer screen or your phone and there’s no consequence for what you just said, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an affect.’ And you need to know that that’s not OK.”
Van Soest, 28, is not alone in her experiences. Just ask any other woman in MMA or in the public eye. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against women is one of the most pressing, hot-button topics of our time, from Hollywood to politics.
On social media, things can get ugly. Van Soest believes it is because people hide behind their computer screens and smartphones and would never say something like what they write on Instagram or Twitter in real life.
“Especially the guys who are like, [on] videos of me hitting mitts, like, ‘Oh, nice booty’ or whatever,” Van Soest said. “Something about that. I’ll respond, ‘Would you say that to my face if you saw me in the gym?’ No. So why would you say that to me here?”
Van Soest, who fights fellow decorated kickboxer Anissa Meksen at Glory 48 on Friday night in New York, understands there are certain dynamics between men and women. But she stressed the necessity of having some boundaries.
“I think it’s just males and females co-habitating,” Van Soest said. “When it comes down to the most biological aspects of it, a male sees an attractive female it’s gonna generate some type of response. But to actually act on it and say something inappropriate like that is another thing than just in your head you can be like, ‘She’s got a nice ass while she’s hitting mitts, that’s cool.’ But instead, you put it out there and tweet it. If you wouldn’t say that to my face or to that girl’s face — ’cause you know she would clock you — don’t write it.”
Van Soest (1-1 in MMA) said she has had very few real-life experiences of sexual harassment in the gym. The times in which men have made inappropriate comments, she said she has taught them a lesson in training.
“I wait until it’s time to spar or time to drill or whatever,” Van Soest said.
The social-media negativity extends past sexual harassment, Van Soest said. It also applies to fighters of all genders getting blasted for losing fights or whatever else.
“One of the main issues in today’s world is cyberbullying and that just goes along with the anxiety and the depression and especially with kids in this generation, the social media generation,” Van Soest sad. “It’s terrible. People can just say whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want with no consequences. They don’t think about how it affects the person they’re saying it to.
“Even after a fighter loses a fight, they just went out and bared their soul to the world. You think they wanted to lose? You think they wanted to have a bad performance? Do you think you telling them they suck or how badly they did is gonna help in any way or contribute to how they’re feeling? No.”
Despite all that, Van Soest said she rarely blocks people on social media. It’s her personal choice, because she said she doesn’t want them to think they actually got to her. And sometimes, she has to let loose in response, like one of her patented slicing elbows or side kicks.
“I don’t want to give them the satisfaction,” Van Soest said. “If they want to keep talking shit and keep being a kind of crummy person, I’ll acknowledge it and be like ‘that sucks,’ but I’m gonna leave this here for everybody else to see, let everyone else see how terrible you are for saying that. But every once in a while, when I’m feeling some kind of way or it’s something so bad I can’t ignore it, I’ll respond. And usually, they’re really quick to back pedal.”