Yeah, I’m back on that hobby horse again. Feel free to roll your eyes and click away, but that doesn’t mean sexism is any less of a problem.
I’m writing this blog post now because of an incident at last night’s Fight Club Pro, where a female wrestler – a very young female wrestler – was invited to get her tits out.
The culprit has been boasting about it, arguing that this and similar calls (“get back to the kitchen”) are just “banter”.
“Banter” is a word I hate. It’s a term that’s come to mean “things that we know are unacceptable to say, but we wish they weren’t, because we like being grossly offensive to attempt to assert our power”.
It’s to FCP’s credit that they’ve told that fan he isn’t welcome back; and it’s entirely delightful to see Jimmy Havoc as the voice of reasonable people, with Chris Brookes backing him up.
Hey guys! If you shout “Get your tits out” at a show to a girl in the ring, and get called out for it, don’t argue your case. You have none.
— Jimmy Havoc (@JimmyHavoc) September 23, 2017
They’ve both been told that it’s ridiculous for “heels” to object to such catcalls and comments; someone even suggested that the entire episode, with wrestlers calling out unacceptable behaviour, is indicative of how “gay” wrestling is becoming.
Well, here are some thoughts.
- Wrestling is one of the most homoerotic pastimes on the planet, let’s face it. I’ve always been surprised that more straight women and more gay men aren’t drawn to it. There’s a nasty streak of misogyny and homophobia running through it, though, as straight men try so desperately to prove their “macho” credentials aren’t ever in danger, even though they enjoy watching the men in the ring, sporting their skimpy and tight clothing. Constant complaining that women shouldn’t be wrestling, and should be decorative, smiling, passive and quiet, goes hand in hand with that.
- I’m not sure it’s entirely a “gay” characteristic to want women in general and female friends and colleagues in particular to be treated with respect. I’m pretty confident the majority of straight men would want that too.
- Shouting sexist, sexualised abuse at a woman isn’t “banter”. It’s a reminder to that woman – and all women in the room, and all women who hear about it afterwards – that whenever we are in that situation again (whether that’s at a wrestling show, in a football ground, or just walking down the street) we can never fully relax, never fully enjoy ourselves, because we’re always on guard. Just in case. Even if it wasn’t directed at us, because next time it might be.
Sometimes we might ignore it, and just pretend we haven’t heard. Sometimes we might laugh it off. But we’ll always remember it. And if you try to say, “Well, you came back to the next show, so it couldn’t have upset you that much,” you’re wrong. We just don’t want awful human beings stopping us from being part of the thing we love, even if you might have soured it a little, for ever.
- It is always heartening to see men calling out this kind of behaviour, primarily because sexists aren’t going to listen to women, only the people with the XY chromosome stamp of approval. Similar to Andy Murray consistently arguing for equality in tennis, high-profile men making it clear that misogyny and sexism are not welcome in wrestling has a huge impact.
Everyone can do better with this, as well. If you’re at a show and some idiot is shouting comments like that, say something to them. They need to be made to feel as uncomfortable as the woman they are trying to embarrass, shame and reduce to the sum of her body.
And just to note: a policy of equal respect and fairness for all is the guiding principle of feminism. Guess what, you’re probably a feminist – hooray for you! If you’re a man, it doesn’t make you any less of one for thinking and showing that a woman deserves to be treated the same as you; if you’re a woman, it doesn’t make you bossy or “unfeminine” to demand equality, nor does it make you weak for appreciating men’s support.
This kind of behaviour is not a joke; it’s not funny, and it’s not to be dismissed or ignored, because that way nothing will change. It needs to be confronted, and challenged. We do not live in a perfect world, but we can certainly try to improve our little corner of it by making wrestling a place where men and women are treated with equal dignity and respect, whether they are wrestlers or fans.