Fact: sexism is still a problem

September 24, 2017

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.

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.

 

 

 

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King of Trios; or how I learnt to stop worrying and love CHIKARA

September 3, 2017

When I first started watching CHIKARA, a friend of mine offered to lend me his collection of DVDs so I could catch up. He began going through the storylines, filling in the history, trying to make sure I knew as much as possible about all of it before I got any further into it.

Now, usually I’m a completist. Let’s be real here. Words and phrases that have been used to describe me, with varying degrees of accuracy from people with varying degrees of affection for me, include “obsessive”, “nerdy”, “control freak” – ploughing through dozens of DVDs to watch something I love seems right in my wheelhouse.

I never felt like that about CHIKARA, though. I didn’t need to instantly begin to fill the gaps, to make myself as knowledgeable as possible as quickly as possible, to make myself a “better” or “more real” fan, to make myself worthy of being part of the Chikarmy.

And that interested me from an objective point of view. In my academic life, my thesis was on female soccer fans in England; and one of my arguments there was that in such a macho environment, women find themselves asked to prove their fandom again and again and again, in a way that men aren’t. There are trivia quizzes, there are interrogations of attendance, there are comments about appearance and “which player do you fancy, then?”. Fighting one’s corner is stupid, and exhausting; but so often necessary.

But it wasn’t that way with CHIKARA. I fell in love head over heels and that was it. CHIKARA asks for nothing more from me. The fact that I love it is enough. And it loves me too. Read the rest of this entry »


Interview: Rhia O’Reilly

February 10, 2017

16463042_1235918933110397_3551233650503381513_oRhia O’Reilly has been a Friend of TOWIS almost since its inception – so what better way to mark our relaunch than by catching up with her?

The last time we met up, you were about to have your match in EVE with Nikki Storm…

I remember! I’ve probably seen her more since she went to America than I did when she was in Scotland. It’s funny – the first person I was friends with who went to WWE was Bayley, but she’s American, that’s what they do, they go to WWE. Then it was Paige. To see this small, angry Scottish woman on telly is weird – but I’m so happy for her. Read the rest of this entry »


Fact: Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble is annoying – but maybe not for the reasons you think

January 30, 2017

The bookies were right. Randy Orton won the 30th annual Royal Rumble to secure his place at WrestleMania.

Except…Randy Orton was always going to be at WrestleMania. He’s Randy Orton. The Viper. The Legend-Killer. The Evolution of the Legacy. His place on the big stage is assured.

But he’s a safe choice – and when it came down to the final two, with Roman Reigns the other man still standing, an Orton win was the only way to assure cheers rather than boos as the show went off the air.

Something else that would have assured cheers would have been a more exciting, more interesting choice for the winner – somebody who’s not already guaranteed a shot at the year’s biggest show. Read the rest of this entry »


Fact: The WWE UK Championship Tournament was amazing – and it’s just the start

January 16, 2017

In recent months, I’ve not been overly impressed with WWE’s programming. I tend to get up on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning, glance over the results from RAW and Smackdown, and decide whether to bother watching the episode. (I remain loyal to NXT, though, which always has something worth seeing.)

And when you’re having a busy time of it at work, it’s easy to slip away from getting to too many live wrestling shows; it has to be something really special to get me through the door at the moment.

So it’s easy for me to forget how much I love wrestling.

And then there’s a weekend like this, and I remember it all over again.

Read the rest of this entry »


Fact: World of Sport Wrestling could be a 2017 hit

January 2, 2017

British fans of British wrestling tuned in to ITV on New Year’s Eve, ready to see what was about to be served up under the World of Sport banner.

And you know what? It was pretty good.  Read the rest of this entry »


On Enzo Amore, injury, and why I can’t watch Payback now

May 2, 2016

I didn’t stay up for Payback last night. I knew I’d have to be up reasonably early to go to work (yes, on a bank holiday) so decided I could catch up on the Network later.

Then I got a Whatsapp message while I was asleep. I woke up, glanced at it, read it again, and again.

It was from a wrestler friend who told me that Enzo Amore’s injury looked terrifying.

You can’t sleep after reading something like that. I looked on Twitter, and saw that people were already posting screengrabs and footage. I looked away.

I gathered that it was a neck injury, that he’d hit the ropes and on falling to the ground his eyes had already rolled back in his head, that he was out for the count and the X had been thrown up immediately.

I really like Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. I’ve written before about how the traditional NXT pathway – before ready-made stars were parachuted in – gives the viewer a stronger investment in the talent. We love Sami Zayn and Bayley because they worked and worked and worked over months, on our screens; we saw them progress and we wanted them to win.

And we love Enzo and Cass because this tiny crazy ball of energy, with his bizarre dress sense, and his giant muscle-bound buddy, with a surprisingly nice singing voice, are an odd couple, with evident affection between them; they’ve scrapped and fought and taken on all-comers in NXT and still never managed to win the big belt, and that doesn’t even matter at all, it doesn’t detract from their star quality, it makes us love them more.

Even if I didn’t love Enzo and Cass, though, watching a show after someone has incurred a serious injury makes me feel incredibly uneasy. It makes me think of Over The Edge, and poor Jeff Jarrett going out there after his close friend Owen Hart had been carried out; or TNA’s Against All Odds being aired on UK TV some days after the event, even though Jesse Sorensen broke his neck.

It makes it all too real. The irony is that professional wrestling is mocked so often for being “fake”, but the fact is that it’s just as real as rugby or motor racing, where the participants take a calculated risk every time they step out there – they know the potential dangers and that’s a chance they’re happy to take.

I’m told that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn did a sterling job going out there after the number one contendership was curtailed. I feel awful for them that they had to do that; I’m reminded of the casual tweet that Zayn sent some months ago, thanking Enzo for going to the cinema with him to see a film he didn’t want to see, just because he’s a good friend.

I feel awful for Aiden English and Simon Gotch too, who will be feeling terrible; as will the New Day and the commentary team and everyone around the ring at the time.

It was a relief to see the first tweet from WWE – coming from Owens, of all people, resplendent in his Tapout shirt and beaming while an endearingly besuited Big Cass talked animatedly with Enzo, in his bright blue hospital gown.

owens

WWE confirmed shortly afterwards that he had been released from hospital.

zo

Terrible accidents like this remind us how fragile life is, how mortal we are, and how our professional wrestlers deserve our respect and our thanks.