Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wrestling Shows Need to Be Safe Spaces

The women in the SHIMMER crowd should feel as safe as the men do
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Women's wrestling promotions are a net good in that they provide a place for female wrestlers to find high-profile work when other coed promotions tend to relegate them to one match per card if at all. In theory, companies like SHIMMER and WSU should provide the kind of representation for the woman fan that allows them to fill the stands. That ideal does not tend to bear out, as the crowd splits seem to be typical for any indie wrestling show, sometimes skewing even more heavily to men. I would love to say the entirety of the male portion of the crowd is progressive and is there to support women in the ring without a hint of grossness or tongue-wagging, but a portion of those men in the crowd, not the entirety but a portion, go to these shows with the express purpose of creeping and preying on women, whether they be the wrestlers or the fans. I shouldn't have to explicitly state that this is a problem, but it's 2015 and I have to which is sad.

These problems were again brought to light after the most recent SHIMMER weekend, when the issue of male fans making both the shows and the promotion-sponsored afterparties uncomfortable at best and unsafe at worst for women in attendance came up again on a recent podcast. The response from parties at SHIMMER, however, was less than encouraging, and in fact, Allison Danger got angry at the person making the accusation. For a company at the forefront of showcasing women's wrestling, that response is disappointing to say the least. It also speaks to why women may not want to come to wrestling shows, especially independent wrestling shows. If a wrestling show, even and especially one with women performing in the ring, can't be a safe space for them, then why should it be expected that they attend?

The idea of the "safe space" for women in 2015 is ideally repulsive, not because women shouldn't have safe spaces, but because no reason exists why every space shouldn't be safe for them. No woman should have to fear for her life or safety, and yet the number of places where a woman doesn't have to worry about someone attacking or sexually assaulting them is pitifully paltry. Wrestling shows, indie wrestling especially are the rare form of sporting entertainment where women can feel empowered alongside men, but fairly few promotions embrace that potential in the ring, let alone outside of it. How can this be acceptable?

The truth is that when a promoter runs a show, that person is tasked with the safety of not only the workers, but the fans too. That safety doesn't end with responsibility for the fans as collateral damage from errant spots, but also from each other, and if someone doesn't feel safe, then the person running the show has failed. This responsibility must extend if that promotion is running a sponsored afterparty afterwards. If anyone doesn't feel safe at a show, how can they be expected to attend? And if enough of the theoretical target audience (and make no mistake, while women's wrestling can and should be enjoyed by all fans, the current ventures are ideally a means for demographic representation for women fans) is threatened and SHIMMER or any other women's promotion becomes just another exploitative venture, a place where women are displayed like circus animals for a demographically opposite audience, of which a certain percentage could be described as "thirsty."

If you can't afford adequate security for your show, then you can't afford to run the show. If you don't care enough about the safety of my fellow human beings, then you don't care enough to get money from me. It's as simple as that. Women are, contrary to some popular thought, human beings, and they deserve to have the same feelings of safety that the average man does at a wrestling show. If a woman is bringing up that she feels unsafe at a wrestling show, she should be taken seriously, not brushed aside. In the future, I hope that SHIMMER and other promotions take these concerns to heed and work to create environments where women can come and feel safe. If not, then maybe those companies ought not to be in the business of attracting crowds in the first place.