Does Mixed-Gender Wrestling Present An Image Of Equality Or Violence Against Women?

Context determines so much of how we process experience. A man telling a woman she looks hot can act as a compliment on a date, or a form of insidious harassment on the sidewalk. The same sentence when filtered through different tones of voice can signify opposite meanings: affection or danger, sincerity or mockery. How then do we apply context to physical acts: if a man throwing a woman through a table in the context of an apartment is brutal abuse, then is a man performing the same act on a stage a symbolic glorification of abuse, or something else entirely?

These questions are being debated and tossed back and forth in Australia as their mixed-gender wrestling league PWE (Platinum Wrestling Enterprise) has come under fire from domestic violence advocates, and concerned community members at large.

In reaction to the concern, PWE spokesperson stated: “The goal was to treat everyone as equals knowing that the female wrestlers in this country are every bit as good as the boys, however it seems that some just aren’t ready for it.”

PWE paired their wrestling mates based on skill and strength level and they are obviously trained professionals, beyond the theatrics the equality of strength and athleticism already sets these scenarios very far from most domestic violence scenarios. The crowds are not cheering for women being overpowered by men who have a physical advantage, these are crowds cheering at a well-matched fight, for and against whomever they choose.

However, the otherwide of the coin sheds light on the very real domestic violence problem in Australia (and sadly, everywhere). Domestic violence researcher Dr Anastasia Powell, firmly stands by her conviction that with the media’s rampant glorification of violence, particularly against women, these wrestling matches would only add to the glorification.

Powell begged the question: “How can we promote respectful gender equitable relationships in education with our young people, when men’s violence against women is held up as entertainment?”

She was not alone in her sentiments as many others voiced similar distaste, feeling visceral discomfort when presented with the theatrics of a male wrestler beating a female wrestler.

But what about when the female wrestler wins? Twenty-two-year old Australian wrestler Kelly Salter claims she thinks it’s incredibly empowering, and challenges the sexist assumptions that women are automatically weaker.

Salter said: “There is no sweeter satisfaction than winning your match against a male and a little girl coming up to you after it telling you you’re their hero.”

As it currently stands, PWE has been forced to disband their mixed-gender wrestling, but the discussion continues, as wrestlers and fans alike want to see the fights continue.