Thoughts of female wrestlers are likely to conjure up over sexualized, performative and borderline misogynist imagery as opposed thoughts of feminine liberation. However, it’s not all big breasts and tight latex. Brighton based zine fair Hidden Eggs are hoping to question these stereotypes, and showcase the stories of women with a genuine love for throwing punches, in their one-day only exhibition based around the culture and community of female wrestlers. Hosted at Doomed Gallery Dalston, Isobel Reddington has pulled in a selection of artists, working across mediums such as photography and illustration, to create a multi-faceted view of what it means to partake in this largely male dominated career path. With the evening doubling up as the first ever UK screening of Ruth Lietman’s documentary Lipstick and Dynamite, in which pioneers of the scene tell their own stories, Women of Wrestling serves as a celebration of the wrestling world as well as a subtle critique.
First of all, who is Hidden Eggs and what do you do?
Hidden Eggs is a zine that was born out of the inspiration and frustration of a group of friends working in the service industries in Brighton while making their own work on in their spare time. It is a celebration of people whose work goes under the radar of mainstream media, and also a reaction to beautifully designed magazines with rubbish content. I have organised two successful zine fairs in Brighton this year – there are a lot of people self publishing in Brighton and London at the moment, which is great! There is critique and humour in zines that is hard to find elsewhere in print. Women of Wrestling is actually the first of its kind that I have organised, I think the success of the zine fairs (which came as a surprise) provided the confidence to branch out into other things.
Women of Wrestling is the first of monthly events in conjunction with Doomed Gallery, how did this partnership come about and will of your future events be female focused?
Well it looks that way! The next show is going to be about ‘Punk Girls’, which is a huge subject to explore. The partnership with Doomed happened from selling Hidden Eggs zine at one of their fairs
I saw advertised on Tumblr (thank you, internet). While at the show the owner of the gallery- who liked the wrestling zine I was selling- suggested putting on a show together of the same theme. I had never curated an exhibition before, but the whole idea behind making zines is DIY and the ‘I am not a professional but I am still going to do it’ attitude sort of carried over.
Why was it important to you to celebrate the female wrestling community?
I think it is a good idea to celebrate the success of women in any profession while there are still massive imbalances in how such things are portrayed by the media. I think it’s also a good idea to celebrate alternative career paths – by which I mean people perusing something for the love of it. Not everyone can or wants to be a corporate CEO. In the evening of the Women of Wrestling show, we are hosting the first UK screening of Ruth Lietman’s documentary Lipstick and Dynamite, which follows the careers of pioneering female wrestlers in the US. They lived life on their own terms and have stories that put formulaic Hollywood action films to shame in and outside of the ring! There are so many cases of women being written out of history, whether it’s their contribution to something as esteemed as science or glorified like the entertainment industry. Documentaries like this where people tell their stories in their own words are really important.
How did the screening of Lipstick and Dynamite come about and why was it important to include the documentary within the event?
I watched Lipstick and Dynamite while planning the Hidden Eggs wrestling zine, and found it really inspiring. Each of the women interviewed had incredible stories in which they get back up after being knocked down (metaphorically as well as physically!). I think that is an important story to share, especially with such negative politics happening in the UK at the moment.
Are you pushing against the arguably sexist nature of mainstream wrestling, (like WWE), or celebrating it? Why?
There are a lot of things in the history of wrestling that are problematic, and it’s not just the portrayal of women. There are so many characters that are and have been based on offensive stereotypes for controversy and to provide cheap gimmicks to pull crowds and get people watching WWE. I don’t think this show is a conscious reaction to that, more to celebrate the women who have inspired us, and make them visible to other people.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt about female wrestling, and the culture surrounding it, whilst organising the event?
Well while researching into British female wrestlers I stumbled upon a clip of the late Sue Brittain, who was dubbed the ‘Emmeline Pankhurst of wrestling’ for taking London councils to court over the right for women to wrestle professionally. It seems like she was a fierce character- not to be messed with. Her husband Ron Farrar has sent some incredible photos of her for the show- both in the ring as Sue Brittain and as her later character ‘Lady Satan’. I learned a lot from interviewing the founders of Pro-Wrestling Eve – an all female European Wrestlers promotion company, who suggest there is a lot of ‘gender stupidity’ in the business.
Women of Wrestling is on at Doomed Gallery, Dalston from the 18th July
More information can be found here.