One thing that people all over the world, in business and in life, encourage of people is to bring your whole self to everything. That you should never have to hide a part of who you are to please anyone else.
However, from what I’ve experienced, I hide a part of myself to protect me for reasons that I shouldn’t have to.
Being a female professional wrestler is something that most people usually commend you for, respect you for and appreciate, even if they don’t understand or follow professional wrestling.
Yet, there are then those who are the opposite and seem to think that, because you’re a woman involved in professional wrestling, that you are a willing target for sexual harassment and controversial discussions.
I’d started writing this earlier today before I was even aware of the ‘#speakingout’ storm that was unfolding all over Twitter and this is in no way in connection with that. This is about my experiences with people unrelated to the pro wrestling circuit and how I cannot safely talk about my passion for pro wrestling without it leading to some sort of inappropriate conversation or pictures being sent to me containing nudity or worse.
Here is a recent example of what has happened and why I choose not to share with new people who I am, as a female pro wrestler, or what my interests are. They will only know a limited portion of who I am until I feel safe to share more.
While interacting with someone recently that I’d met online, we began chatting and sharing similar interests. The conversation spread to social media, where they asked for my Instagram. “sure”, I thought, “what’s the harm”. He then began messaging directly on Instagram and quickly the conversation turned to, “wow, you’re a pro wrestler!?”
I am proud of my accomplishments in pro wrestling and what I’ve done for New Zealand’s female pro wrestling circuit however, in this conversation, as he continued to message, I had that gut feeling that this wasn’t going to end well. Shortly after, I received photos from him of females wrestling men in little to no clothing and in provocative positions, followed by his descriptions of what he enjoys.
I apologise for anyone this upsets however, this is one of many interactions like this I have had online. Some directly to my wrestling Facebook/Instagram pages and some with much worse content than this. I’ll save you from the details but please know this, I’m not the only one this happens to. And it happens much too often to be acceptable.
I feel like, after over 10 years of receiving messages like this, that I’ve become desensitized by this content. It’s not until I talk with people outside the pro wrestling circuit that I realise it’s still quite shocking. These messages are often from ‘fans’ or from people who appear to be nice people in life.
Offline, I’ve experienced similar in person where, once people know I’m a pro wrestler, the conversation changes. They become a little more inappropriate and loose with me.
I’m sharing this because, firstly, to those people who know me personally and wonder why I don’t willingly share that I’m a pro wrestler, particularly with new people, this is why. You may treat me with respect and think it’s awesome, but I know you and trust you. I don’t know this new person and I don’t want to feel like prey again or be put in a position where I feel awkward or uncomfortable. Please don’t force me into that position.
I’m a reasonably thick skinned, tough, person at the best of times but that doesn’t mean I should be treated any differently to anyone else.
Accepting and allowing this behaviour shows others that it’s okay to treat others this way. It is not okay. The person in the above example was reported straight away and blocked from all forms of contact. I will not have that in my life, nor allow a person like that in my life.
If you are a fan of pro wrestling reading this, perhaps if you’re following the events of ‘#speakingout’ or the previous lot of reports that came out under ‘#metoo’ and you’re thinking how this is still happening. Don’t only look at the pro wrestling circuit. It starts with you, too. You need to think about how you condone this behaviour and how you contribute to it in your own actions and what you allow others around you to say and do.
If you know of someone harassing someone, either in person or online, don’t stay idol. Say something. If you can’t say something to them, how do you think the person being victimised is feeling?
I wish all the best to those wrestlers speaking out today and always. Everyone deserves to be heard and treated with respect and kindness.