BY: STEFANIE PHILLIPS
Sitting on top of a blue garbage can, Garbage Face clenches her eyes and purses her mouth in concentration — and a little constipation — as she pretends to take a shit in the middle of the wrestling ring. Her opponent, SHREEEKA staggers about in the corner trying to recover from a body slam. Before she can, Garbage Face pulls an uncooked sausage out from deep in the can and throws it into SHREEEKA’s face.
“AAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIII” the wrestler’s ear-piercing shriek echoes in the air as the phony fecal matter slides down the front of her torn shirt and bounces off the ring floor. SHREEEKA struggles to fight back as Garbage Face pins her to the ground with force. In one quick movement she rips SHREEEKA’s pubic hair from her crotch like a bad bikini wax, stripping her of all her powers and winning the match.
Garbage Face being carried to a fight in her garbage can.
Win or lose, the wrestlers mingle with the crowd in the backyard of the Artscape at Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. Dixie Rotique flicks her long pink wig over her shoulder and hands out Dubble Bubble to anyone who will accept it. The bell-bottoms of Kitty Stardust’s thrift pant-length jumpsuit drag in the grass as she walks past someone touching Sqrue Younicorn’s horn. Her horn is a pink dildo, covered in glitter that has been MacGyvered to a chastity belt on her head. They call themselves the Toronto League of Lady Wrestlers.
Led by creator, Aubyn O’Grady (a.k.a Big Jody Mufferaw) the 14 lady wrestlers get together once a year to put on a night of choreographed madness. Secluded behind the trees and bushes of the island, under the soft hanging lights, the wrestlers are free to let their “freak flag fly,” says Kitty Stardust. The wrestling ring has become a stage where the women can transgress any expectations society has for them and demonstrate women being strong, independent and gross.
The wrestling ring allows women to go beyond the expectations of society and show that women can be strong, independent and gross.
One of the wrestlers, Megan Franklyne starts rummaging through garbage cans weeks before every match looking for the perfect pieces to sew onto her costume. Striking gold is finding Subway wrappers and old bologna. When she’s satisfied with her array of garbage she’ll stomp her shirt into the ground and soak it in tea and wine to get the full effect. On the night of the match, she’ll stick lettuce — and anything else she can find —into her oily, tangled wig. The result is her character, Stinker. Even though Franklyne can’t connect to Stinker based on her level of cleanliness (or lack thereof) her character stems from a desire to be ugly and gross in the ring. “It’s fun to push back against the expectation that you’re supposed to look pretty all of the time.”
Nicole Neverson, a professor of sociology at Ryerson University, says the league uses the same traditional narratives and story telling devices that other sports like World Wrestling Entertainment and professional wrestling use, but they create a unique spectacle by basing the story lines on female-identified characters instead of male identified ones. Professional wrestling was popular in the late ’90s and early 2000s, at the same time backyard wrestling — a sport involving predominantly young males performing untrained moves in low-budget environments — broke into the mainstream via camcorder-filmed events being shared on the internet. Over the years it became ultra violent, deterring media coverage and eventually fading out of popularity. When the League of Lady Wrestlers was formed in 2013, it brought elements of professional wrestling and backyard wrestling back to life at their first event in Dawson City, Yukon. Neverson speculates that the people participating in the audience are people who are thinking critically about the sports they watch in mainstream media and they are actively choosing to consume this because they want to support women in these roles.
Tara Sachs was sitting in the crowd when Garbage Face threw a cold slice of pizza at her. She says it’s the gross theatrical moments like this that get her most excited. “It’s empowering in its disgust.” For her it isn’t necessarily a feminist atmosphere, but it is definitely female positive. Take SHREEEKA’s signature move, the yeast infection, for example, a move that involves shoving her opponent’s head into her yeast infected crotch. “Guys make dick jokes all the time but you don’t get to hear those kind of jokes about women without it being sexual or derogatory.”
“They’re seeing people who are cross-dressing, seeing women who are angry, they’re seeing women who are violent, who are strong, who are gross and they’re cheering them on.”
Andrea Leigh-Pelletier came all the way from Dawson City, Yukon to be in the most recent Toronto match as her pseudonym, SHREEEKA. Every year she sees the events gaining participants who contribute to the event by exploring a side of themselves they normally don’t. Coming from a small northern town — where the population is 1,319 — and seeing the Toronto crowd, she realizes just how small the queer community in Dawson really is. But regardless of their opinions, the residents of Dawson come out to the events just the same and they enjoy them. “They’re seeing people who are cross-dressing, seeing women who are angry, they’re seeing women who are violent, who are strong, who are gross and they’re cheering them on.”
When Aubyn O’Grady first formed the league with Leigh-Pelletier and 17 other volunteers, she chose wrestling because she “started to view physical strength as something very feminine and the wrestling ring became a natural place to show it off.” Since its start, the league has grown to also include groups of women in Montreal and Toronto. Naturally, the sport comes with its fair share of rolled ankles, but creating this stage for women in three cities across Canada is a spectacle well worth every battle wound.