EVOLVE72 – Stand Up and Be Heard

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I was surprised and proud when, a block away from La Boom tonight in Woodside, Queens, I discovered via Twitter that Joey Styles’ abominable comments at this evening’s EVOLVE 72 show resulted in his termination. It helped ease the sting of such a harsh, disgusting, uncomfortable moment among an otherwise killer live event. I don’t want this night to go down in my memory as The Night Joey Said That Thing.

If time allows, I do hope to do a mini cast about tonight’s card, as well as what I’ll be seeing tomorrow in Joppa, MD. I took a close friend who has limited experience with wrestling to this show, and we had a wonderful time. This experience set the gears turning in my head, and I’d like to make some notes so I can clearly share them with you all. But I don’t want this nonsense with Styles getting in the way, so I thought I’d write about it.

In the aftermath of it all, I believe strongly that Gabe Sapolsky did the right thing in firing Styles. But I would like to encourage him NOT to let this be the final comment on this issue. While EVOLVE may be a promotion that does not feature women’s matches, it DOES employee women on its staff, and has a fairly mixed audience of men and women. Making sure these women – ALL of these women – feel safe at their shows is part of Gabe’s job. Terminating Styles’ employment with EVOLVE sends a strong message to the staff and performers, but I wish a clear one was sent to the audiences, not just of EVOLVE, but of all pro-wrestling.

There are many different manifestations of privilege in our culture. In the industry of professional wrestling, men (in particular, white men) are afforded a bully pulpit, which they may avail themselves of if they should choose to do so. With EVOLVE being in a working relationship with WWE, as well as its new relationship with FloSlam, and Sapolsky’s own reputation after years in the industry, it could make serious waves in the favor of equality should he extend his comments on tonight’s events to include that EVOLVE is adopting a zero-tolerance policy for racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic commentaries, both from the staff and from the fans. What if EVOLVE stood up as a promotion where everyone can feel safe, whether you are in the ring performing or outside the ring observing?

“But he already fired Styles, and set an example. Why should he say anything else?” Because he can. He has the power to not only put at ease all of the fans who skip live events because they’re afraid of what the fans will be like, or that some dialogue in the ring will be triggering to them, but to set an example for an entire industry. When tiny promotions are nervous to lay down such intense policies because they’re afraid of isolating a portion of their fanbase and losing revenue, EVOLVE can stand up and say “yeah, some people won’t like this and won’t come to our shows. That’s fine. We don’t want their business if they need to shout offensive, cruel things during our events.” They can be leaders by example, and set a new tone for promotions that are inclusive and safe.

I don’t run a wrestling promotion. I am a fan who tries to advocate for the things she believes in. Perhaps my idyllic notions about integration and equality in wrestling are impossible to achieve. But, I have hope. I feel strongly that encouraging those with power to speak on our issues is key in the fight for equality. I know that Gabe Sapolsky and other promoters like him will continue to do what is best for their companies, and hopefully what is best for their companies will continue to be what is also best for their communities.

The Lady J Says

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2 Comments

  1. I wasn’t there, and haven’t seen a video – I’ve just read about what he said, so I don’t really know the context or tone it was said in, so my thoughts I’m about to give may be all wrong.

    I don’t think what he said was funny, or clever. It was stupid and low brow, but I don’t think it was a misogynistic joke, but more a joke on what an idiot Donald Trump is. I understand that a woman had to be singled out in order for the terrible joke to be made, I don’t think she was the target of the joke, per se.

    I certainly don’t condone misogyny or racism etc. in comedy. I was at a comedy show last week, and there was a 50 year-old comedian at the end of the show who seemed to think we were still in the 80s and was making joke after joke which degraded women, and I just walked out.

    I know you are passionate about integration equality, and I agree with you on most points and wish more people were like you, but is it possible that this is less a case of Joey Styles being a misogynist, and more of him just being a terrible comedian?

    Again, I wasn’t there, so may have got the wrong end of the stick, and have only read about literally one line that Joey said, so please don’t hate me if I’ve got it all wrong!

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    • Hey Phil,
      I’m so glad you mentioned this, and that you did it in such a respectful way. Thanks so much for commenting!

      There are two parts to what Styles said last night, and both are incredibly problematic. The first, of course, is that he felt it was appropriate to drag the ring announcer into his Donald Trump reference. Joanna is a professional member of the staff, and not a prop to be used for a particularly tasteless remark. I did not get the feeling that Styles cleared it with her in advance, which only increases the inappropriateness of his comment.

      The second part is that the word Styles left out of his comments he then used as an insult toward Stokley Hathaway, which is representative of the systemic nature of misogyny. Misogyny does not ONLY exist in instances when someone is woman-bashing or directly trying to oppress women. There is also a larger picture of inherent misogyny that can be traced back to what we teach children. When we say someone “throws like a girl”, we mean they throw poorly. When we say someone “runs like a girl”, we mean they run slower or in a silly manner. This is misogyny. Perhaps the sentiment in the moment is not directly intentional, but what we ARE teaching any woman is that her womanhood makes her less than a man. What we ARE teaching men is that they are more simply because they are male. To suggest that a word used to mean a woman’s genitalia is an INSULT that Hathaway should be offended by is to insinuate that a women’s genitalia makes one weak; to have a vagina or to identify as a woman, makes you less, and as a man this should offend you.

      Misogyny is not just throwing slurs or insults at women. It is also the insistence by ANYONE that suggesting someone IS a woman, has female body parts, or identifies as a female makes them into something a man would be offended to be. This is why what Joey Styles said is misogyny, and cannot be tolerated in any environment.

      -J.

      Like

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