League of Lady Wrestlers steps into the ring in Victoria

Amateur wrestling league combines wrestling and performance art to lay the smackdown on traditional gender roles

Wrestling and performance art combine to challenge traditional gender roles

Members of Dawson City's League of Lady Wrestlers duke it out in the ring during the 2014 event. (Credit Alex Hakonson/League Of Lady Wrestlers)

When Margaret Bowes steps into the ring as "Black Widow," she does more than just wrestle her opponent.

She uses her performance to both celebrate her own individual femininity and give traditional gender stereotypes a smackdown.

She and her fellow performers are part of the art collective, League of Lady Wrestlers — and this spring Bowes is launching a West Coast chapter of the league in Victoria.

"What I enjoy most about the league is that it's an opportunity to express your raunchiest, unapologetic self,"  Bowes told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

Margaret Bowes as the 'Black Widow' performs her signature move, 'The Female Gaze.' Black Widow performing her signature move, "The Female Gaze" during the Island Rumble II at Artscape Gibraltar Point, Toronto Island on Sept. 18, 2015. (Alex Hakonson)

The League of Lady Wrestlers originally formed in Dawson City, Yukon in 2013, and there are also chapters in Toronto and Montreal.

"We learn real wrestling moves but we take into account that it is more performative than anything else," Bowes said.

"Our stories are far more elaborate than you would find in traditional pro wrestling … our moves are very scripted."

Bowes said each performer comes up with their own personas and writes a script for their show. The announcer at the event helps the audience keep track of each story and performer's signature moves.

She said performers use their characters to subvert traditional gender stereotypes, while at the same time entertaining the audience.

"It's this vein to be able to subvert the male gaze in visual culture, which is very rare in performance, especially when it's all women [and] there's this expectation of how women are supposed to be represented," she said.

Bowes said she wanted to bring a league to the Island to challenge the general thinking about Victoria.

"There is this ongoing stereotype [of] Victoria being a quiet quaint garden city full of nearly deads and newlyweds," she said.

"So we decided to host an event here and create a performance that will stir things up and get people excited about performance and have the community engage our project that is accessible to everyone."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Female wrestling and performance art league comes to Victoria


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