Micro wrestling. Who knew?
After shopping at Walmart, I returned to my truck only to find a flier advertising micro wrestling coming soon to an event venue outside of La Grange. The event was billed as “HIGH FLYING, BODY SLAMMING & OFF THE TOP ROPE! “OUTRAGEOUSLY FUN!”
MICRO WRESTLING AND LITTLE PEOPLE
After staring at the circular for several minutes, I realized that everyone in the picture was a little person. According to the University of Washington:
The terms “person of short stature,” “little person,” and “dwarf” are commonly used in the United States to refer to a person with a medical condition called “dwarfism.” Although preferred terms vary by person and community, according to the Little People of America website, many people who experience dwarfism prefer the term “little person.” According to Little People of America, dwarfism is “a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4 ft 10 inches (145 cm) or shorter, among both men and women.” Unless physical stature is of relevance in a conversation, simply using a person’s name is appropriate.
MICRO WRESTLING AND EXPLOITATION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Frankly, I was horrified. The United States has a history of exploiting people with disabilities as entertainment.
Tom Thumb (1838-1883) née Charles Sherwood Stratton is perhaps the most famous little person to be put on display. He was born in Connecticut to parents of normal stature. He stopped growing when he was six months old, but later grew to 40 inches and 70 pounds.
Circus impresario P.T. Barnum named him General Tom Thumb and put him on display before he was five years old. His fame grew in the U.S. and abroad. He married another little person who worked for Barnum, Lavinia Warren, known as the Little Queen of Beauty, in 1863. Their wedding was an elaborate production held at Grace Episcopal Church in New York City.
Others with disabilities were put on display as well. Grady Stiles, Jr. (1937-1992) was born with ectrodactyly, a family trait causing his fingers and toes to fuse into claws. He joined his father and later, as an adult, continued to be displayed with his two children who also had the genetic trait, known as the Lobster Family.
Myrtle Corbin (1868-1928) was born with a congenital deformity that caused her to have two separate pelvises and a smaller set of inner legs that she could move, giving her four legs. Her father began to display her for money at just a month old. Later she joined Ringling Brothers and a freak show at Coney Island, being billed as the Four-Legged Girl from Texas.
Stephan Bibrowski (1890-1932) most likely suffered from hypertrichosis, covering his face and body with long hair. He also appeared with Barnum and Bailey and was known as Lionel the Lion-faced Man.
The most famous circus freaks were Chang and Eng Bunker, cojoined twins (1811-1874). By 1829, they were touring the world as a curiosity. Later they went into business for themselves.
MICRO WRESTLING: EXPLOITATION OR EARNING A LIVING?
Now, please understand. I don’t begrudge anyone earning a living. And, apparently, those on the circuit don’t see it as exploitation. BreAnnah Belliveau, a member of the Micro Wrestling Federation told the Columbus Dispatch:
“A lot of people come to shows thinking it’s a freak show…They are not really expecting to see a lot of athleticism; they come to shows expecting to make fun of us. But, by the end, their attitude changes, like, ‘Wow, you guys are real athletes, just a couple of inches shorter.’”
MICROWRESTLING LAST THOUGHTS
I’m not convinced. I understand why they want to put themselves out there though. Discrimination against people with disabilities is still rampant. Finding a job is more difficult for them. Even in our hot job market the unemployment rates in 2022 for persons with a disability was 7.6 percent compared to 3.5 percent for the non-disabled. If we level the playing field and learn how to be more compassionate and accepting, those who are different will not have to degrade themselves to earn a living.
And, about that flier. I didn’t see one on every single windshield in the lot. Was I targeted as a person who might attend because I was driving a 2000 Chevy Silverado pickup that hasn’t been washed in over a year? What are your thoughts?