Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Opposites attract

Empowerment can be found in many different corners of reality. It can be found in a 12' by 12' ring in a place called "J.J. Baja's" restaurant in Georgia, where wrestlers of short stature hurl insults at the crowd, egging on the audience to yell things like, "They're amazingly funny, who doesn't like midgets?" Some may be offended by the term midget, but not these wrestlers, who call their outfit The Micro Wrestling Federation and explain, "It's not sports exploitation, it's capitalization." A statement, spoken by the same man who said, "We didn't go to LPA (Little People of America) meetings. Everything that was small to us, like a bottle of soda . . . my dad pushed that on to me and said, 'Hey, look at that midget.'"
LPA is no saviour, and may not always be an empowerment zone, but if somebody can find self esteem by reclaiming an antiquated, objectifying term, and by earning money at a show no different than one put on by PT Barnum, I hope it's not called empowerment. Because whatever self esteem they have, hasn't been earned. It's been kidnapped from other people of short stature who still today are forced to confront prejudice in social and professional environments.
Of course, there are many more opportunities for people of short stature today than there were two or three generations ago, and the barriers that still exist today can not be directly linked to entertainment like the microwrestlers who encourage the public to think of them as objects rather than people. But when it comes to role models, I'll take mine in the form of people like Serge Rush, a high school wrestler who, instead of inviting audiences to gawk, wrestles. While he may not make a living as a wrestler, he's done more for integration, independence and acceptance than the microwrestlers could ever hope. Instead of a object, Rush is, "a teamate."

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