Around 2001 or 2002, I tried to stop a group called the Bloody Midgets from performing in Chicago. They had a show at a bar up near Wrigley Field. My issue wasn't that the performers wrestled, it was that the marketing of the event and the implementation of the event stigmatized little people and underscored traditional stereotypes of little people. Because they referred to themselves as midget wrestlers and because they consistently used the word midget during the show, the act objectified little people and encouraged the public to think of us as different. The Bloody Midgets eventually stopped performing at the Wrigleyville bar. A few years later, they changed their named to the Pint Size Brawlers and returned to Chicago to a bar in the River North section of town. The new name still kind of tokenized little people, but at least the word midget wasn't used. But the marketing still referred to the event as midget wrestling and the event itself still incorporated the word. In early 2006, I tried to stop them again but the new bar owners didn't care what I or anyone else against midget wrestling believed. At the time, I asked Little People of America for some support. Though some leaders within LPA were sympathetic, they couldn't take an official stand. The organization tried not to take positions that passed judgment of the employment decisions of members. I could understand. The issue is very subjective. While I was ready to protest midget wrestling, others in the organization might be ready to protest Radio City for casting little people as elves. I wouldn't want to protest Radio City. But who am I to say midget wrestling is worse than dressing up as an elf?
With this in mind, later in 2006, when I joined the board of directors for LPA, I made an unofficial and very personal pledge not to protest against other little people who make employment decisions that I believe may harm the public perception of little people. In addition to the idea that I shouldn't cast a subjective opinion on the decisions of others, I also thought time and resources would be better spent if we focused on positive, systemic changes -- for example encouraging style guides, dictionaries to identify the word midget as negative. In my position with LPA, I often get calls from newspapers in small towns where the Half-Pint Brawlers, or another group called the microwrestlers, are booked. The reporters ask for my opinion about the wrestling show. Trying to keep the pledge in mind, I usually just focus on the word midget, expressing concern about what message the word might send to the audience.
But the pledge was broken a month or so ago after I learned about a bar in Bartlett, Illinois that is trying to bring in the Half-Pint Brawlers. In order to do so, the bar needs to secure an events permit. The owner of the bar had to appear before the Bartlett Planning Commission, then the village board in order to earn approval for the permit. Just before the planning commission meeting, I asked a group of people to reach out to the commission and ask the members to reject the permit request. I am sure it had much more to do with local residents who don't want the bar hosting events for reasons that have nothing to do with midget wrestling, but the planning commission recommended that the bar not receive a permit. But the planning commission doesn't have the final say. It only makes recommendations. The village board actually makes the decision. Just before the village board met a few weeks ago, I reached a larger group of people, asking them to send a note to the board. Turns out, no vote was taken at the meeting. They only talked about the issue, and heard directly from the leader of the Pint Size Brawlers. A vote is scheduled for this Tuesday, November 16. According to a newspaper article, the bar has the support it needs from the board, and will get the permit. In the article, at least one of the board members said the decision shouldn't come down to morality. The board members shouldn't cast ballots based on whether or not a little person should or not participate in such an event. I wonder though, if, instead of little people, the performers were members of marginalized ethnicity or race, and they promoted use of slurs against that particular minority, at what point morality would come into play.