Why is RGA UK protesting these “m*dget wrestling” events?
Besides the fact that the word “m*dget” is offensive to most people with dwarfism, we’ve serious concerns about Dwarfanators’ promotion of “m*dget tossing” (see screenshots – we can provide these to journalists). “M*dget tossing” is a grotesque and dangerous spectacle in which average height people are ‘entertained’ by a person with dwarfism being picked up and thrown. We’ve evidence of this being re-enacted in real life with catastrophic effects. In 2011 Martin Henderson was paralysed after a stranger threw him to the floor. We know of people in our community whom strangers have threatened to throw while they are going about their daily lives.
We’re not alone in our concerns. In a previous statement, Little People of America said: “members of the dwarf community, who were not involved in dwarf tossing, were put at risk because of the message of objectification sent by dwarf tossing. Members of the dwarfism community reported being fearful while alone in public due to the new risk of being picked up or threatened to be used as a piece of equipment”.
An academic study with people with dwarfism showed 12% had experienced violence .The same study showed nearly 80% had experienced verbal abuse, nearly two thirds often felt unsafe while out and about, nearly a third had been touched by strangers. Many of our own members and supporters are or have been subjected to violence and abuse.
We believe such shows make the risk of abuse and violence towards our community more – not less – likely.
We also condemn Dwarfanators’ instruction that people can call us “m*dgets” – a word which has strong historical associations with the Freak Shows of days gone by at which we would be ‘exhibited’ and ridiculed.
Haven’t these wrestlers chosen to take part?
Yes, but, in doing so, they have chosen to fuel a pervasive and insidious stereotype – of people with dwarfism as hyper-aggressive objects of ridicule (the Dwarfanators’ website refers to “high doses of comedy” and “comedy skits”). This stereotype then limits the ability of everyone else in the community to choose and project their own self-image and live lives they value. It only takes a few high-profile people to fuel a stereotype that affects the rest of the community. What does this say to a child with dwarfism who chooses to be, say, a mechanic, teacher, or engineer, but has to work twice as hard to be taken seriously?
And just as they have chosen to take part, so we have chosen to protest.
Are you against people with dwarfism wrestling?
We celebrate respected athletes in the dwarfism community, such as Ellie Simmonds, and are deeply proud of their sporting achievements. Should a recognised and respected organisation like the Dwarf Sports Association host – as part of their celebrated Dwarf Games – wrestling competitions, in the true Paralympian spirit – which would never ever endorse either “m*dget tossing” or the word “m*dget” – we’d have no problem with this. We believe there is a huge difference between such competitions and the spectacle of “m*dget wrestling” as advertised by the Dwarfanators. With this in mind, the DSA recently issued a statement saying: “The DSA does not condone any sport or event, which is seen to be exploitative. Or any activity that can cause physical harm and affect the wellbeing of our community.”
So if you don’t like these events, don’t go – why protest?
Most average height people meet few, if any, people with dwarfism in real life, so representations of our community matter a great deal. The dwarfism community has been and still is subjected to stereotypes and stigma for centuries now, and these prejudices and insidious assumptions shape people’s attitudes and behaviour towards the rest of us.
RGA UK has a proud history of combating these stereotypes, and we remain resolute in our belief that such events are primarily about encouraging audiences to laugh at people with dwarfism and the spectacle of violence against dwarf bodies as entertainment for average height people.