Ladies of Wrestling vs. The World
BY: KYLE FITZPATRICK | FEATURED + LEAD IMAGE COURTESY OF FUTURE LADIES OF WRESTLING
We need strong women more than ever. We need women who will speak their minds, who will fight back when pushed down, who will grab issues by their balls and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until they explode. We need women who are willing to body slam issues–sexism, objectification, racism, queerphobia–in the hopes of making the world a better place.
Thankfully, these women are all around us–and the Future Ladies Of Wrestling are proof.
The Future Ladies (or “FLOW”) are a hybrid entertainment art collective and wrestling team organized by filmmaker and artist Jennifer Juniper Stratford. Jennifer is a lover of retrofuture and media antiquity who coalesces these interests via her Telefantasy Studios, an analog production company “on the fringe of real television” that once created programming for cable access.
FLOW was born out of Jennifer’s childhood obsession with GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. “I grew up in the eighties,” she told us. “[GLOW] was something that my mom, sister, and I would wake up and watch on Saturday mornings and really bond.” Jennifer and her mother loved GLOW so much that they once hired wrestler Matilda The Hun–who was available to do parties–to “come to my mom’s boyfriend’s party and attack him.”
To Jennifer, this was an example of television crossing into real life, a theme that recurs in her work. “Matilda The Hun could show up to my shitty apartment,” Jennifer laughed. “Anything is possible!”
FLOW has been in the works for a year and a half, a time dedicated to finding wrestlers and filming shorts and the inaugural wrestling match at Human Resources this past September. The project is entirely collaborative as Jennifer’s wrestlers are all performance artists that she “plucked” out after encounters. Each person she approached was into the idea, too. “Almost all of them said they had a secret desire in life to be a female wrestler,” she says.
Some of the artists she recruited were already wrestlers too. For example: Candy Pain, who Jennifer says worked in “humiliation wrestling” at one point in her career. Connections like this were hugely important as Candy became FLOW’s fight coordinator, able to physically articulate the concept. Jennifer–as the group’s “Head Bitch In Charge,” the Vince McMahon to her feminist WWE–worked with the wrestlers to develop characters like the cannibal Flesh Eating Corpulus and the tropical Diva Colada. Through props, costumes, and rehearsals at EVERYBODY Gym, Jennifer created a process akin to drag, where the nine participating artists transformed into serious wrestlers in various ways.
The group was ready to debut late 2016 but, thanks to everyone feeling so angry after the election, Jennifer shelved the project to debut at a time when people could laugh about problems like white supremacy. The eventual debut at Human Resources–which Jennifer points out as being the biggest crowd the venue has ever seen–was a wild success, a fact she was unsurprised by. Still, she was concerned that a little pop culture shadow would stand in the way of FLOW’s success: Netflix’s GLOW.
The Netflix show gets a lot wrong about female wrestling,” she says, noting that the announcement of the show came when FLOW was well into their process. She was worried they’d come off as a parody of GLOW which, thankfully, FLOW is too unique and nuanced to be seen as similar. Moreover, her group is tackling real issues and getting legit art attention in a way the show isn’t. “We squeezed into Art Forum,” she says. “That makes me feel better about the future of art.”
Jennifer hopes to put on FLOW shows every couple of months, the next likely coming out in early 2018, likely in January. The group is also set to participate in the Hammer’s Game Festival on November 14 too although the performance will be scaled down (as Jennifer refers to FLOW as “NSFM (Not Safe For Museum).” Regardless, FLOW is going to keep on keeping on, using wrestling to address social issues with a huge dose of fun. “We’re also able to laugh about [problems],” she says. “That’s something that’s really important, especially with feminism. It can be so heavy handed and forced on people and women can come across as angry. It doesn’t help convert anyone. It can become a cliché.”
“All of us are either queer or have some ‘liberal’ issues, things that make us angry,” Jennifer continues. “As a team full of women, there are issues in the filmmaking industry: all of our issues are brought to the mat.”