Jell-O Wrestling at Churchill's Pub: Anti-Feminist or Harmless Fun?
Jell-O wrestling conjures images of hardbodied coeds in little bikinis, engaged in a slippery-limbed struggle to pin their opponent and to prevent a boob-exposing wardrobe malfunction in a tub of Jell-O. Meanwhile, drunken men cheer them on, secretly hoping the girls will fail in the latter regard.
One would suspect males from Hialeah to Kendall flocked to Jell-O Wrestling Night at Churchill's Pub the first Wednesday of August with similar hopes in mind. Some preppy guys seemed out of place at the bar, home to punk-rock regulars who night after night fill the air of their "beloved shithole" with guitar riffs, drum rolls, and cigarette clouds. The event's poster might have lured the outsiders. It depicts a mound of red gelatin with a red-bikini-clad girl as the topping. Or maybe it was just the promise of killer live music and good cheap beer, which Churchill's Pub, known as the CBGB of the South, delivers.
The spectacle of women grappling in a tub of jelly returns to Churchill's tonight. If you're asking yourself, Jell-O wrestling? Really? In 2013?, we were right there with you. So we checked it out for ourselves.
The flyer, designed by one of Churchill's female employees, advertises the event as a sexist flesh-fest. But like many advertisements that portray women as goods in our consumer-driven culture, it was slightly misleading. Instead of pin-up girls in skimpy bikinis, the pub's female bartenders, wearing sporty outfits, battled it out in the goop. The bar's "lovelies" -- Sonia, Rebecca and Elena -- among others, looked strong, wearing sports bras, gym shorts, and knee-high soccer socks to complement their toned physiques. Some girls engaged the theatrics of pro wrestling by sporting masks with white eagle wings around the eye holes.
A large inflatable pool filled with red Jell-O was placed in the pub's outdoor stage area, a dilapidated patio next to the shack that houses owner David Daniels' residence. Around the pool, folding chairs were filled to capacity, so many onlookers stood vulnerable to blobs of Jell-O, which splashed out of the pool. MC Nicky Bowe teased the crowd by calling out one of the wrestlers: "Sonia. Come out, Sonia. Where are you?"
As the speakers blasted Kelis' song "Milkshake," Bowe introduced the wrestlers. The girls smiled and giggled as they wobbled into the pool, balancing themselves carefully like gelatinous acrobats. At the MC's direction, the contestants pushed and pinned each other in efforts to be named champion, a title bestowed by the audience's noise level.
The bartenders' close friends and pub regulars sat in the front rows, cheering them on with applause, whistles, and hoots of "yeah" and "hooray!" It seemed almost like a family event -- a very strange family event for a very strange family. Pub regular Beatriz Monteavaro, artist and drummer of experimental noise band Holly Hunt, attended the spectacle. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, with her dark, unkempt hair down, while smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, she sat onstage. Asked what she thought about female Jell-O wrestling, she said with a kind yet serious stare: "I'm morally opposed to it. But I'm here to support my friends."
Female Jell-O wrestling and other events of a similar nature, such as mud-wrestling, are controversial. Critics consider them degrading, sexist, misogynistic, and inappropriate entertainment for 2013. Advocates counter that the contestants participate of their own free will and have a good time. Some have even called for men's Jell-O wrestling to take place too. In fact, at one point during Churchill's festivities, the MC prompted shirtless males to jump into the tank for all "the feminists in the audience." A muscular guy, with a ripped chest and six-pack abs, wearing tight black biker shorts jumped right in, much to the delight of the ladies present.
But is this tradition outdated and sexist?