Fighting like a girl
How women's pro-wrestling and crusading for gender equality has helped EVE promoter Emily Read battle bipolar disorder.
LYNSEY CALDERWOOD: So, tell me about EVE... What made you start a professional women's wrestling promotion?
EMILY READ: I started Chick Fight (an American promotion), and we ran it in the UK. On what was seen as the mixed shows, there’d be one women's match if you were lucky. And they'd get five minutes. The female wrestlers weren’t given the opportunity to do a main event or hardcore wrestling. And I thought: "Something's going wrong, I want to try and fix it, and I want my daughter to see that women can be strong". And Buffy had come and gone so I felt there needed to be something else showing that women can lead.
Were there any unexpected hurdles in starting EVE?
No one would take our posters. They were like: "It's a sex show, it's kinky, we don't want posters for that". Desperately trying to get coverage was the biggest hurdle. And the number of men who said we were sexist.
I love your Fight Like A Girl t-shirt. Who designed it?
I had the concept, and I collaborated with my friend (Jennifer Hearn) - she's a mum as well and she's always working on her art - I said to her: "I'm thinking about a uterus but muscular..." I wanted it to be like: "this is a uterus that can straight up rip your face off". We wanted a body part that was seen as weak, because people always say that acting like a girl is what makes you weak. I love the cuterus people draw, but we're female wrestling. And we're strong. And we are angry (laughs). I don't want a cute uterus. I want a fierce uterus.
I understand you've had some negativity about the t-shirt - what was all that about?
Some people felt it was trans-exclusive. Which I completely understand. But, for me, having a uterus is a women's issue. It's a part of the body a lot of men feel they have control over. The fact is, it's a super strong part of your body. It should never be thought of as weak with the amount of things it can do. I understand not all women have a uterus, but I don't feel it should be an issue in feminism we can't talk about. I hate that it's hurt people. But I stand by the design.
But trans women are welcome to join EVE?
One hundred million percent.
Do you have a favourite show?
No. One of my favourite moments was relaunching. We stopped EVE because I have mental health problems, and I was in hospital for a while. When we did relaunch, I decided a few things: I wanted us to do the first all-female show in London; I wanted to be honest about my mental health and to stand up and say "I'm fighting this". So that was one of my favourite moments because it was a turning point.
I know you used to wrestle, is there any possibility you'll get back in the ring?
I ring announce our shows and I love doing that. I believe if we’re going to work on all people progressing themselves I should lead by example; I should I be saying: "Look at me, that shy lady who hardly said three words to you before she had a break down." (She laughs again.) "She's now climbing in the bloody ring talking on the mic." Technically, I could fight again. But I'm never going to be good enough to be on EVE. I'm thirty-one. I've got kids. I'm not able to dedicate my life to it.
Do you think being involved in such a physically and mentally challenging sport has helped your well-being?
Doing the training helps with my mental well-being. And feeling like I'm making a difference is helpful. On the flip side, it's an extremely high stress industry. But I know my limits. It's my biggest fear in life, that I'll have a breakdown again. Too hard to recover from, I don't know that I could do it again.
What tip would you give to any women interested in a wrestling career?
Get down to Lucha Britannia, London. They teach from basics. And it’s safe. I guarantee you’re not going to get groped. If you can't get to a wrestling school, try acting lessons or judo. And on a purely practical note: Learn to drive! Because as a promoter, if a wrestler's like: "I live in london and I can drive..." I'm like: "Awesome, how many people can you fit in your car?"
Find out more at evewrestling.com.
Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.