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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?
Daniels, owner of Churchill’s Pub, said, “The girls are not being degraded. They want to do it. It’s a win-win situation. Everyone has a good time, and the girls leave with a ton of cash in their hands.”
Ian Michael, event booker at Churchill’s, agreed. “Our last Jell-O wrestling event in July was a fundraiser for the Fort Miami Women’s Rugby Club. The bartenders had a lot of fun and asked to do their own Jell-O wrestling event.”
One of the bartenders, Sonia Przulj, a pretty tattooed girl with an Australian accent, said, “I don’t feel degraded. I feel comfortable enough with everyone at the bar to do it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Overall, we agree with Przulj. It was fun. Between matches, as the contestants prepped, patrons rushed indoors to refill their beers and enjoy sets from local bands Dyslexic Postcards and Tonight We Kill. Some people remained seated at the bar, preferring to watch the “sport” from a drier location, on the flat-screen TV sets hanging above them.
But there were cringeworthy moments too. During one of the breaks, someone got on the mike and yelled, “Come back to see some tits and ass!” A few girls looked at one another and shook their heads. We’ve come a long way, baby, but not far enough.
The success of the Fort Miami Women’s Rugby Club fundraiser in July and the bartenders’ party earlier this month have led the pub’s event organizers to bring it back regularly. Tonight, Wednesday August 28, at 8 p.m., Churchill’s will feature bikini-clad models wrestling in mud. (The event comes with its own equally pervy flyer, above.) Admission costs $10; the chance to jump into the ring yourself costs $15. The event is a fundraiser for a thesis film, Dawn of the Sheriff.
Meanwhile, bartender Przulj is organizing another Jell-O wrestling competition to take place Wednesday, September 25. Visit churchillspub.com.
— Monica Torres
You might think that a magazine all about female drummers wouldn’t be very popular, but Mindy Abovitz has shown us that the world loves to see a badass mama hitting them tambours hard. Her all about ‘chicks with sticks’ publication, Tom Tom Magazine, has become a hit around the globe.
For its Summer 2013 “Country Issue” the magazine headed south to discover the female drumming talent booming in the Miami music scene. And, meanwhile, its creator got an opportunity to connect to her roots.
Mindy is a homegrown Florida girl, but currently resides in Brooklyn, where the magazine is headquartered. She started playing drums after her best friend, Stephanie Lavigne, bought Mindy her first drum kit. Stephanie is now a photographer specializing in underwater, commercial, architectural and wedding photography.
For the issue, the two childhood friends sank the old drum kit to the bottom of a pool for a sublime, underwater photo-shoot. Photographing the sinking drums and rising bubbles metaphorically captured the moment in the deep fluency of time.
“Submerging the drum set combined two of my favorite things (drumming and swimming) and photographing it left behind the ephemera to remember the moment forever” Mindy Abovitz
To kick off Tom Tom Magazine’s world tour, on May 22, they hosted a show with Plan B at Churchill’s Pub. Five drum-banging girls, their bands and the people who love them came together to support the publication. The line-up included Testokra, Killmama, Estonian Couch Surfer, Quarter Horses and the Violet West.
At Books and Books in Coral Gables on July 24, Tom Tom Magazine hosted a Q & A with Mindy Abovitz. Liz Tracy, music editor at the Broward New Times, facilitated the conversation which revolved around feminism, drumming, and women in music and media. Here are few highlights from the Q & A.
Monica Torres (Q): What made you want to start a magazine all about female drummers?
Mindy Abovitz (A): I am a feminist. I was tired of googling ‘women and drums’ back in 2009 (when the magazine was started) only to find images of girls in bikinis on a drum. So, even though I’m not a writer and I hate writing, I felt there was a need to showcase women drummers and encourage girls and women to drum because the regular drum magazines weren’t doing it.
Liz Tracy (Q): What’s next for Tom Tom Magazine?
Mindy Abovitz (A): I want to work with women’s advertisement. I want to target feminine products such as makeup and maxi pads, you know the things you think about when you think about women.
Liz Tracy: Yes, because when I think of women, I always think of a huge maxi pad. (Audience Laughs)
A Tom Tom Magazine event wouldn’t be complete without a woman drumming it out, so Quarter Horses played a set after the Q & A. They are a trio consisting of drummer Emile Milgrim, Daniel Elijah (Novy Graey) and Tristan John.
The gospel noir band derives musical inspiration from symbolist paintings as well as old American gospel music from the south. It was only their second show, but their dark, melodic sound drew a large crowd. Many congregated around the band, sitting on the floor, taking in Graey’s poetic vocals about sexual, spiritual struggles, in a sort-of musical communion. They’re definitely one local band to keep your eye on.
The magazine’s current issue also features a Miami Drumming Guide, which showcases some of our favorite Miami female drummers. Beatriz Monteavaro of Holly Hunt, Sophie Sputnik of Killmama and Emile Milgrim of Quarter Horses are some of the ladies featured. Emile Milgrim is also the manager at Sweat Records and the owner of record label Other Electricities. She is a friend of Mindy’s and helped to organize these local events. The drumming guide contains insider information for all you music lovers and musicians on the scene, including these drummer’s favorite local hangs, recording studios, music stores and the best places to play in town.
Enjoy a gallery of some badass women on drums below. Some of these images were taken from Tom Tom Magazine’s awesome Facebook page.
The magazine has articles, art, fashion, comedy, city drumming guides, interviews, tips and techniques for drummers, global current events, and more. The current issue contains a review of the HBO documentary, “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,” giving attention to the harsh, unjust incarceration of the Russian girl group. There is also a section with some really cool oil-on-linen drum paintings by Alexandria Tarver. Go pick up a copy today, there’s a stack over at Sweat Records right now.
FUNDarte opens the doors of the Black Box Theater at the Miami-Dade Auditorium for Miami On Stage 2013 for a three-day (Thursday, April 18th to Saturday, April 20th)musical performance by unique, eclectic Latin artists including female vocalist, Leslie Cartaya, jazz master, Alfredo Chacon, and rapero, Mr. Haka, who mix their ethnic roots with mainstream pop to create new sound.
Simultaneously, a unique kind of audio/visual artistic magic will be popping up in public spaces around the city. The installations are a part of the new public intervention project mujer_cita_MIA by celebrated multi-media artist and feminist activist Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez.
Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez’s “mujer_cita_MIA,” is a project which addresses social issues of significance to women. Videos will be screened outdoors on the façade of the building, as well as in the lobby of the theater and inside the Ladies’ Room during each concert. The work showcases some of Miami’s most beloved female choreographers and dancers: Niurca Marquez and Lucia Aratanha
Watch: Dinorah’s installation piece SONAMBULA featuring Betty Boop
mujer_cita_MIA addresses issues such as rape, gender discrimination, and domestic violence. Art has the power to create dialog and change the world. With the recent alarming headlines surrounding sexual assault, this project comes at a time when creating a dialog is important to promote healing, empowerment, and change.
In 2009, the Obama administration made April national sexual assault awareness month in response to this societal ill. And, college campuses around the country, including the MMC campus at F.I.U., are addressing the problem through projects such as “Take Back the Night” and a flag display on the campus’s main lawn. These projects are conducted by the Women’s Center, which reports current astounding statistics: 1 in 4 college-aged women will be sexually assaulted. But, statistics are not just numbers.
I feel a personal connection to Dinorah’s project because I am one of the 1 in 4. I experienced sexual assault as an undergraduate at F.I.U, barely out of my teens. In my case, as in many of the cases, including those of the recent teenagers, such as Rehtaeh Parsons (RIP), alcohol incapacitation was involved.
In my case, there was only one perpetrator, but a girl encouraged his behavior. But, most trauma occurs later in the form of victim blaming, lack of perpetrator repercussion, and in the tragic case of Rehtaeh Parsons, bullying, even by former girlfriends, was involved.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, you are not alone. Please reach out because silence is our worst enemy. Only through dialog can the society become the type of place where teenage girls full of promise don’t feel the need to commit suicide because some boys (and some of society) think it’s not such a big deal to sexually abuse them when they are incapacitated. It’s also a lesson for women, girls and their parents: alcohol should only be consumed in the company of trusted family and friends. Yet, society also encourages the behavior. It’s a difficult terrain to cross for many young innocent women just starting their lives, but crossing with knowledge leads to empowerment.
“Their grace and power – both physical and spiritual = bestows the piece with the empowering serenity and strength that I hope to bring to the hearts and minds of my audiences, to women everywhere, to the Ladies’ Room.”
The installations will be shown on the facade of the Black Box Theater of the Miami-Dade Auditorium, in the lobby, and in ladies restroom. Yes, that is right, the ladies restroom, an unexpected place where in between make-up touch-ups, vulnerability often leads to shared intimacy.
Dinorah de Jesus answered a few questions about this important work…
What inspired muter_cita_MIA?
I was raped in June of 2012 for the third time in my adult life, and as a result of that experience, I knew I needed to do a piece on this. shortly after that, those horrifying rapes happened in Dehli and then Steubenville, and I became consumed by the news on Twitter. The concept of the videos made to be screened in the ladies’ rooms and the idea of creating an account dedicated to feminist activism on Twitter came about kind of simultaneously, and mujer_cita_MIA was born.
It has always been a dual-purpose project: one aim is political activism, the other aim is fine art. I envision mujer_cita_MIA as a conceptual gathering place for women in Ladies’ Rooms across the city of Miami, a place where our stories are shared privately among ourselves, where there is no shame or guilt surrounding what happened to us, a place of strength. i am trying to recreate that strength and serenity through the dance imagery in the film.
Why use dance and film as mediums?
Video, film & moving image make up my artistic language, so it’s only natural that i should say whatever I need to say in this language. Dance, however, is a universal visual language and this piece really needs to transcend anything that could divide or separate women in any way. Dance is also about the body, about its capacity for strength, recovery, resilience and power.
I am celebrating the fact that even though our bodies have been abused, our spirits prevail & continue to carry those bodies. We are still sensual, beautiful, undefiled, powerful. That is what I’m celebrating, and i think dance is the perfect language to convey that.
What is it about public restrooms that make a good space for the presentation of this art?
I’m all about exhibiting my art in unexpected public spaces, taking it out of the elite infrastructure where fine art normally lives in confinement based on economic class and social access. The ladies’ room is for everyone. In the ladies’ room, we’re playing pretty much on level ground: all of us are biological equals.
It is a place of fleeting intimacy among random strangers, a place of personal, private sharing in the public realm. It’s a women-only space, so it just feels like a safe space in which to share these very vulnerable stories. I wrote a lot on my reasons for using the Ladies Room on my blog.
Why not place the art in men’s restrooms? Don’t you think this work is also significant for men as for women as rape and domestic violence is not just a women’s issue but a human issue?
Your story mentions something that I think is at the heart of the whole matter, a very key point: the fact that another woman or girl was involved in encouraging the rapist and then blaming you for what happened. i had similar experiences. I also noted how in the case of these high school rapes/suicides, the GIRLS are the ones doing most of the bullying & slut-shaming. MOTHERS are raising sons that think it’s the victim’s fault. When a mother tells her daughter “don’t dress like that,” she’s teaching the daughter to judge and blame herself and other women. It’s a circle, and women are at the heart of perpetuating the rape culture. Pretty horrific.
Until WE wake up and see it for what it is, it cannot change. That is why it’s so important to educate and reach young women, and that is why i’m focusing my message first on girls and younger women, and then on men. I do plan to make the work available for men online and in other venues (for example, men can see it in the lobby at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium Black Box this coming Thursday, Friday & Saturday as part of FUNDarte’s Miami On Stage).
However, the stories are private stories that women might not want to share in an open, mixed public space. The Ladies’ Room keeps our stories safe within our own space, it stresses the point that this is for US. Eventually, I would like to create a similar work targeted specifically at men, but I’ll probably want to develop that in collaboration with a male artist and figure out the most effective public spaces to work in. It might not necessarily be the men’s bathroom.
Why use social media such as Facebook and Twitter as part of the exhibit?
I think the online feminist movement, also known as the Third Wave of Feminism, is particularly strong, and its strength are not necessarily rooted in White Academia anymore. The movement is global, and there are a ton of great feminist bloggers from countries in Africa, India, and Latin America working in the online sphere to raise consciousness and incite social action on a number of topics.
On social media, and Twitter in particular, I am in dialogue with these women daily, i feel that I am connected to a global movement that is propelling the change i want to see in the world. i was inspired to use Twitter as part of my Artivist practice in this work after seeing the documentary about Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei and the way he’s using social media as an arm of his conceptual public art projects.
Why do you think mujer_cita_MIA is important in today’s world?
In my opinion, the Paradigm Shift that the Mayas predicted for this New Age is precisely this: Feminism, or the reclaiming of the female force on our planet. I think feminism is truly the path to revolutionary change on earth. Gender discrimination is the oldest and most pervasive oppression known to humanity. If we can uproot and change this, we can arrive at true equality among all humans, across all barriers.
We cannot arrive at Humanism while more than half of all humans are still lacking basic human rights and dignity, while more than half of all humans live under the constant threat of gender violence. This is the first step to an egalitarian, humanist society.