MEXICO CITY, Mexico—The crowd goes wild as the masked wrestlers toss each other around the ring in colorful spandex.
But this is no ordinary Mexican “lucha libre” match: it is the “War of the Sexes,” in which three women wrestlers battle three far bigger men.
Mixed matches like this, which emerged on the wildly popular pro wrestling scene some 20 years ago, could be a metaphor for gender relations in Mexico—a country with a deep tradition of machismo, where women are fighting for equal rights even as thousands of them are raped and murdered each year.
“Get back in the kitchen, you damn hag!” yells a fan in the stands in an expletive-strewn outburst, as a wrestler called Moonbeam, decked out in a sequined leotard and tall boots, throws a left hook at her hulking opponent, Nazi Warrior.
Instead of getting upset, Moonbeam says it is “very beautiful” when male fans hurl insults at her.
“It means you’re doing a good job. You’re provoking them and giving them an outlet for their stress,” she says.
“They take out their frustration by yelling at you,” instead of shouting at or hitting their wives when they get home, she tells AFP.
Moonbeam, a 42-year-old mother of three, says she loves fighting in mixed matches, which she sees as a “power struggle.”
“We want to show the public and our opponents that we can do this too. You don’t have to be a big, strong man. We’re skilled, we know how to fight a match, and we can beat them.”
Her record backs her up: she has beaten nearly 70 men in her 15-year career.
Lucha libre, one of Mexico’s most popular spectator sports, falls somewhere between actual sport and entertainment.
With its outlandish masks, costumes and characters, it packs more than a little spectacle. But the results are not predetermined, insist wrestlers like Moonbeam and her fellow “luchadoras” Melisa, Princess Legna and Lilly Star.