Arm wrestling — formerly a machismo-tastic test of brute strength — has been reborn as the latest in lady-on-lady empowerment sports.
The Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW) was conceived in Charlottesville, Va., in 2008, and has since caught on in 10 cities. It works like this: The female competitors, who are vamped out in awesome themed costumes and sport stage names like Pushy Galore and Jackie O’Nasty, arm-wrestle for charity in a splendid spectacle that showcases raw feminine strength, theatrics, and general pageantry.
Obviously, CLAW shares striking similarities with roller derby — clever get-ups, hilarious nicknames, and, most importantly, the sense of female empowerment. Both, too, are celebrations of women’s collective ability to brutally compete with passion and strength. (And, should you think ladies’ arm wrestling is little more than namby-pamby handholding: women have actually broken their arms during matches.)
The New York Times posted Sunday about a ladies’ arm-wrestling event in Williamsburg — the proceeds of which went toward a health outreach program that benefits lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens. Interestingly, the Times post has “feminism” in its headline, but besides the generic empowerment of women through a contest of strength — albeit a contest that sounds both awesome to watch and beneficial to good causes — it’s not completely clear why this is a feminist endeavor. Yes, it’s females doing something cool. As with roller derby, here are a shit-ton of like-minded people who probably feel very strongly on things like reproductive rights, equal work for equal pay, women’s healthcare, and a general message of promoting women as people. Don’t get me wrong: What they’re doing is awesome. But should ladies’ arm wrestling really take off (which I suspect it will), it would be nice to see these women use their collective arm strength for something not just awesome, but maybe a little bigger, too.