#IWD2018 with Carmel

Member Carmel describes the importance of International Womens Day, and its intersectionality with her care experience.

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People often say that it’s a man’s world, and it’s easy to see why. Women are underrepresented in so many important fields, from governance, to finance, to business and science. Women have to trailblaze, and fight for the position they want to be in.

I fought, literally, to be part of one of the most male dominated sports in the world. I set my sights on becoming a professional wrestler.

In the end, I wasn’t just part of the world of wrestling. I come out on top.

It’s easy to sum up my experience like that now. I’ve retired from wrestling and I can look back at the legacy I’ve created for myself and the new generation of female wrestlers. At the time though, every day was an uphill battle.

When I started wrestling, I was the only woman in my training school. I know that women all over the country feel intimidated to go to the gym, to be surrounded by men, maybe feeling unconfident or afraid. This took that to another level. Outside of that training school, there was only one other woman in Scotland who was performing regularly. I didn’t have much of a reference point.

There were lots of opportunities for men to perform.  They got paid gigs, travelled all over, and even though I was just as talented, they were celebrated more. Their path to success felt like it was already paved. I didn’t see one for me.

I wanted to get in a ring and wrestle. I knew that it would be physical, require grit and feel insurmountable at times. I was prepared for the doubt but it still stung when someone said I should try and be a manager, or become a valet to one of the male wrestlers.

I’m sure people were well intentioned but what I heard was “Why don’t you change your dream, to this thing over here, because it fits in with what we know and understand women in wrestling to be?” I stood my ground, because I felt like I had something to prove.

By the time I had started wrestling, I had overcome a lot on my own. I knew I had the determination it would take.

I went into care at just a few years old, and was looked after by my gran.

When I think about where I get my stubborn nature from, my fighting spirit, and my no-nonsense approach to life, I don’t have to look far. My gran was my rock.

She taught me to stand up for what I believed in, and she never got overwhelmed. She will always be my inspiration, and even though we were different, I can always look to memories of my gran for inner strength.

When I think about young girls who are Care Experienced like me, who didn’t have a female role model, who moved between carers or who didn’t get to stay and go to school where they had grown up, my stomach ties itself in knots. I found it hard enough to succeed, to overcome the trauma I had been through earlier in my life, with someone there to love me unconditionally. The importance of a strong female role model can truly make the difference in a young woman’s life.

Now I’m a trainee educational psychologist, I work with young people who are struggling to attain at school. When I was younger, the staff and teachers at my school knew my story. They always told me I had done well considering my background. This can be a really damaging idea to place on a young person. That young people in care are doing well “considering.”

When we set attainment low for Care Experienced young girls, as well as already not expecting them to attain in subjects where girls are underrepresented, what are we letting them know? We’re saying, you can’t overcome, you won’t overcome, don’t try.

If I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have achieved my dream. Sometimes the experience of being in care takes so much away from young people that all they have is their dream.

I become an Insane Championship Wrestling title holder, and the first female wrestler from Scotland to fight outside of the UK, and in 2016 I was honoured to be announced as the first entrant into the Insane Championship Wrestling Hall of Fame.

If I started my career again now, it would be completely different, because now women aren’t the side attraction, or something a bit different to put into the show if you’re lucky. Now, women have their own fans, their own audiences, their own fights and most importantly, respect. I’m really proud to say I played a small part in women being fairly represented in wrestling.

It’s funny to think that I took part in a male dominated sport, and now I work in applied science as an educational psychologist, another historically male dominated area.

When I look back at my younger self, I was really shut off, I didn’t want to share who I was or what I was going through, because I didn’t want to have to admit it, or make it real.

Now I know that I can be vulnerable if I need to be, I can talk about my weaknesses, I don’t need to hide. That’s the lesson I want to bring to all the young women I meet through wrestling or my work, it’s okay to be yourself, to have hard days, and it’s still possible to achieve whatever you want. I’m on your side.

It has been a man’s world, but now women are fighting, trail blazing, and leading the way to an equal world. To all the Care Experienced young women who are out there going through what I went through, know it’s okay to not be okay. Don’t be ashamed of yourself. You’re no less a person, no less capable, no less strong because of your experiences.

In fact, what you are dealing with now will make you tough enough to take on any arena, wrestler or not.