No matter how long and hard I work to reframe my thinking, I continue to find places where something I should have known simply never occurs to me. Today, it is “Who knew there was women’s sumo wrestling?” Of course, there’s no reason there shouldn’t be women’s sumo. Once I came across Rodrigo Almonacid’s article, Female Sumo Wrestlers Slap Down Prejudices in Brazil, in the Japan Times, I did a little Googling: women’s sumo has been around for years, and has been picked up in many countries, though it is not permitted in Japan. The Japanese sports establishment is also opposed to seeing women’s sumo become an Olympic sport, despite many other countries trying to add it to the Olympic list.
Almonacid begins with a mother-daughter team of Brazilian sumo wrestlers, Valeria and Diana Dall’Olio. Valeria says:
“There’s a lot of prejudice. When you say you practice sumo, some people think you have to be fat,” said Valeria, 39, as she prepared for a competition at a public gym in Sao Paulo. “Women are always under a microscope in the martial arts, because they’re sports that have generally been restricted to male fighters.”
Women are forbidden from competing in sumo in JapanIn Brazil, women are approximately half of the competitive sumo wrestling population. Their bouts are divided into lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight.
At their Sao Paulo gym, the Dall’Olios brush off dirt from the ring after a tough day, in which Diana won one of her three bouts and Valeria lost her only one, against 18-time Brazilian middleweight champion Luciana Watanabe.
Watanabe, 37, is the public face of sumo in Brazil.
She shares her passion for the sport by teaching it to children in Suzano, a small city with a large Japanese-Brazilian population 50 kilometers outside Sao Paulo.
“Men are usually the ones who teach sumo,” Watanabe said, “But I think I inspire the kids when I show them my titles.”
Watanabe is pictured at the top of this post.
Aside from wanting all sports to be open to people of all genders, I don’t have much to say except that it makes me happy to even think about women’s sumo wrestling matches … and I’ll take my happiness where I can.
Thanks to Samiha Hossain’s invaluable global feminist resistance roundup in Mona Eltahawy’s Feminist Giant.
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