Meet The 1st Female Wrestler In The Arab World Whose Opponents Are All Men

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We love a good stereotype-busting story! Meet Gheeda Chamasaddine, aka “Joelle Hunter”, who has officially become the first female wrestler in the Arab world. She is based in Dubai and is part of the Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy which helps up-and-coming wrestlers prepare for the big leagues.

But in a normally conservative culture that is very dominant in the United Arab Emirates, Joelle’s presence signifies more than just something out of the ordinary. She goes against the very definition of what a woman should be and look like. Yet her reception so far from fans, both men and women, has been quite positive.

Rory Jones from the Wall Street Journal interviewed her and some of her ring-side colleagues as they wrestled in front of spectators at a match recently. In the video below, we see Joelle competing against only male wrestlers as there are no other women like her in the ring yet.

We have to admit, it is a little disturbing at times seeing her take punches and kicks from her male opponents, but because we know it is wrestling and has a theatrical aspect to it, it is a little easier to stomach.

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Here’s the other incredible stat about this whole situation, Joelle is only 17! She was born in Lebanon, raised in Saudi Arabia, and has her sights set on eventually making it to the states to be part of the prestigious World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., the home of some of the planet’s biggest wrestling stars.

Joelle wears fishnets, short shorts and shows plenty of skin in the ring, something we are not used to seeing from women in the Arab world. But compared to some ultra conservative areas, the United Arab Emirates is known to be far more cosmopolitan and live out the Muslim faith a little differently. Thanks to some mainstream media outlets, we in the Western world often get a very narrow view of what Islam looks like, where as it actually looks very diverse across the Arab world.

The Dubai Pro Wrestling Academy was only started a year ago by American Caleb Hall, 31, who was a former WWE hopeful. He initially moved to Dubai to work in real estate, according to the WSJ, but has been taken on a very different path which includes breaking gender barriers for one badass 17 year old girl.

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“In WWE, female wrestlers are very common. But out here in the Gulf, Joelle’s the only one. We’ve been trying for a while to get another girl,” he said.

Thanks to the popularity of WWE in the Middle East which launched a 24 hour programming schedule, Joelle and her DPW crew may just get their chance at pro wrestling.

Joelle’s mother, a single parent, dreamed of raising a “girlie girl” but instead got a girl who dared to live life outside the conservative cultural boundaries. But her mother is adjusting, and now regularly watches WWE on TV with her daughter. It seems times have changed in the Chamasaddine, as have things in the wrestling wring.

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While it may be an inspiring story of breaking gender and cultural boundaries in an area not necessarily expected, sports such as boxing, wrestling and even UFC have become prime platforms for women to change the rules. We’ve seen how Ronda Rousey went from being told the sport would never allow women, to dominating all her opponents and pulling in massive ratings and proving all critics wrong.

Further afield, we were in awe of the story of boxer Mary Kom from India who is an Olympic boxing champion and started an academy for girls in India to protect themselves from violent attackers. Her story was made into a feature film starring Bollywood babe Priyanka Chopra.

What these women, including Joelle Hunter, are doing is showing the world gender is not an excuse nor a barrier to achieving anything great. It may not be for everyone, but if Joelle’s presence in the Arab world can encourage other girls to get in the ring, she is already a winner.

As one male wrestling fan in the video below says: “She will be a big inspiration for other girls who want to be in this sport.”

2 Comments

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  2. Pingback: 'She Believes' Mini Series Profiles Women In The Arab World Using Sport As A Tool Of Empowerment - GirlTalkHQ

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