Jell-O wrestling brings statewide attention

Girls stood in a sticky, red Jell-O pool trying to rip each other’s shirts off were the focus of hundreds of Cedar Falls High School students on Thursday, Oct. 4 at Birdsall Park at the fourth annual Jell-O wrestling night.

Since then a highlights video appeared on the Internet. Senior Jenna Starbeck who Jell-O wrestled for her third year in a row said, “I think the video was an overnight sensation because everyone who was there wanted to see the highlights, and also it was put on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter so the link got out there quickly to a lot of people.” The original video has been taken off of Youtube, but KWWL news station did cover the event and included part of the Jell-o wrestling video in their report. It has 9,641 views.

According to one senior, the video that went viral is the cause for the chaos. “I have gone to Jell-O wrestling since I was a sophomore, and since I have gone I have never witnessed any real problems. The only reason why this whole issue has gotten out of control was because there was a video. The school and the police force have been well aware that this has been going on for years and haven’t made an effort to stop it until evidence showed up on the news and on the web,” senior Alaina Kittrell said.

Junior Kaz Brown has attended the event two years in a row but never wrestled anyone. She looks forward to wrestling her senior year. “I think the Youtube video was such a hit because this was the very first one. It has been seen by people all over the state now, and the reactions are either really good or really bad,” Brown said.

Once posted on the Internet, the video and comments became available for anyone to see. “When kids post things, I don’t care if it is on Facebook or Youtube or whatever, they need to be willing to accept criticism from the people who don’t agree with their actions,” guidance secretary Tracy Javellana said. “When it went viral and CFHS was named, that implies the whole school participated, not just the people who were there. Once our name was attached to it, once that’s put out there, it is reflective of everyone.”

Since its beginning, Jell-O wrestling has been organized by a group of senior males who set up and referee the event. Senior Brandon Hill bought and made a lot of the Jell-O and was a referee. “We had a total of about 50 gallons of Jell-O. Other seniors made contributions as well. A group of seniors and I set up the area in Birdsall park hours in advance. We used a generator to power the two sets of floodlights on either side of the pool. We moved a couple sets of bleachers so they were centered around the pool so that more students could get a good view. In prior years, I remember there were kids sitting in the back that couldn’t see well, so we tried to make it fair for the spectators. I think it is a fun social event during homecoming week because it gives a chance for kids to set up and run their own event,” Hill said.

Senior Walker Martinson bought Jell-O for the event and served as a referee as well. “All that I have to say about it is people are blowing it way out of proportion. It has happened for four years. Every year the cops and the school has known about it. We aren’t breaking

any laws and everything about it is perfectly legal,” Martinson said.

Although it is legal, the question of this entertainment’s appropriateness is what has raised a few eyebrows. “I think mostly the guys enjoy it to be honest with you. It’s teenage guys watching girls wrestle and the objective being someone shirt gets taken off. It’s a form of entertainment, and it’s a way for girls to settle drama they may have with another individual. Guys love to see the girls wrestling who actually don’t like each other. Watching friends wrestle isn’t as ‘fun,’ as guys would say in the stands,” Brown said.

Javellana has advice for high school students about participating in such events. “Would you ask your parent to go to this event? If not, didn’t that set a light bulb off in your head [that] maybe this is not what I should be doing?” Javellana asked.

Two males did participate in the Jell-O wrestling. “Everybody we asked associated with Jell-O wrestling told us that men weren’t allowed to wrestle, but Raud (Kashef) and I wanted to prove that we could wrestle just as well as all those girls, even if we were in Jell-O,” senior Evan Fairbanks said.  Fairbanks acknowledged that Jell-O wrestling is supposed to be for fun. “It’s meant to be a very playful sport in a carefree environment, but I’d say a lot of people in the crowd were there to see violence and breasts. There were lots of kids there just for fun too, but I’d say the majority were there for the former reason,” Fairbanks said. Fairbanks and Kashef Jell-O wrestled for three reasons. He said they aimed to make fun of Jell-O wrestling, give the students a good laugh and to “show off their hot bodies” to the females attending. “We were probably there for 15 minutes, and the first 8 or so we were waiting for two matches to end. We left immediately after we wrestled because we had done what we came to do and the whole thing was against our moral codes,” Fairbanks said. “It is interesting to note that some kids who didn’t understand our sense of humor or know us very well called us ‘gay’ for doing our joke. If it makes some guys uncomfortable watching two dudes wrestle in their underwear, think about how the girls must feel being watched by a hundred judgemental pairs of eyes from horny teenage boys.”

No girls were forced to participate. The event was completely voluntary. “It is ultimately up to the girls who get called out if they actually want to wrestle. There is peer pressure involved when their name gets called and people are yelling their name to go in, but that shouldn’t mean that they have to go in. A lot of girls who went in wanted to participate. I understand why people may oppose and see it as degrading, but to the girls who wrestled, they just saw it as something fun to do and a way to participate in a homecoming activity,” Kittrell said.

Spanish teacher Simone Sundblad said as a teacher she always tries to encourage positive, respectful relationships, and sees Jell-O wrestling as a step in the wrong direction. “I certainly see this from a parental perspective as a mom of both a son and a daughter. I also see it from a woman’s perspective as someone who wants to protect young women from pain and heartache. My comments are not ones of judgement, but rather ones of sadness and protectiveness,” Sundblad said. “I find the event degrading to young women in that it puts them on a ‘stage’ that attributes no respect to them whatsoever. It all seems like ‘fun and games’ to those involved, but if we take a moment to step back and look at the situation from the outside-in, we might realize that it’s a fruitless event that doesn’t help anyone, but rather encourages hatred, disrespect and violence.”

Brown pointed out that a lot of things in today’s society are degrading toward women. “You see guys wearing shirts that say ‘cool story babe, now make me a sandwhich,’ and episodes of Family Guy and song lyrics. Those are degrading, but no one is getting overly worked up about that. If you think Jell-O wrestling gives you the right to treat girls with disrespect, then you need to reevaluate your morals and learn to be a real man. I think most girls do it all in the fun of it,” Brown said.

Females showed up just as willing to participate as the males did to watch them participate. “I don’t understand why people say it is degrading to women when the girls at the high school were just as excited for it as the rest of the people who attended. It is completely voluntary, and the wrestlers are completely aware of what they are getting into. So if they think it is a degrading act towards women, don’t attend the event,” Hill said.

Even though the female participants volunteered, Senior Mary Khan doesn’t think Jell-O wrestling portrays an appropriate image. “Yeah, Jell-O wrestling is degrading toward women. It objectifies women. Guys go to gawk at the girls. How is that not portraying women as sex objects? This controversy is about more than the right to Jell-O wrestle. It is about how Jell-O wrestling reflects the values and morals of our society today,” Khan said.

Police officers were present for crowd control. “I think it is good that the police had officers in the park to guarantee that everything stayed under control and that no laws were to be broken. The police didn’t intervene because they didn’t have to. Any minor conflicts that took place, the referees and other seniors that helped set up the event handled it,” Hill said.

Khan said she has nothing against wrestling in Jell-O, which in fact, looks like fun. “If girls were not pulling each other’s shirts off, guys participated as well, people did not ‘call’ others out to wrestle, students policed the event themselves and they refused to let obviously drunk people wrestle, I would be all for it,” Khan said.

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