#WomensWrestling: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
(WRITER'S NOTE: From now on, I suggest you use #WomensWrestling in place of #GiveDivasAChance when Tweeting about this subject. #GiveDivasAChance implies that the WWE shall decide what happens with women's wrestling, that all of the power is in their hands with regard to this movement, that it's up to them to "give Divas a chance". We have the power, wrestling fans. We, voting with our dollar and voting with our social media movements, decide what the WWE's future will be. And it will be a future of women wrestlers. So during RAW tonight, Tweet that you want #WomensWrestling from the WWE)
During her conversation with Chris Jericho on the Live With Jericho Network special, Stephanie McMahon said that she recognizes the “interest” in women’s wrestling and that there’s “interest” in giving the WWE’s Divas more of a chance.
I respect Stephanie McMahon greatly. I enjoy her performance immensely. She is one of a select few who remains consistently superb every time she walks on-screen with malevolent grace. I have watched and enjoyed Stephanie's work for nearly half my life. I genuinely look up to her as an inspirational figure, and I would love to hear her unfiltered responses to questions regarding sexism in pro-wrestling and the WWE’s continued misuse of female performers - even if she thought everything was fine the way it was (though I doubt she feels that way).
But there was something in the soft way Jericho broached this incredibly important moral issue, and there was something in the way Stephanie McMahon responded that there was “interest” in “Giving Divas a chance” that greatly unsettled me. I respect her need for decorum on The Network, but “Interest” is simply an inadequate word when describing what people want from the WWE as it relates to #GiveDivasAChance.
And it's our responsibility as fans of professional wrestling to inform the WWE of our truth.
“Interest” does not adequately describe the way today’s viewer feels about women’s wrestling and it especially doesn’t adequately describe the way tomorrow’s viewer will feel about women’s wrestling.
There is demand for common sense in the WWE.
It is only common sense for the female performers in professional wrestling, regardless of however they’re branded ("Diva" "Wrestler" "Knockout"), to be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts.
It is only common sense from a financial perspective, a sociopolitical perspective, and a moral perspective that the female performers of the WWE finally be taken seriously (on a consistent basis) by the company. Not only is money being left on the table, but, more importantly, a generation of role models is far too easily dismissed as a collection of catty cover-girls when they are anything but.
Respect comes in the form of equal pay and equal screen time. This respect comes in the form of good writing that recognizes women are more than breasts and butts, good writing that recognizes the female psyche is built of more than makeup, selfies, and vicious manipulations.
Despite the popularity of the #GiveDivasAChance movement, despite the fact that the audience has caught on to the prevailing societal wind that creed, color, orientation, and gender should have no bearing on how one is treated by society or treated by the law, despite the fact that Vince McMahon Tweeted “We hear you. Keep watching”, what has really changed for female performers in the WWE since fan outcry began a few months ago?
The Divas match at WrestleMania still got less than ten minutes.
The Divas Division is still made up almost exclusively of mean girl characters. These women rarely get a chance to expand upon their characters in a promo. These women rarely get the chance to have a legitimate wrestling match to showcase their athletic talent.
Fans have continually been given scraps since #GiveDivasAChance began.
They’ve been bigger scraps than we've known in many years…but they’re still scraps.
Do not be satiated by these scraps, dear reader.
The viewer’s desire to watch women wrestle is still not respected by the powers that be. The Divas are still treated like a sideshow attraction, a chance to kill a bit of time or a chance to let the audience mentally unwind or a chance for the viewer to sneak a bathroom break. These women, from the Bella Twins to Paige and everyone in between, are breaking their bodies with very little return, all the while the fans want to see these women treated with respect.
For every good, brief promo one of these talented women get to cut and for every good, brief match they get to have, there are at least five other segments where that potential isn’t fully realized.
And the truly sad thing about this situation is that people’s jobs would be at risk for simply and frankly stating this truth. If someone kindly, honestly held a mirror up to the WWE and said, "This is a problem. Fix this problem" that someone would have to fear for their livelihood. I imagine that is quite a lonely, stifling existence - a dream barely out of reach. I want you to know that your hard work is appreciated by this wrestling fan and this writer.
I would be shocked if this article is re-Tweeted by any of the female wrestlers in the WWE (understandably so) despite the fact that I know many of them will read it and despite the fact that I know they believe what I believe.
And what I believe is that a woman wrestler captivates the hearts and minds of viewers just as well as any man. I believe that women fight for the same reasons men fight: respect, honor, riches, and the right to be called champion.
I believe that what drives a woman to succeed is every bit as fascinating as what drives a man to succeed.
And I know that the future embraces these beliefs, these facts.
I know that the future is one where watching two women main event Monday Night Raw is commonplace.
But we cannot rest on this inevitability.
I recognize it takes time for a movement to gain strength, for people to catch on to the reality staring them in the face, for bravery to win the day.
But if not now…when?
I ask Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, and Vince McMahon with the utmost, humble sincerity...if not now...when?
When can we finally expect to watch a WWE where a women’s main event isn’t a revelation?
When can we finally expect to watch a WWE where a woman’s body represents the same admirable qualities that a male body represents?
When can we finally expect to watch a WWE that simply makes sense, where the female performers aren’t shackled to an outdated perspective on a woman's role in society, where women define themselves and thrive on their chosen canvas of creation?
The world has changed.
It will continue to change.
The bigot and the fool and the pig is unquestionably going out of style.
The compassionate and the logical and the equalitarian is the new wave.
And if the WWE wants to keep making money they’ll recognize that, join in, and convince everyone it was their idea in the first place.
Keep shouting, WWE fans.
Continue demanding common sense.
Your voice is the voice of the future.
Let’s make bigotry the past.
To hear me discuss this issue in more detail listen to the latest episode of THE WORK OF WRESTLING PODCAST available for FREE in iTunes. You can also contact me/follow me via the various social media links below. Have a nice day!