THE RAW REVIEW
The time has come to have a frank, respectful conversation, you and I.
On February 23rd, 2015 WWE fans finally expressed their discontent, en masse, with the way women are booked in your company. The fans were bored with watching your women perform in thirty-second matches. The fans were frustrated watching talented in-ring veterans withhold their skill in favor of promoting a reality television show. The fans were angry that in 2015, on a primetime television show meant to appeal to modern viewers, meant to inspire and uplift modern viewers, meant to represent and appeal to the diversity of the world, that women were still relegated to insignificant, unentertaining segments that painted them as a handful of genuinely destructive tropes - the crazy girl, the whore, the buffoon.
And so #GiveDivasAChance was born - thousands upon thousands of fans demanding swift, immediate change, desperately wanting you to listen. Only most fans did not really know what they were asking for. They recognized a problem and they wanted to solve that problem. But, as is the way with many a “movement” (especially those that exist purely in cyberspace and especially those created by people inexperienced at spurring social organization) the real issue with the WWE’s booking was never articulated.
The failing on our part, during those months and months where you paid lip-service to the movement, was not picking our words more carefully. We did not make it clear to you that #GiveDivasAChance did not simply mean “Give the Divas more time” or “We’re just tired of The Bella Twins”.
#GiveDivasAChance is a failure because it offers a flawed solution to an incredibly complex problem that’s millennia in the making - the problem of prejudice. #GiveDivasAChance is a failure because it endorses your use of the term “Diva”. #GiveDivasAChance is a failure because it tells you that the evolution of our species is your chance to give.
It is not.
We failed to make it clear to you that the world is changing, and that it’s changing very quickly. We failed to make it clear to you that many young men don’t even question a woman’s ability. We failed to make it clear to you that no single gender has a monopoly on strength, that no gender has a monopoly on power, that no gender has a monopoly on intelligence, that no gender has a monopoly on benevolence, that no gender has a monopoly on morality, that no gender has a monopoly on sexuality, that no gender has a monopoly on the ability to inspire others.
We failed to make it clear to you that we don’t just want “more time”. We failed to make it clear that we want characters, characters who are heroes and characters who are villains, characters we can connect to, characters who move us to The Moment of Pop.
For not making that clear earlier than this moment, on behalf of wrestling fans, I apologize.
You took the information presented to you, and you worked with it.
What you worked with was a smattering of complicated, inarticulate ideas all founded on incredibly good intentions and far too much emotion: the fans aren’t happy, we may need to book the Divas a bit better, there is a groundswell in women’s athletics, after all, and we could capitalize on that, the fans who watch NXT really seem to love those girls, we could bring them up and call it a revolution!
And so you’ve given the Divas a chance.
And you’ve dubbed it the #DivaRevolution.
We are six weeks removed from the RAW where you began the #DivaRevolution.
We are seven months removed from when we began #GiveDivasAChance
And nothing has changed.
We have all failed.
The WWE Women continue to group themselves in mean-girl cliques, screaming at one another for no apparent reason, occasionally mentioning a movement in women’s athletics, remaining undefined, unclear, and, inevitably, unlikable.
Save Charlotte, who remained mostly silent during last night’s Miz TV segment, it wasn’t possible to empathize with or like any of the women in that segment. I do not cast blame on them for this - they’re working the scene they’re given and the scene called for them to behave in a catty, alienating, childish, unrealistic manner.
The genuinely positive, money-making sentiments of power, strength, and competition that made these women main-event-draws in NXT have been diluted by an antiquate perspective on women.
We are watching you filter good intentions and complicated concepts through a very narrow, negative perception of a particular gender. A woman’s strength and a woman’s draw is transformed into ironically stating the phrase “girl power”.
It is as though you began this change by attempting to emulate what makes Ronda Rousey entertaining and what makes the NXT women entertaining, without understanding what makes either entertaining in the first place.
Ronda Rousey doesn’t need to talk about being a feminist icon to be a feminist icon. Ronda Rousey needs to kick the ass of the woman who insulted her father.
That’s how she gets over and that’s how she embodies feminine strength - just by being a strong human being. There’s no need for her to self-consciously discuss her "feminine strength".
The NXT fans who fell in love with Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch were never told to love them because they were "women who can wrestle".
The NXT fans who fell in love with The Four Horsewomen did so because Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky lynch are, very simply, great wrestlers.
Let me repeat that.
That’s all anyone has ever wanted.
From #GiveDivasAChance to #WomensWrestling to #DivaRevolution - we've only ever wanted good wrestling.
That’s your answer, Stephanie.
That’s your answer, Triple H.
That’s your answer, Kevin Dunn.
That’s your answer, Mr. McMahon.
That’s your answer, angry wrestling fan who’s far too quick to blame the Brooklyn crowd for turning on a segment that encouraged them to do so.
That’s my answer to a problem I’ve been approaching in the wrong way.
I’ve been trying to change the way you think about women.
I’ve been trying to transform the world of wrestling entertainment in my life-affirming, equalitarian image when I should have just been telling you how much I love a good story.
I should have just convinced you to tell better stories.
I know how smart you are. I know that if you take an honest look at the #DivaRevolution and every segment therein, including the one that started it all six weeks ago, you will admit that not only is the story not very good, you will recognize that there actually is no story. You, and you alone, are responsible for that. Not the women who are trying to make the best of what you do or do not offer them. Not the fans who grow more restless with each passing RAW.
That is why Brooklyn turned on you. People showed up thinking they were going to be told a story and, instead, they got a seminar and a weird athletic comedy skit.
That crowd may have been actively disrespecting women, but that crowd can be manipulated into any state of mind by talented storytellers. And that crowd was manipulated into a place of apathy because they had no story, no character, no emotion to latch onto last night.
That same crowd popped for Bayley and Sasha Banks just a couple days earlier because Bayley and Sasha had a recognizable history and clearly defined personas and clearly defined aspirations. Grown men, unafraid of antiquated reprisal, admitted that the excellence of that NXT Women’s Championship match at Take Over Brooklyn moved them to tears.
On Monday, that same man was chanting "Boring" at these women.
Let’s bridge that gap, you and I.
You must see through the angry Tweets of children to the bigger draw. You must rise above and remain true to your purpose as storytellers.
You failed to understand why the women of NXT got over in the first place and how they could get over on Monday Night Raw. You failed to see how the current Divas roster could find new life in these new arrivals and get over with them.
We have failed to tell you that we do not want to watch your interpretation of feminism.
That is an abject idea.
I don't think you'll be too offended when I suggest you do not do feminism well.
But you can do professional wrestling incredibly well.
And that is your truth and that is our truth (and that is how we arrive at a fair solution that treats each gender with respect).
You make wrestling.
We love wrestling.
That is our bridge.
We want to watch you do what you do best, and what you do best is give talented in-ring performers the creative space they need to go to work.
Your fans will turn on these women if they hear one more diatribe about a “movement in women’s athletics”. Your fans will turn on these women if they continue to see babyfaces act like heels and heels act like babyfaces at random. Your fans will turn on these women if they keep trading wins and if they continue speaking the words of a man who clearly has an axe to grind with the female race.
If the crowd turns on these women, it is because you have failed these women.
You will lose money.
And, worst of all, a generation of young men and young women will not find the hero they need.
There is a young man somewhere in the world who desperately needs a role model. If that young man does not find that role model, his life may be set down a destructive path, or it might cease to exist.
But if that young man one day tuned-in to Monday Night Raw to hear Charlotte speak her mind, to see a proud and righteous Charlotte raising a newly christened Women’s Championship over her head…that young man will find salvation.
There is a young girl who will learn dark humor and confidence from Paige, a grown man who will second-guess his misogynist views when he sees Becky Lynch really go to work, and a child who will recognize themselves in Sasha Bank’s swagger and spend the rest of her days chasing down her dreams.
That can only happen if these women are supported by good storytelling that offers them more creative and athletic freedom.
And then there’s me, someone who once thought a Bellas-segment was a good reason to go to the bathroom. You know what changed my mind?
Watching Nikki and Brie work incredibly hard, connecting to their humanity - those brief insights into the inner-workings of their minds and the occasional, unexpected athletic flourish won me over.
Would you like to know one of the side-effects of my mind being changed?
A tee-shirt sale for you, WWE. Fearless Nikki.
These are the stakes.
If we all continue to fail one another then we fail an entire generation in need of inspiration.
Without clearly defined heroes and villains whose benevolent and malevolent actions represent their psychologies and without clearly defined sport-goals that orient the wrestlers’ focus on a single, championship dream, the #DivaRevolution will flounder and fail and the women will be blamed for “not getting over”.
Without passionate fans who articulate their ideas in relatable, considerate ways, the WWE will continue to be right about us "internet fans". And they won't listen.
We are all like toddlers trying to understand physics - a tiny amount of knowledge about something vast and perhaps even beyond comprehension.
We’re holding a square-peg over a circular hole thinking, “How does Einstein’s theory of relativity play into this solution”.
Let’s keep it simple, and focused on something we both understand.
We want to be entertained.
Right now, as a result of your booking, your fans are not entertained.
They’ve taken to doing the wave and badgering you.
Your fans simply want to watch athletes compete in tournaments and number one contender’s matches and championship matches. They want to hear compelling promos that come from the heart and they want to watch well-made vignettes that flesh-out characters.
Your fans don’t want to watch nine women tag matches. They don’t want to watch women talk about being important or women scream at one another or slap one another or pull each other’s hair or pretend to be a lesbian or pretend to be crazy or pretend to be promiscuous or pretend to be anything at all.
Your fans just want to watch good stories.
And they will cheer with unmatched conviction when you inspire them to do so.
To the women of WWE, I salute you. You are in a tough, incredibly complicated situation. A great deal of risk is required when hunting success. Even greater risk is required when attempting to spur on change.
I believe in your ability to overcome these challenges, to face that risk in the pursuit of greatness and achieve what we, out here in the audience, cannot.
You will not fail us. Godspeed and thank you.