The Work of Wrestling

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#WomensWrestling: Trust & Time

While it’s exciting that pro-wrestling fans have made their voices heard with the #GiveDivasAChance movement, since this trend caught on the WWE has done little more than pay lip service to the fact that there’s an obvious problem with the way women are represented in the company. The “WWE Divas” on the main roster still get less than five minutes on a three hour prime-time television show - a television show that, by the company’s own admission, is difficult to program for due to a massive time-slot.

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As the leading organization in the professional wrestling business, the WWE has the power to reeducate the way people view women’s wrestling and even change the way certain closed-minded viewers perceive a woman’s role in society.

We’re evolving, slowly, painfully but necessarily into a culture where differences of creed, color, race, sexual orientation, and gender will eventually no longer lead to strife and inequity.

Obviously, we’ve got a long way to go, but that peaceful future is our human mission. And we can't be stifled by a few concessions. It is our responsibility to the preservation of our professional wrestling (and even our species) that we point out bigotry, prejudice, and injustice where it exists and facilitate positive transformation.

It’s time the WWE undergo this positive transformation in a definitive, consistent, transparent manner. And if change is actually wanted by the WWE viewer (and I know it is) then we must choose our language more carefully.

We must create a new, instantly recognizable language that achieves our desired goal.

This is why #GiveDivasAChance, while incredibly catchy, is problematic.

The phrase puts too much power in the WWE’s hands.

The phrase assumes that the WWE shall be the one to “give the chance” when, in reality, it’s not their chance to give.

Equality for women is an inevitability that the WWE will either continue to deny for a little while longer until they’re forced to blow with the prevailing wind or they’ll just get with it immediately and save themselves a lot of trouble. But, rest assured, they will blow with the wind…because there’s gobs of money in that wind. We have to show them that.

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As is the case with any social movement, the people will determine the course of history.

#GiveDivasAChance is also problematic because it embraces the term “Diva” as a substitute for the more accurate, respected word “woman” or the more accurate phrase “Women’s Wrestler”.

Those viewers who no longer want a “Divas match” to remain synonymous with a bathroom break must recognize that a part of the problem with the way women are represented in the company is in the fact that they are branded “Divas”. This term is typically regarded as a pejorative in popular culture, unless it’s reappropriated by the person who identifies as such (see Sasha Banks’ use of the word on NXT for an example of positive reappropriation).

We cannot change the WWE if we endorse their use of the word Diva.

#GiveDivasAChance is certainly catchier than #WomensWrestling, but it inevitably encourages the WWE to continue on their misogynistic path. It also limits this cause to the WWE.

#WomensWrestling (and professional wrestling itself) is alive and well far beyond the reaches of the WWE’s "sports entertainment", thriving in independent promotions and hollowed gymnasiums across the globe, gaining increased interest thanks to DIY entrepreneurs, vigilant fans, and the internet. The professional wrestling New Wave is upon us and equality for women is a part of that.

If we actually want equality, we must create a phraseology that’s simultaneously broad enough to relate to society, and specific enough to be instantly recognizable.

Independent women’s wrestling also needs the support of the fans for a more practical purpose: many of the best female talents in the WWE honed their craft on the independent circuit. Without indy wrestling, the WWE cannot broaden its appeal and shine a bigger spotlight on already established, deserving talents.

#GiveDivasAChance, rephrased, simply means, “Please give the WWE Divas more screen-time!”

That request does not address the actual problem.

The company’s fundamental perspective on women is the problem.

The company’s bookers must not only regard women as worthy of a twenty minute wrestling match on a three-hour show, the company’s bookers (and WWE viewers) must understand that the worth of a twenty-minute woman’s wrestling match never should have been in question in the first place.

It’s a lot to ask a business to be the exact opposite of what it’s been for generations.

So, for those members of the WWE who are still reading this, I’ll boil it down to finances.

There’s money in women’s wrestling. The WWE cannot make that money if it continues to believe a woman’s worth is represented in her cup-size.

It’s the fan’s responsibility to demonstrate to the WWE that there’s money in women’s wrestling by supporting the idea of women’s wrestling.

This does not mean shaming any members of the current roster whom diehard wrestling fans might regard as nothing more than “models”. Bashing performers whom the WWE has historically presented as little more than eye-candy embraces a divisive perspective on this issue and undermines a noble pursuit. For example, regarding The Bella Twins as talentless and Charlotte as a beacon of hope is antithetical to progress. All the talented women need to be supported in this effort in order for positive change to finally come, and fans must also understand that the WWE’s past Divas-booking has led the fan to think of performers like The Bella Twins in a misogynistic way.

Anyone who hates The Bella Twins right now would love The Bella Twins if the WWE wanted you to love The Bella Twins.

That’s the power they have, and it’s a power even the smartest fan often forgets.

Fans must encourage each other and the WWE to treat all of the women in the company with respect regardless of that woman’s particular gimmick.

Talent in performance must become the barometer for success, and the quality of a gimmick must not inform out ability to judge talent.

We must encourage the WWE to not only change the way they write for women, book women, and promote women, we must encourage the WWE to recondition the way the average viewer thinks about women. One inevitably informs the other.

For proof that women’s wrestling can thrive within WWE’s corporate structure and PG-rating, I direct your attention to NXT’s model.

It is commonplace for a woman’s wrestling match to main event WWE’s developmental show.

Every single episode of NXT showcases the women’s division, which is composed of unique, talented performers and it’s presented with the same level of sincerity and respect that the male-centric narratives receive.

The female characters are fully formed, and they’re not exclusively defined by their bodies or reductionist psychologies.

There’s nary a faux-lesbian stalker or a subjugated valet gimmick in sight.

The female characters get time on the mic and the time in the ring that any performer would need to articulate their psyches and draw the interest and the faith and the money of the crowd. Without that time the women of NXT wouldn’t be able to exist as anything more than their physiques, especially given how focused on the body pro-wrestling inevitably is.

Small as the Full Sail audience may be, human beings are human beings and they want to believe in good, evil, courage, fear, and perseverance regardless of gender.

There’s not an audience in the world that wouldn’t erupt in ecstasy during a match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks - casual and diehard alike.

There’s not an audience in the world that wouldn’t happily accept a well-booked, heavily promoted match between Paige and Nikki Bella.

To neglect this reality is to neglect a mountain of money.

Beyond any personal disdain for any particular gender, orientation, or race, I have to believe money will move the powers of the WWE to inevitably do the right thing and listen, because preaching purely from a moral basis won’t get #WomensWrestling anywhere in this business. That's the one concession I'm willing to make in attempting to get #WomensWrestling over - I'm appealing to the WWE's desire for money, but I'm appealing to your desire for what's right.

There’s a chance for the company to appear cutting edge.

There’s a chance for the company to be beloved by the increasingly socially conscious world in which we live. There’s a chance for the WWE to right what’s wrong, and get ahead of this story.

And I’m giving them that chance with this article.

All it takes is trust and time.

Trust that the most talented, proven women working in the company (Paige, The Bella Twins, Natalya, Naomi, Tamina, Emma, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Lana, Renee Young and more) have the ability to put on captivating wrestling matches and cut provocative promos.

Time to actually put on those captivating wrestling matches and cut those provocative promos.

It’s been said, shouted, written, Tweeted, and smoke-signaled that it’s simply absurd that on a three hour television show the female race would only get five minutes of representation.

There’s more than enough talent to build an hour’s-worth of television around.

Perhaps it might be useful for the reader, and the WWE, to know the key demographic that I fit into.

I’m a heterosexual married man who is twenty-eight-years old.

It’s safe to assume (sadly, even today) that I’m not the kind of person you’d expect to take up this cause and preach about the virtues of #WomensWrestling and the plight of the female in our backwards society.

And that’s exactly the kind of expectation we need to change, because it’s an expectation that represents a disconnect from reality. Equality for the genders cannot be achieved until all genders freely speak up for one another without fear of reprisal.

I care about #WomensWrestling and equality for women in our society not because I want to castrate men.

I just want my fellow human being to be taken care of.

Without #WomensWrestling an entire generation won't have the figures they need to be inspired and pushed toward greatness.

A world where Bayley doesn’t get to be Bayley is not a world I want to live in. 

I’m an advocate for good storytelling.

I’m an advocate for the preservation of talent.

I’m an advocate for common sense.

And that’s why I’m an advocate for #WomensWrestling.

If you'd like to hear me talk about #WomensWrestling then Subscribe to The Work of Wrestling podcast in iTunes. You can also follow me via the various social media gimmicks listed below.