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The role of women in wrestling?


Stormy Weathers

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Right well before I get accused of trolling or whatever let me assure you that this is a genuine enquiry.......I would love to know what your guys thoughts are on this subject.

 

What do you think of systematic degradation and marginalisation of women in the wrestling industry and especially the WWE?

 

I mean it seems these days that Divas matches are by far the worst matches on any given card....Pretty much all the female wrestlers these days look like strippers and are subjected to degrading matches such as swim suit battle royals or reduced to dancing on stage rather than competing (summer slam I think)......

 

I mean it's not as overt as the attitude days with the bra and panties matches or anything but it's clear that they are only there as eye candy and to sell calenders

 

It seems that powers that be only really care about appearances and not too much about wrestling abilities.....The days of butch gym teacher looking wrestlers like Alundra Blaze (spelling) seem to be long gone and in there place are all these hot women who can't really work......

 

And to make matters worse the Divas title looks like something you'd get with a Bratz doll and not like a credible championship belt.

 

The Knockouts division is a little better and the wrestling is definitely a step up from the Divas division but it's still peppered with sub standard workers who look great.

 

So basically my question is.....do you think that women will ever get a fair shake in the industry or do you think that the audience demographic means that they will be there as teenage wank bank fodder for the rest of time?

 

PS : like I said this is not me trolling just hopefully opening the door to some debate with fellow wrestling fans :)

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Mainstream women to me are there to provide something for the lads and dads to look at other than the wrestling itself, the eye candy as you said. However i believe if people were really interested in the womens wrestling itself anyway they would be going to shows like WSU, SHIMMER, SHINE and whatever else they can go to. I do wish that we would get better action in the ring from the women in both companies (even though knockouts are kinda better but are seemingly becoming divas now) but yeah, having them interact with others on the roster can help as well. Look at when Trish was wrestling &/or a manager for many people or interacted with people like the A.P.A. thats the only way people will care more about them i believe and with no one in TNA planning on running for government (that i know of) they are the ones who should make that step. Have Tara be with Kid Kash and Gunner or something and have them face Brooke, Chavo and Hernandez.

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Because there's no real money to be made in women's wrestling. It's far easier to just chuck them out there in some skimpy clothing and leave them to it. As that is what the majority want to see anyway. 2002-2004 someone obviously cared as the division was hot shit. I think old Finlay was a large part of why that was a success though as he had a bunch of girls who really wanted to learn and put the hard craft in to becoming a top women's wrestler. They all had individual characters and move sets you could identify them with.

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Trish was like one in a million she did get so much better as time went on and she always looked great and wasn't too bad on the mic either......and true wrestling star :)

 

but yeah, having them interact with others on the roster can help as well. Look at when Trish was wrestling &/or a manager for many people or interacted with people like the A.P.A. thats the only way people will care more about them i believe and with no one in TNA planning on running for government (that i know of) they are the ones who should make that step. Have Tara be with Kid Kash and Gunner or something and have them face Brooke, Chavo and Hernandez.

 

Yeah I defo agree with that having women as managers and valets is the way forward they are very good at getting people over getting them heat.....and they don't even need to be able to wrestle that well just take the odd bump and have some personality. :)

 

Also this might sound bad but using moderate violence towards women (nothing too harsh) is a great way to get cheap heel heat (I'm thinking of like 3 minute warning or what ever they were called.....that used to come down and attack women and the elderly and always got booed like hell)......I mean nothing gratuitous or anything just you know something that looks gnarly but actually isn't too bad like a 3D through a table or the likes can be a pretty effective.

 

I dunno I don't have kids but it seems to me that if I did I would rather my sons be exposed to wrestling than my daughters hell if your kid grows up worshipping the likes of cena you know he's got a good role model (as much as I find the guy a snot nose) but if your daughter watches it and hero worships the likes of Kelly Kelly you know she is gonna spend her life obsessively worrying about her looks and hitting tanning salons rather than libraries and dressing in skimpy clothes :)

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I'm going to steer this into a bit of a different direction. This is a bit long and boring, and I'm retreading some old ground but meh, I'm bored.

 

Fundamentally wrestling relies on very traditional narrative structures, namely operating via binary opposites. The main binary opposite in wrestling being good/evil, although that was of course challenged in the late 90s, mainly being replaced by other ones namely authority/rebellion. The WWE has tried to return to the traditional good/evil divide, although that has met with some resistance from fans. Once you've challenged a structural device it's very difficult to restore it.

 

Society has operated on a lot of these divides, each one with their own political concerns. There's been, and continues to be, black/white, straight/gay and more specifically on topic male/female. The WWE's no different to this. The fact that it's so often expressed as male/female demonstrates the place where the power is supposed to reside in this divide, the male comes before the female (jokes on a postcard) and resides over the female. We can see that in mainstream wrestling, the concerns of the male wrestlers are always above those of the female wrestlers. More than that, the binary opposite structure relies to some extent on connotations, on abilities or attributes given to either side of the divide. So we have a set of male attributes and a set of female attributes. In the society that we're interested in with this topic, the most key and obvious one is active and passive, the male is active, the female is passive. In this thread we've already had comments that females should be used as valets and managers, traditionally passive roles. This is seen as a solution to problems with the representation of females. It's not, and its politically concerning. It's a solution that would seek to restore a traditional balance, rather than an attempt to progress. I'm not pointing this out to pick on anyone, more to prove a point, these binary opposites are incredibly powerful and incredibly difficult to break. Society is trying to deconstruct them as we speak.

 

In wrestling the active male and passive female representations are more difficult to break because of, well, sexual desire. Because of fans ogling the performers on the screen. Because of fans wanting to sleep with them and possibly wanking over them. Only the concern isn't that wrestling fans will do that over the women wrestlers, rather the men wrestlers. Freud speaks a lot of shit. One of the things he did say, however, is that in drawing a phantasy of what the male should be, which all males do, there's some homosexual libido. He argues that this gets displaced in the process of creating an image we aspire to be rather than be with. Here we see an oft repeated wrestling line, "the men want to be him, the women want to be with him", this line however isn't just a reflection of Freud's argument but an inherent phobia and an attempt at comfort.

 

Professional wrestling is often associated with the world of bodybuilding. Much like bodybuilders, WWE superstars spend a lot of time pumping iron, grooming and all in all trying to improve their physical appearance. There's an emphasis placed on having a 'superstar' look. This bothers patriarchal society which believes that the male body should not be a source of erotic pleasure. Hence alongside representations of the male body there are images of activity, or sadism. The most obvious non-wrestling example is the movie career of someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whenever he appears in a 'bodybuilder killer' movie, stripped to the waist, we rarely see him out of battle, either being attacked or attacking. The body is active. In this his obsession over looks becomes a masculine thing, it's an obsession related to the importance of the male being active. It's presented as not being how the body looks (though it is, here's the displacement and the anxiety at work) but how it operates.

 

Thus because of this homophobia, women wrestlers have to be, to some extent, passive. The male division is more 'important' than the women's division, and its 'tougher'. Hence you get 'models' and 'degrading' matches. Even the very names of the divisions in the WWE and TNA speak to this. The WWE calls the female competitors 'divas'. It's a name that has negative stereotypes, and certainly doesn't suggest activity. TNA have been somewhat braver, calling their women's division the 'knockouts' but even then it's a double entendre. It's a name that still stresses the importance of a female that looks like a 'knockout' when passive.

 

And where have women been presented better? Mostly in all female promotions. Where there's no concern over how the male wrestlers may be 'viewed'.

There are of course other political reasons, and it's important not to think of this issue as one relating entirely to male sexuality, but I do think that the anxiety over male sexuality that is inherent in wrestling is one of the key reasons why we don't have a fairer depiction of women. And I'm afraid it's something I don't see changing very soon.

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That's all very well and good (and gave me flashbacks to hating Laura Mulvey on my degree), but if it should be a case of true equality shouldn't there be intergender matches all the while? And for the sake of realism, shouldn't they just be men beating the shit out of women pretty much all the time? And that's probably more offensive than the passive/active thing now.

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I was more interested in exploring the reasons behind it than presenting an argument of how I think it should be. And while I see your point, it does ignore the fact that things could be done to improve it. The divisions could be renamed easily, more of an emphasis could be placed on the women's division, you can keep male and female wrestlers seperate and present the female division as a mixture of series competition and fun too. Of course you can't change it overnight and suddenly whack in male and female wrestlers together. But you can make positive changes.

 

I wasn't even thinking of Laura Mulvey's work, as I'm not fond of it myself, more the work of Steve Neale than anyone. Feminist studies were never my strong point.

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While Vamp presented a very interesting look at the reason's why things may be as they are, it doesn't look at the reality of the situation - that being that there really are not nearly enough talented female wrestlers to be able to present them as equal to the males, even if we (and wrestling promotions) all wanted to.

 

It's simply a case of the numbers involved. There must be ten times the amount of wannabe male wrestlers in the USA (just for example) as there are women in the same position. Trish gets loads of praise whenever someone looks at the failures of recent women's wrestling, but ultimately if you were to compare her to her male counterparts she's more a "Jericho" than a "Rock". Solid promo's, hit and miss character traits depending on what she's doing at the time, and the ability to have both amazing matches and serious off-nights. And she's "The Best" of the women!

 

I'm happy to see a thriving women's division, indeed there have been times when i genuinely enjoyed the Knockouts division, but it's mostly just not very good. If I find myself suggesting that so-and-so should "stop trying to wrestle and be a valet" its generally because they are are a really crap wrestler who would actually do a really good job as a valet - not because I'm threatened by credible females or scared that men are "losing their spots to girls".

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That goes in two ways though. If you don't push the women's division as a credible division then you're more than likely not going to have credible women wrestlers. You've also got to look at the time aspect. Women don't get as much time as the men to work. While there's reasons for that, namely the fact that most of them prodbably wouldn't hold our interest for long enough, that also means that they're not given the same time to develop as some of the men.

 

or scared that men are "losing their spots to girls".

 

I dunno, since nobody's actually said that you do look a bit paranoid about that... :p

 

At the end of the day it's not nothing you can remotely change over night. And I don't think anyone is arguing that you can do. But it's hard to change the reality of a situation without first assessing why that situation came about in the first place. Ultimately, like I said, I don't see it changing anytime soon. Partly because of the good points you've made. You can only work with what you've got. But that doesn't mean that if women were given stronger opportunities that they wouldn't have more to work with. It has to be a gradual process. Whether it's one I would bother with if I was a businessman I don't know. Personally I've neverh ad much of an interest in women's wrestling. I doubt it'd be much of a priority for any promoter, and understandably so. Whether or not it should be is getting into a wider political topic that's probably more off topic than it is on.

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