The Butchershop – Pro Wrestling: A Feminist’s View

The Butcher


The women’s title is the Loch Ness monster of the wrestling world; people like to float along believing that in some shape or form it exists, but deep down they know that it’s fictional. As wrestling has developed, the role of females has remained stagnant and unchanged, and for years has been a concern of mine. Sensational Sherri, Luna Vachon, and Tammy Sytch were all renowned for seductively escorting stars to the ring, standing seductively at ringside, and returning to the locker room equally as seductively. Character development was nonexistent, each woman a cardboard stereotype of what a real woman is. This trend has fractionally dissipated over the decades, letting the odd female athlete through the filter every year or so. No one seemed to notice, no one seemed to care, happily believing that they watched female matches for the action and athleticism, not the plunging necklines. But something extraordinary happened only a few weeks ago, a singles women’s match was the main event of Raw, something that hasn’t happened in the history of the WWE.

The chief implementation of women in wrestling over the years is as a hindrance, some form of distraction that disables a wrestler from obtaining the rewards he obviously deserves. This concept is one of several ingrained wrestling etiquettes, so deeply embedded in the sport over the years that if neglected would mean a huge loss of storylines. Others include U.S.A. patriotism pops, foreign wrestler heat and monster heels. The wrestling world’s foundations lie in these stereotypes and are the key gears that run the machine. However, importance doesn’t always override progress. A lot has changed since wrestling was refined into the viewer friendly product it is now, the world has remedied prejudices and widespread values and attitudes have flipped. Feminism was one of those cures. Women were freed from their domestic shackles and were put on the same corporate level as men. They were no longer regarded as assets, yet that’s precisely how they’re being portrayed in wrestling today, over thirty years since the movement.

As wrestling adopted the hardcore style, and used outer world current affairs in storyline, it would seem that the company has progress in its peripheral vision, its blind spot being the new role of women. Some of the most recent storylines are out of touch with actuality, Lita being forcibly wed and impregnated, Jackie causing an injured Haas to defend her, and Trish’s recent acquired taste for liking it “rough”. Each to some degree disregards any of the female participants’ athletic prowesses, instead constructing them as an obstacle in a storyline.

The women’s title itself is testament to the trend. From 1986 to early 1995, the era in which wrestling became a national family past time, the women’s title changed hands all of six times. In comparison the World Title changed hands eighteen times despite Hulk Hogan’s World Title supremacy. The Intercontinental Title was passed twenty-two times, the Tag Team Titles twenty-six, and the annual King Of The Ring crown eight times. While compelling, intense and fresh angles were beginning each month for titles the women’s title remained in stasis, a coaster for Vince’s coffee mug. After 1995 someone must have found the long forgotten belt and decided to throw it back into the mix. Result, the title flip-flopping between busty champions an average of four times a year since. Somehow the WWE managed to defile the prestige (what little it had) of the title through neglect, and in the process of correcting the dilemma tarnished the prestige just as severely by handing the belt to anyone who walked through the doors, including Harvey Whippleman. From one end of the spectrum to the other.

It isn’t a case of a talent void either; women wrestlers are now more apt and capable than they’ve ever been. Recently released Gail Kim’s repertoire rivals Rey Mysterio’s, Victoria can perform a standing moonsault (a move the majority of male talent won’t even attempt) and has arguably the most impressive finishing move in the business, and Trish Stratus has almost single-handedly proven that beauty and brawn can mix. Nevertheless, having a handful of capable athletes doesn’t make a division; a reservoir of challengers is essential for the title picture to have vitality. Depth is imaginary in the WWE’s female division. There are currently five women whose primary purpose is to wrestle. Five. One division, five wrestlers, and the natural reaction has been to fire finely tuned athletes such as Gail Kim, and hire a battalion of collagen vessels as “Divas”. Currently, eleven women are hired as “Divas”, six more than actual female athletes.

What does this say about the role women play, and considering that wrestling dilutes real life to the bare stereotypes, how does this reflect society. Women whose sole job is to reveal as much flesh as possible and act as abuse fodder for heels are given priority over world-grade competitors who’ve spent a lifetime refining their skills. The average fan will see that this is all script and nothing should be extracted from it, so the real harm comes to the held down women themselves. Molly Holly must loathe the fact that she got her head shaved bald only to be taken off television almost indefinitely, and her airtime is being absorbed by Diva Search runner-ups. However, it’s unjust to blame it on bookers and the company because they simply give the fans what they want, whether it stalls someone’s career or not. The true perpetrators are the fans themselves. Too often do people refer to women’s matches as “piss breaks”, female athletes aren’t regarded by the fans as elite sportsmen, but instead breast transport. Fellow wrestling enthusiasts have stated that the chief incentive for them to tune in are the segments featuring the scantily clad “Divas”, but when queried, find singles women matches, where the competitors aren’t depriving each other of clothing, as tedious. Which brings the conclusion that maybe the feminism movement hasn’t achieved its goal as successfully as it may seem. Chauvinism may be so embedded in the average viewer that no amount of progress can extract it. It’s more a case of reality ruling wrestling and not wrestling ruling reality. The disinterest in female WWE competitors is a byproduct of these views.

.

Conversely, it’s fairly ignorant to accuse an inter-gender audience of deep seeded chauvinism. Television’s purpose is to entertain us with extraordinary images and stories we are unable to pursue in our own lives. This is an unspoken rule. TV is allowed to do things that real life isn’t, it’s permitted to give its own skewed view of the world and we should accept it as fabrication. The WWE are allowed to give an aura of male supremacy, just as much as The Man Show, Sportscenter and Monday Night Football. People find it refreshingly disobedient to enjoy something, that for the sake of political correctness, they shouldn’t be enjoying. In an instance of turnabout, feminism has it’s own lopsided league of programming. The View and Oprah are to chauvinism, what The Man Show and cheerleaders are to feminism. Yet, no one questions these shows, even though their gender representation is equally as unbalanced. And that’s the way it should be. Television programs such as the WWE are allowed to give what impressions they like, within reason, just like every other show or film. It’s the duty of the fan to discern reality from make believe. The only difference is that the WWE are playing with peoples’ careers, and the fact is, more male talent was released than female so the issue is more about staff retention and loyalty than feminism and chauvinism.

If you’d like to ask a question or leave some feedback, feel free to email me at TheButchershopColumn@hotmail.com. All mail is answered promptly.

Over and Out

The Butcher

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you are interested in becoming a columnist or simply love reading wrestling columns and would like to interact with the Column Staff here at WrestleZone please check out the Columns Lounge. Simply click HERE and you can take part in the fun today.

Have a news tip? Attended an event and want to send a live report? Submit it now!
monitoring_string = "851cc24eadecaa7a82287c82808f23d0"