The Anti-Antagonist: The Root of the Problem in the Aries/Hemme Case

Adam Gorzelsky

Austin Aries

As many of you may know, although I contribute to Wrestlezone.com and various other professional wrestling outlets on a limited basis, I spend a significant portion of my waking hours during the work week practicing law. Specifically, I focus the bulk of my practice as an advocate for employees who suffer discrimination in the workplace.

I know sexual harassment…I’ve seen it in all of its forms…The use of one’s sexuality to harass or demean, to stifle the advancement of a worthy employee, to gain a measure of cowardly control… Each is equally disgusting.

What’s most disturbing about this line of work is the constant reality that long-term, chronic discrimination often is insulated, while correctable issues that reach the light of day are highlighted and punished for PR purposes…After all, digging into the depths of an organization or industry is much less palatable than punishing a one-time mistake by a member of the rank and file.

By now we’ve likely all read Mark Madden’s opinions and reporting regarding the Austin Aries/Christy Hemme incident. While it can be debated whether or not Aries’ status as a heel should provide an affirmative defense in this situation, there is nothing wrong with attention being called to this matter…Whether in or out of character, Aries utilized his sexuality to exhibit dominance over a female.

It happens…It happens everyday…Drawing attention to the issue is the first step in rectifying the problem. Unfortunately, this incident and Mark’s coverage of the incident, serve as a microcosm of our utter failure to handle the underlying issues.

Had Aries engaged in the same actions off camera and out of character, there would be little sympathy from wrestling fans. Claims that he simply was playing the role of a heel clearly would not apply.

Nevertheless, had such actions never made national TV, are we to believe that anyone within TNA, let alone Mark Madden, would have brought this or similar conduct to light? I understand that the national exposure allowed Mark to become aware of this particular incident, but there is no doubting his understanding of the underlying sentiment belying Aries’ actions.

Mark has made it clear on numerous occasions that he believes that women wrestlers only are employed as a means to placate the male wrestlers on the road. True or false, this is a significant indictment not of a specific individual or company, but of the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Mark raise this point in an attempt to stymie this disgusting attitude toward female wrestlers…Instead, I’ve seen him raise it as a means to explain the lack of on screen attention paid to the women.

Ultimately, people will agree or disagree with Mark’s premise regarding the Aries incident. Some share a sentiment of disgust, while others view it as nothing more than a hypersensitive reaction to an edgy piece of programming. A number of people also have been quick to point out hypocrisy in Mark’s outrage given his own attitude toward women (i.e. imploring WWE to “hire the vagina” in reference to Maria Kanellis.)

I couldn’t care less about real or perceived hypocrisy when the end result is a genuine discussion about a lingering issue….What I do care about though, is the framing of the issue.

Targeting Austin Aries and imploring television executives to seek punishment does nothing to correct the underlying discrimination. This shouldn’t be about sponsors, endorsements, or television ratings, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be about any one journalist blowing that trumpet…This should be about nothing more than ensuring that the women of professional wrestling are treated as something more than a piece of meat.

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