Editorials

WWE’s Version of Feminism

Feminism. By definition, meaning the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

A movement or way of life that has been around longer than any of us currently breathing can fathom. There are many cases of feminist icons over the years with some including their own ideologies which have either skewed the vision of the original definition away from its core point, others which have strengthened the main purpose of feminism.

Without feminism, the world would be a very different and difficult place for a lot of people to live in. People of any gender, sexuality, race and religion can identify and consider themselves a feminist, no matter which type they follow, social, intersectional or any other kind.

Many things under the umbrella of feminism, with equal pay being a huge example of this, are still part of everyday life that needs to be conquered eventually, with probably the most notable instance of this in recent years coming from the world of sport, football or soccer to be precise with the US women’s team.

However, this has also come up in the world of professional wrestling. I think we all remember that time AJ Lee tweeted about equal pay to Stephanie McMahon, which received a rather unenthusiastic response.

But the truth is, the issue is very real for the current crop of women sitting in either the RAW, SmackDown or NXT locker room, and has been for years now.

I would like to live in a world where the women’s evolution is real. I’d like to live in a world where I can say that Charlotte Flair’s contributions to a RAW episode are rewarded with an equal paycheck to say Roman Reigns. But we do not.

Yes Mark, I’m very aware of your opinion on how Roman Reigns is a bigger star than Charlotte Flair, but the truth is, WWE’s own sexism for years is still undermining this current pro-feminist outlook they are attempting to create, if this weren’t happening or never did at all, perhaps he wouldn’t be the bigger star.

Mark is a hypothetical person that I made up, but there are people out there who believe in the sentiment that the men are just bigger stars than the women solely because they are male, which is wrong.

It’s rather strange that apart from that interaction between AJ and Stephanie, there have been no other instances of people speaking out on the topic whether they work for the company or not. I remember certain media outlets picking up on the story at the time, yet while WWE is running with this idea that their women are now equal, nothing notable is being said about the imbalance of pay or screen time, with only the latter being mentioned by fans on social media.

To refer back to my points on feminism, Stephanie and other representatives of WWE will happily allow you to be sucked into this fantasy of lies that the women’s evolution has created a complete overhaul as far as female talent goes. They’re given longer matches and stipulations, they’re in the main event and on posters. But they are not treated equally where it truly matters. They are not respected in the same way in which their male counterparts are. This has to change.

This isn’t just solely a case with WWE either, but something all wrestling companies should consider, especially if they attempt to speak on how their female stars are equal to their male stars. Make sure they really are.

WWE does have a larger responsibility on their shoulders due to who their target audience is. Children. A child of any age is more than likely not going to be able to understand that Sasha Banks doesn’t make the same amount of money as Kevin Owens, what they will understand is that Sasha is a role model, someone they can look up to and emulate.

Now, imagine that child becomes a teenager with the same exact dream a young Sasha Banks had, unless something drastically changes in the next few years, I’m hopeful yet also doubtful it will, but if it does not, that child turned teen is probably going to have the perception that the life of a female wrestler is good based on WWE pushing feminism to the forefront of their divisions.

A lie. A facade. A creation that they have built to deceive fans into believing that all is well for their female talent when it’s quite the opposite. That teenager will likely enter this world that they view as being a glorious place with stages, lights, cameras and they will be disappointed by the truth. That women’s wrestling still has seedy undertones everywhere.

Now, I know most of this has been filled with talk of equal pay, which is a key factor in why this “evolution” is simply not true. There are also other parts of the company that needs to step into 2017 and become aware of what a real revolution is about.

Lana, a Russian character who also happens to be the on and off-screen wife of Rusev both of whom are heel. She was placed into a storyline with Enzo Amore, a babyface. The storyline consisted of Enzo repeatedly attempting to start a romantic relationship with Lana, despite her marital status. There were moments within this storyline that felt like the aim was not only sexual harassment but slut shaming. Both of which are misogynistic and go against everything the company claims to have moved on from. The Lana character has previously been slut-shamed by both The Rock and Dolph Ziggler.

Emmalina, who for months was teased in various video packages showing her off in mostly swimwear. She was being compared to an “Instagram model”. The character has now been canceled but was supposed to be a throwback to people such as Sable. Sable, who didn’t have any form of wrestling ability and also endured her own sexist incidents within WWE, which lead to her filing a lawsuit against them. Again, something they claim to have moved on from.

Sexuality on display is of course absolutely fine if it is done in a respectable way that is not damaging to any of the talents nor does it cross certain boundaries to offend the audience, but blatant sexism and misogyny is not okay.

It is also not acceptable to create segments, video packages or promos that allow your viewers to believe that sexism and misogyny are fine. Something that happened a lot during the Emmalina segments with her being referred to as a “porn star” or comments such as her “only being good due to her looks” both of which are incorrect.

Sexism has been rife in WWE for years, which eventually crossed over to some members of their male audience due to them repeatedly seeing the women only in segments where they removed their clothes or were forced to throw pillows at each other. Rendering them pointless in the eyes of certain fans, some of which still hold this opinion today which is furthered by those kinds of segments or video packages with characters like Lana or Emmalina.

Just to be clear, not all male wrestling fans hold this opinion of the women, but unfortunately, some do.

There also at some point needs to be a serious discussion on the inclusion of all of the female talent, not just a select amount. SmackDown Live recently had an episode where they included every single member of their female roster, minus Naomi, who was taking time off, and Eva who is lost in her clothing line somewhere. RAW is yet to do so.

I don’t mean just putting them all on TV for one episode and we’re good either, I mean the creative team for both divisions should regularly incorporate all of their healthy/capable female talents. There’s no reason why they should be left off television if they have nothing stopping them from competing.

I’m sure that if asked, the women themselves would undoubtedly agree that there needs to be more diversity in the women’s divisions of both RAW and SmackDown.

I will give props where they are due, this is something they are kind of attempting to do by hiring women from countries they never have previously or making women of color their title holders. It’s just a shame how long it has taken them to do so.

To fully commit to the idea that feminism is the key to why their division is now successful, it’s rather confusing why they keep commentators such as Jerry Lawler around, who continuously makes sexist remarks towards the women and makes them feel uncomfortable. If you want him to remain hired, fine, but don’t let him make comments on the women, or make sure he’s aware of the fact that we aren’t in the 90’s anymore.

They also must stop attempting to lie to their viewers. For those of you who watched the women’s evolution documentary on the WWE Network, you may have seen some famous names pop up such as Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyoncé.

Now, I may be wrong. But the way in which this documentary was presented was as if this current push for women taking over in all forms of entertainment was only a recent development, something Stephanie herself once stated in a promo. However, all three of those names listed above, as well as the others in the documentary, have been respected in their field of entertainment for multiple years now.

Jolie, for example, has not only starred in various films to huge success but has contributed majorly with her humanitarian work. Winfrey, who is not only known for her talk show and various other media work, but for her philanthropic contributions. Beyoncé is, well, Beyoncé. Arguably the most successful person in music, of her generation.

It’s not as serious as the prior issues that WWE have with their use of feminism, but it is extremely detrimental to watch them attempt to say that certain people’s contributions are only now being accepted when they have in fact been acknowledged for many years now.

So, with all that being said, WWE’s version of feminism is a twisted and misconstrued version of what the definition is. If they wish to continue to include an important movement in their reasoning behind why their female talent is now being displayed “correctly” they must consider fulfilling every aspect of feminism, not just a select few, and also to make sure they put the truth out there instead of trying to lie to their audience.

I know none of this matters in the end because ultimately the company will do what they want to do, but if this at least opens up one person’s perspective on this topic, I’ll be happy with that.

Feminism truly is for everyone if they wish for it to be. There’s no need to make it just about you or your narrative. Learn about it. Respect it.

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