Knapsacking Up: WWE’s “Diva” Problem

It was a dark and stormy night in Minneapolis.

An enraged Demon, hoping to tarnish our noble Hero, was cutting a path of destruction through Hero’s life. Like Job or Luke Skywalker, Hero was being tested. Demon, a product of years of rage and hated, was trying to make our Hero give in to his anger.

Weeks before, Hero’s socially inept, and quite frankly, stupid, Friend had been attacked by the Demon. Friend had been pursuing Woman for weeks, clearly not getting her hints that she was not interested. When she finally agreed to go on a date, Demon attacked, nearly dragging Friend to Literal Christian Hell.

Soon after, Demon set his sights on Woman. Hero managed to save Woman from a terrifying near abduction, earning Hero a kiss from the relieved damsel in distress. Unfortunately, Hero’s injured Friend watched dejectedly nearby, ending their friendship on the spot.

Finally, in Minneapolis, things came to a head. After hearing that Woman was never interested in Friend, our Hero found the most public place he could and slut-shamed Woman, saying that he had traded a bro for a ho and that he wanted her gone since he was disease free and wanted to stay that way.

Meanwhile, everyone in that public space helped castigate Woman, whose two crimes were kissing a man who had saved her life and refusing the advances of someone incredibly below her.

*************************

Sadly, I was in that public place, which happened to be the Target Center last February for World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) flagship television show, WWE Raw. Our hero was played by John Cena. Kane was the Demon. Eve was the Woman. And Zack Ryder was the man-child and mental midget Friend.

Originally, this was the introduction to an essay entitled “In Defense of Professional Wrestling.” It did not make the final draft, mainly because this is clearly a shitty story that would directly contradict that essay’s thesis.

Wrestling is a storytelling medium. Like all methods of storytelling, is not inherently anything. It is what we make of it and what we demand of it. Through wrestling, I’ve seen acting, choreography, athleticism, storytelling, comedy, and participatory theater that I have not seen or experienced anywhere else.

I’ve also seen it used for sexism, racism, homophobia, jingoism, and pandering to the lowest common denominator. Although the stereotypes about professional wrestling are false, many to most of the negative stereotypes concerning WWE programming are true. WWE has a lot of problems with women.

Let’s investigate, shall we…

“Divas”
No one is a “professional wrestler” in WWE. Male are “Superstars.” It’s a little vague, but still pretty empowering. Every female wrestler in WWE is a “Diva.” A princess who prances around concerned with her hair and nails instead of her job, which happens to be beating the hell out of opponents. I’ve never used “diva” in a positive fashion.

The Divas Championship
For 54 years, WWE had the Women’s Championship. In 2010, it was replaced by the Diva’s Championship.

Divas Championship

Is that a fucking butterfly?

What the fuh… What the hell is that? Did they pull this out of the box for Luchador Barbie?

To be fair, no little girl would plead with her parents for a replica Women’s Championship Belt. To be even fairer, the fact that a little girl needs a pink butterfly to want the symbol of a preeminent ass-kicker is a pretty big problem.

Misogyny
“I gave up a broski for a hoeski.” SLUT! WHORE!

“…You would have to fold up that suit and put it in your wife’s purse where you keep your cell phone and your balls!” BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE MASCULINE AND A GOOD HUSBAND!

“What Cena should be worried about is The Rock’s size-15 boot rising and kicking him right in his lady parts!” BECAUSE VAGINAS ARE BAD!

Slut Shaming
See: Cena, John

Later, AJ Lee found herself in a storyline with Kane, CM Punk, and emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend Daniel Bryan. She played each of them against the others, masterfully manipulating each with alternating scorn and affection. Everyone assumed she was crazy, but she was clearly orchestrating the downfall of a bunch of people who had treated her like crap.

A year later, she still suffers the barbs of WWE announcers. “AJ Lee is like a merry-go-round. Everyone’s had a ride!” “AJ Lee has been on more manhunts than the FBI!” “AJ Lee is a dumb fucking slut and everyone’s had their dick inside her!” Okay, so they never said that last one, BUT THEY ARE TOTALLY SAYING THAT LAST ONE.

Women Be Crazy!
…And she was later retconned into actually being crazy the whole time.

Now, it’s Alicia Fox, the criminally underrated former Divas Champion who spinning shit into gold with post-match meltdowns, win or lose.

Renee Young, NXT’s normally awesome interviewer/announcer has not been helping the cause either, frequently emphasizing how jealous women are of each other, that Woman X was tough for a woman, and plenty of other awfulness.

Double-Standards
Authority figure Vickie Guererro was, for years, called a fat pig by the announcers or anyone else who had an issue with her.

Here are some others I don’t remember being called fat.

Not Fat People

Pictured: Not Fat People Big Daddy V, Rikishi, 3 Minute Warning, Mark Henry

*************************

I don’t propose eliminating sexism, racism, or homophobia from WWE. We should not remove these from wrestling any more than we should remove them from film or television. We need terrible people to tell stories. The problem is that in all of the examples above, the offenders were “faces.” They were the good guys. The protagonists. The role models in these morality plays.

With all the studies that show how television impacts us, we should not tolerate this from our heroes. It sends a bad message to the many children who love WWE. It sends a bad message to the sheep who earn every negative stereotype accorded to wrestling fans. And, maybe worst of all, it’s bad storytelling. Misogynist heroes make for shitty art.

Thankfully, just as television affects us, we can affect television. All mediums of entertainment are what we allow them to be. We don’t tolerate this stuff in real life. We don’t tolerate this stuff in our movies or on TV. If we held WWE to the same standards we hold every other form of performance art, we’d all be better off.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE, ‘CUZ… No?

I’ll show myself out.

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4 thoughts on “Knapsacking Up: WWE’s “Diva” Problem

  1. At first I thought you were referencing Kane, Lita, Matt Hardy, and Edge. Lita didn’t exactly get a dignified exit from the company later on, either.

    there was also that bit with the Dudleys “getting wood” and putting women through tables. And a LOT of stuff with Trish Stratus. And that time when Vince McMahon solved his problems with Linda by realizing she wanted another baby from him, the “genetic jackhammer”. And that time Stephanie McMahon was fake “fake drugged” to be married off to Triple H “The question isn’t if we consummated the marriage, it’s how many times!”. And at one of the Wrestlemanias, Coach was sent around to find the Undertaker and stumbled upon Mean Gene and Bobby the Brain getting it on with Mae Young and Moolah, complete with one of the old ladies saying “You want to see my puppies?” Which reminds me, Lawler’s on-air persona, though at least he was supposed to be the heel commentator.

    I’m not really sure if I should include Katie Vick in all this, because that one was pretty tasteless all the way around.

    One of the things I like about Chikara when I can see it is that they don’t only send women against other women, or treat women wrestlers as if they’re no threat to the men.

    • Did you just say “Chikara?” We might be best friends for life now. Thank god I missed most of the stuff you talked about here, either before my time, during my hiatus, or on Raw when I didn’t have cable.

      • I found your site because I was looking around to see if anyone had some Chikara reviews I could read to figure out the Deucalion death toll. I don’t keep up with the shows very well.

        I only saw the very very end of the Dudleys putting women through tables and only a little of Kane and Lita. I did, unfortunately, get to see the Raw show (on TV) when Triple H put on the Kane mask and acted out having sex with a mannequin in a casket that was supposed to be Katie. “Look Katie…” *holds up a hand with gooey stuff on it* “I screwed your brains out!”

  2. Ha! That’s actually how I ended up reviewing this year’s Chikara shows. I wanted some more opinions and there weren’t any reviews out there, other than a few scattered reviews from those in attendance. I suppose it’s one of those “nature abhors a vacuum” sort of things…

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