By Lee Hildebrand
April 8, 2006
Having only been watching wrestling since 1997, I’m somewhat of a newcomer with just nine years of feuds and superstars under my belt. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I enjoy watching WWE shows less now than when I began watching. The return of gimmicky characters, the retirement of a few big names and sub-par announcing all play into it, but I think that there is one reason more than any other that WWE shows are not as fun to watch as they used to be.
Misogyny is a term that describes a pathological hatred of all women. Let me first say that I have no problem with the women’s championship and I think it gives a lot of female athletes a chance to showcase their skill. But when did the women’s championship become a vehicle for pornography instead of wrestling ability?
I’m a married man, and what are other men like me supposed to say to their wives or girlfriends who see “Divas Do NY” or a “Playboy pillow fight” being advertised and wonder what that has to do with wrestling? I’m not saying that the divas should not showcase their beauty, but when it becomes more important than wrestling skill the WWE has the impossible task of playing to two audiences: one that wants wrestling and one that wants implants.
And was it so long ago when a man wouldn’t hit a woman even if he was playing a heel? I realize that when male wrestlers attack a female it is usually to begin or accentuate a heel turn, but it is a cheap and uncreative way to do so. Call me old-fashioned, call me whatever you want, but I just don’t respect a man after he’s put his hands on a woman.
I’ve had to watch Vince, Stone Cold, HHH, Kurt Angle, The Big Show, Edge, my hero Mick Foley and a laundry list of other male superstars beat women with their hands, chairs or barbed wire. I’m not a statistician or a sociologist, but I don’t need to be to know that when boys grow up seeing men hit women, they are going to think it is an OK thing to do when they are angry. I’m sure that no domestic abuse survivors think it is “entertaining” or “sporting” to see a woman brutalized by a man two or three times her size, and judging from fan reactions, I’m not sure anyone else thinks so either. Nor does anyone believe that male violence against women is ever really necessary for the perpetuation of a storyline.
Before the politically correct crowd jumps on me, let me just say I don’t think here is anything that women in the sport should be banned from doing, I just have the right not to like watching it. And if a lot of consumers don’t like it, why should we tolerate its presence in the product we are buying?
This really isn’t a progressive path the industry has taken anyway. Prior to this shift, women like Sensational Sherri or Miss Elizabeth made big impacts as managers, exerting vast power and influence for their business abilities, and Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah impressed crowds with their wrestling abilities. Now, with a handful of exceptions, female managers are really purposeless, and an increasing number of female wrestlers are really models who can barely wrestle.
The women are not blameless in all this either. I cannot think of a single positive role model for women over the past nine years. The female performer must agree to submit to a beating from male wrestlers, teaching young women that brutality is just what they should expect from men.
When Melina makes false sexual abuse charges as part of a storyline, now young men learn that sexual abuse claims are not to be taken seriously and that women who make them are liars. When Jillian Hall and Sharmell and Lita let their boyfriends or husbands use them as a human shield and then never, NEVER say anything about it after the fact, young women learn that men will exploit them and to not stick up for themselves. And when Trish Stratus, one of the greatest WWE women’s champions to date, strips to her underwear then crawls around the ring and barks “I’m Sorry” to Vince in a dog voice, women learn that they should do humiliating things so that men will like them.
To wrap up, this past Wrestlemania, Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah were lumped in with a crowd of WWE “freaks.” Mae Young was there because she was indulging Snitsky’s foot fetish, but as near as I can figure The Fabulous Moolah, who was the first world’s woomen’s champion in 1956, was cast as a freak mainly because she is old.
Are we so obsessed with youth, so enamored with sex, that the sight of an aging woman is “freakish” to us? I hope not, and I hope the audience remembers that the WWE is a media machine that turns out whatever it is we want to see. All we have to do to change what come out of the WWE is make our voices heard.
Lee Hildebrand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org