Many of you know that late last year into early 2015, I was writing NXT round-ups and op-eds for FightBooth. I had to take a step back when I took on an internship in Manhattan, but I maintain a good relationship with the boss over there, Dave, and the rest of the staff. (Some of them even read this blog – hey y’all!) I was still kind of surprised when Dave sent me FightBooth‘s pro-wrestling year in review ballot; I even asked him if he’d sent it to me by accident. But as someone who had written for the site in 2015 (even for a small portion of the year) I qualified to vote. So I did, making sure to keep my comments more concise than I had last year (where I held a streak for making picks that no one else did.)
In the ballot, there were a lot of categories and it took me the better part of an hour to work through the whole thing thoughtfully. Toward the bottom, there was a Woman Wrestler of the Year category that asked me to rank my top three, which I did. Then there was a Wrestler of the Year category that asked me to rank my top eight, which I also did, including individuals regardless of gender. I did it on purpose, knowing fully well what Dave had meant, but was trying to prove a flaw in the wording.
A wrestler is a wrestler, regardless of gender identity. It doesn’t matter to me that men have traditionally been booked above women in professional wrestling. If you ask me to list my favorite wrestlers of all time, you’re going to get a mix of genders. Dave was quite gracious in accepting my sassy attitude because he knew I was coming from a serious place. In fact, he renamed the last category, letting everyone on the panel know it had been altered via email. I was pleased with that, and felt proud, and then I saw he had shouted me out for bringing his attention to this issue on Twitter:
I was flattered that he gave me credit, though none was necessary. The choice of wording in that tweet set the gears in my mind turning, too. “Revolutionized.” Had I really made that big of an impact? It seemed hyperbolic, though I knew Dave’s intentions were good.
When you add to this situation that Nikki Bella, the woman who is claiming responsibility for the Diva’s Revolution for reasons passing understanding, won the 2015 Slammy for Diva of the Year on RAW last night, you can see how a Revolution sounds like quite a hot-button word to use. Nikki even took the time in her acceptance speech to thank all of the women in her division, in the women’s division in NXT, all of the women who work behind the scenes, and all of the female fans who cheer her and her colleagues on. That was nice. I guess.
What even is a revolution anyway? Assuming we’re not talking about the revolving of Nikki’s heavenly body around the central star of WWE, John Cena, what we mean is radical change. Radical change. We haven’t gotten a Diva’s Revolution in WWE. What we’ve gotten is a Diva’s Evolution – a process of gradual, peaceful growth. Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of most kinds of change in the women’s division of WWE, or anywhere for that matter. I have been a screaming lunatic in favor of women being treated better in professional wrestling since The Lady J became a thing. Perhaps my argument seems based in semantics, but it is largely a difference between what is needed and what is actually happening.
Over the past year and a half, I have written for three different pro-wrestling sites before starting this blog. I have sent out 9,553 tweets as the Lady J. I’ve written 15,000+ words on this blog alone. I cannot begin to tabulate how many different kinds of negative responses I have received. I am very lucky that since I started this blog back up in October, the comments I’ve gotten here have been respectful. But I’ve had to block a lot of people on Twitter. I’ve had certain people comment more on what my Twitter avatar looks like than what my content says. I’ve been called just about every disparaging word for a woman that exists – a few, I think, I even had to google. I don’t for the life of me understand why men feel so threatened by the presence of women in professional wrestling, but some of them are particularly skilled at being heinous, heinous human beings.
A week ago, Stephanie McMahon came out to open RAW and nearly killed me with some thinly-veiled anti-feminist bullshit about not appearing on TV that night as the aggressive bitch people normally view her to be, but rather as a wife and mother. Wow. Apparently the only way to be a woman in power in business is to be a bitch. I’ll make sure to keep that in mind, Steph, thanks for the heads up. I don’t know how we could ever have radical change for women in pro-wrestling when this is how we’re talking about ourselves – as either the bitch or the madonna. The slut or the prude. Either you’re dorky pun-loving Becky Lynch, or Nikki Bella who, coincidentally, was getting more comments on how tiny her shorts were than for her improved wrestling skills before she left to nurse a neck injury. And that’s our Diva of the Year. I wonder what everyone’s voting criteria was?
I’m going to say it right now – there is never going to be a Diva’s Revolution. You’re never going to see all of the women of WWE united, refusing to go out on TV until their storylines are written stronger, until their matches are booked longer. You’re never going to get the WWE universe unified behind them, either, demanding main event matches for the women they support and burning the butterfly belt in protest. The best we can hope for is a Diva’s Evolution – a slow, methodical plodding until change can actually be seen, comparing one year to the next. Increased match times stretch from four minutes to five, seven, and maybe even ten. The division gets bigger, and more time on RAW and SmackDown has to be delegated to women to account for the percentage that makes up the roster. The fans will evolve, too. There are already guys wearing Bayley and Sasha Banks t-shirts instead of Brock Lesnar or Undertaker t-shirts. There are going to be plenty of Match of the Year lists this year that put Bayley vs. Sasha at the top (I know I did, anyway.)
And while we wait to see these minute changes become measurable ones, I’m going to be right here, Wile E. Coyote with a map, insisting you change the name of your Wrestler of the Year category and other things that seem too small to matter. They do matter. And if you’re going to be call me a feminazi or an angry bitch on the internet, just keep one thing in mind.
You have absolutely no idea.