I spent a lot of time between the ages of 16 and 25 going to concerts. I’m not talking about the symphony, either. I’m talking about punk shows and metal shows – concerts where it’s standing room only and you’re perhaps not old enough to even be in this bar. I loved going to these shows because of the sense of community. I started seeing the same faces beside me in the audience, performance after performance. There was a specific culture that existed when I went to see my favorite bands. By far the best rule ever established for these events was that you were supposed to pick someone back up if they fell down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the lead singer of a band stop a show just to remind everyone that when someone gets knocked down in a mosh pit you should pick them back up before you continue your mad thrashing. Now, I’ve been hurt in pits – black eyes, bruises, I even had my head cracked open once – but there was a sense of safety knowing we were all looking out for one another to prevent really dangerous situations.
The internet, on the other hand, – and, more specifically for the purpose of this blog, the internet wrestling community – is not a safe place where we pick each other back up. In fact, being a part of the internet wrestling world has become something of a battle. Not only are you one tiny voice trying to shout above the din, but if someone actually hears you there is a good chance they’re going to tell you that you’re wrong or try to make you feel badly about your opinions. After what has been a very long month of things happening (mostly in WWE) that have caused outrage in one group of people or another, and those people being shouted down, I’m thinking it’s time to get back to the punk show mentality. What the wrestling fanbase needs is a safe place, somewhere you know people will help you get back up again.
After thinking about this for a few days while snowed in, my mind settled on the part of the wrestling community that was the most closely related to my own perspective as a wrestling fan, and that is the part that is based in my gender. I am in the supposed minority as a wrestling fan (though I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any actual statistics supporting this) because I am a woman. But being a part of Twitter has connected me to a number of other women, not all of whom share the same exact opinions or preferences as wrestling fans. They are all passionate, a lot of fun to talk to, and quite different. So when I had a bit of free time Wednesday morning, I decided to open this pit up.
After tagging a bunch of these lady wrestling fans in a tweet asking about their opinions on what’s currently happening in WWE, things began to open up quickly, not unlike a sped-up video of a flower in bloom.
It’s amazing hearing your own concerns reflected back to you: that what is going on in WWE right now is dated and dangerous. As someone who grew up with boys who used to run around the playground yelling “suck it” at everyone, it’s hard not to consider that WWE had a tremendous impact on who those boys became, which is to say the types of men we exist with today. When your most impressionable, formative years are the years in which you were told a real man was Triple H (who drugged Stephanie and married/who-knows-what-else-ed her without her consent) or The Rock (homophobic and misogynist) of course many of those standards are going to stick. What are we teaching the kids who watch WWE today, even though it’s not as mainstream of a product as it was twenty years ago? When The Rock reappears on RAW and talks at length about his sexual exploits with Lana, we are teaching people that silence is consent. It isn’t. The only thing that means “yes” is “yes”.
What does it say about WWE – or any promotion – when the people who make these types of comments are considered the “good guys”. When homophobic comments are meant to question someone’s “manhood”, when women are treated simply as sex objects, you are not only teaching other males to behave in this way, but you are also teaching the victims of these comments to view themselves that way, and that is the kind of dangerous thinking that can encourage to dysphoria and self-hate – two things it is tremendously difficult to undo. But it’s not just the companies or the wrestlers who are to blame. It permeates the audience as well.
I’ve experienced this myself, particularly at a Ring of Honor TV taping back in June. When Veda (who, I will be honest, I’m not a fan of anyway) came out, the things that were being shouted at her from the audience were so incredibly vile I got up and went to the ladies room to avoid it. It made me want to fight someone. It made me want to puke. But it also made me want to hide, a feeling you never get used to. When someone is saying things that make you so uncomfortable your fight mentality is completely drowned out by the flight part of your brain, the other person has won – with their words. That is a power you can get drunk with, and these idiots were wasted.
So we’re shouting into the abyss. Maybe our attempts at speaking out against WWE and its treatment of women or any other group seems futile. But it isn’t. Change doesn’t come from silence. It never has. We’re going to keep being wrestling fans, and we’re going to keep talking about what is wrong with the product. That is our contribution to making it better. We’re also going to support other products, like Lucha Underground, to show that a loyal and significant fanbase can be built from a product that is more inclusive. We’re not going to be silenced by people who blindly follow something because it’s “always been that way”, or because it’s not their battle to fight. It’s everyone’s battle.
Will’s pretty much on the money here – everything, even wrestling, should be inclusive. It’s good for business, and it’s good for people to see representation in every aspect of their society. Whether it be movies or comic books or politics or pro wrestling or advertising, you can reach a wider audience by not isolating people. Making things that are “exclusive” seems cool and can be a great marketing tool, but it will only take you so far. WWE is way past that. Wrestling is way past that. They masses are here, and they want more.
So here’s my hot take. Let’s try to remember to pick each other up, because it’s going to be a cold day in hell before WWE stops the music and reminds us to take care of one another.