Posted by: Canadian Sports Chick | July 6, 2009

The Role of Women in Wrestling

I  was discussing the perception of women and wrestling with another friend of mine (also a woman) and realized that it still seems unusual for women to be fans. The Man and I were out and he mentioned to a friend that Monday is his gaming day and the friend asked how I felt about that, my response “As long as he’s home for Raw, I don’t care” and the friend just stared at me, unable to believe that I, a woman, liked wrestling.

I think there’s a perception that if women do like wrestling, then the are either watch for the half-naked men or they’re tomboyish, unfeminine women and that’s not true at all. I’m a girly girl. Pink is my favourite colour and I often wear high heels, but that doesn’t mean I can’t like non-girly things. I’m a klutz, so I’m not much for playing sports, but I love to watch them. I don’t have any illusions that I could wrestle, but I love to watch and when I love something I do my best to understand it and that means research every bit of information that I can find. I’m a bit of a freak that way.

So yes I watch wrestling for more than the barely dressed men (though that part is a bonus) and I really do understand it. I know it’s scripted and I can often understand where things are going to go or where they should go. Does knowing it’s not real make it any less enjoyable for me? No. I enjoy the storyline aspects almost as much as I enjoy the wrestling. I like getting emotionally involved with the wrestlers and the story lines and I’m sure that’s why they exist, to get the viewer invested.

Back to my original point–the role of women. When I was a little girl, I liked Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, but my true favourite was Miss Elizabeth. I loved her and I wanted to be her when I grew up. Somewhere there’s a picture of me dressed up holding up the arm of one of my childhood friends as he has the fake plastic belt around his waist, playing the part of his proud valet. I never wanted to wrestle, but I always thought it would be wonderful to be a valet. Whatever demons and tragedies existed in her real life (sadly, she died of a drug overdose in 2003), on screen Miss Elizabeth was beautiful and classy and she gave this little girl (and probably several others) something to aspire to.

Besides Miss Elizabeth, there was also Sensation Sherri. I met her once, actually. At a wrestling event when I was six. I got her autograph and everything and apparently she commented to my father how nice it was to see a little girl out there at the wrestling events. Twenty years later, I still remember that meeting and how I got to talk to one of the women I watched on TV. I  never liked her quite as much as Miss Elizabeth (especially as they often feuded), but I still liked watching the girls and since there were so few, I took what I could get and loved them all. I had that poster of her on my wall for years and my mom may still have it somewhere (I’ll have to check).  Sadly, she also died too young, but it doesn’t take away from what she gave to wrestling and to all the young female fans who grew up watching her. These women, heel or face, gave little girls watching someone to identify with. Wrestling couldn’t just be for boys, because there were girls too.

I think that sort of thing is important and that’s one of my problems with the divas being treated as little more than T&A. Sure, it appeals to the teenage boys, but what sort of example does it give to the little girls watching at home? I’m not blaming the wrestlers, but the company. Some of the divas are incredibly talented wrestlers, look at Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Gail Kim, these women are all phenomenal in-ring, but are also very attractive, however these women are incredibly underused and divas with less talent are pushed just as often. Not that looks are a bad thing, but talent has to be considered as well. Honestly, I think the key, is to have both elements. I mean, Miss Elizabeth was certainly used to attract a male audience (there was an angle once where Ric Flair threatened to release nude pictures of her) and look at Trish Status, gorgeous, but a great wrestler and she had some great, entertaining angles during her time with the WWE. I just have issues with the divas that just seem to be there strictly for T&A. Who don’t have the in-ring skills nor are they used productively in other ways.

Not that women have to wrestle to have a productive role in the WWE. As I said, I loved Miss Elizabeth and Stephanie McMahon is another favourite of mine. She’s a gorgeous, smart, and powerful. I think she makes a great role model. I’ve loved Stephanie since her McMahon-Helmsley days (probably my all-time favourite storyline) and while her image then probably wasn’t the best to have as a role model, her later appearances on TV certainly have been. She shows herself as what she is: a wife, a mother and a business woman and even during McMahon-Helmsley, she was still a strong woman (albeit a little screechy), which I think is important. I even liked Vickie for that (for all that the character and the storyline annoyed me), because for all that she abused her power, she was a woman in a position of power and while it’d be nice if women in power were portrayed a little nicer it’s still something good to see. For that reason, I’m enjoying Tiffany’s stint as ECW GM, because it’s nice to see a woman used for something other than a little bit of T&A.

I’d even be happy if they brought back using women as valets. Muy biggest problem isn’t what the women are being used for, but the way the divas are being used. The divas have one match per show, if that, and it’s usually a quick, multi-diva match meant to get the required T&A in there than to provide the divas with meaninful roles. The 25 diva battle royale at Wrestlemania 25 was a joke and it shows what the women’s divison has become these days and I wish that would change. I’d like to see a diva be a part of a main storyline the way Miss Elizabeth and Sensational Sherri were, so that today’s little girls have someone to look at and say “oh, it’s not just for boys, because (insert name) is important too”. This is one of the reasons I love the Hart Dynasty, because Natalya seems to be the mouth piece for them, a job she does very well and it puts her out there. I’d like to see the Hart Dynasty get a major push with Natalya as their manager, playing the same role that Miss Elizabeth, Sensational Sherri and Stephanie McMahon have all played so well and showing that a diva can be used for more than just a five minute wrestling match, just so that the company can say they do have women around.

Wrestling isn’t just for men and it shouldn’t be looked at that way. However, to attract female fans, especially young ones, you have to give them someone to relate to and root for and the WWE just isn’t doing that these days.

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Responses

  1. Very well said! Women like Miss Elizabeth truly shaped the way I am today. They proved that you could be beautiful and feminine, and still kick a little ass (or at least hit somebody with a high heeled shoe) when you had to. Given that female viewership seems to be growing it would be nice if they gave all women something to aspire to.


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