I was going to start this blog with an apology for returning to a subject I’ve highlighted many times before.
But then I decided not to. I make no apology for highlighting appalling behaviour where it occurs, and it’s occurring far too much in professional wrestling at the moment.
I could perhaps overlook the slightly sinister leering of WWE’s announce team, who have a particular Summer Rae fixation at the moment. She’s a gorgeous girl, and goodness knows, I’m not in any position to tell people that they shouldn’t comment on the attractiveness of wrestlers. However, when that’s all you have to say about someone, and you’re saying it twice a week on international TV, and you’re old enough to be her father, and you’re veering into the territory of telling her to take her clothes off, then it gets rather uncomfortable.
And maybe I could overlook Austin Aries thrusting his crotch in Christy Hemme’s face after she flubbed her lines if the matter had ended with him apologising and TNA taking action, as they did and indeed should have done. What was shocking here was the response to the situation. Chavo Guerrero washed his hands of the matter, tweeting: “For the record, I saw Hemme after that segment, & she didn’t look bothered at all. Just saying…I was there,” adding, “I think we should just let Hemme fight her own battles. If she needs help, she’ll ask.”
Fair enough? No, not really. Who is Guerrero to pass judgement on whether Hemme was “bothered” or not? And who is Guerrero to object to other people finding that kind of behaviour objectionable? His attitude then elicited some horrid responses: those who reckon they’d love to have Aries forcing his groin in their faces (clue: if you’re consenting to it, he’s not forcing you); and those who say that Hemme deserves such treatment because she “dresses like a slut” so is clearly “asking for it” (clue: nobody ever asks for non-consensual sexual activity. That’s why it’s non-consensual).
I suppose I could ignore the Blossoms selling off the lingerie they wore for a photo shoot, except it’s creepily reminiscent of obsessive fans begging their crush objects to send them worn underwear.
And perhaps I could ignore PCW booking an “adult entertainment star” as Scott Steiner’s valet if their shows really were for adults only, and they weren’t one of the best mainstream UK companies, and there wasn’t such a debate at the moment about the ways in which pornography consumption affects men’s attitudes to women, and women’s attitudes to themselves.
As an aside, there were a handful of women who did object to the announcement, who were shouted down by the male majority; and there was also a woman who said that booking a porn star for the show was fair enough, because straight women would be enjoying looking at Chris Masters. The problem here, of course, is that Masters is a wrestler, booked on a wrestling show because he wrestles. His attractiveness is a side order next to his skill. In a company where Kay Lee Ray, April Davids and Carmel Jacob have taken on the men, booking a porn star just reinforces the idea that women’s only real role (in wrestling, and in general) is to be sexually available and sexually attractive.
And of course I can choose not to read comments threads on articles that object to sexist and homophobic terms being used in wrestling promos. But I do read them. I saw one man attempt to defend the use of “bitch”, “woman” and “faggot” as insults by saying, “They’re not really calling anyone a woman or a homosexual – they’re just calling someone weaker and not as good as them.”
Which is the whole point. And it’s why I can’t ignore this, because all these things are happening at the same time – in the 21st century, when people keep trying to argue that everyone receives equal treatment, and some even try to tell anyone who’ll listen that women and gay people are now getting preferential treatment at the expense of straight men.
I saw the ads for Wrestletalk TV reprinted on flyers at the TNA fan party last month – the ones with Kat Waters in lingerie, and the tag line, ‘It’s not just for boys’. But it is, isn’t it? A scantily-clad Waters looks like she belongs in FHM and her presence is an attraction to men. Waters kicking ass in an action shot – yes, that might attract women. But Waters in her undies, advertising the only TV programme on Freeview which has any British wrestling content, indicates that wrestling is, indeed, only for boys. Straight boys, at that. The words are superfluous.
Wrestling might exaggerate real life somewhat, but as a rule, it holds a mirror up to what’s happening. Do we really think that what we see reflected back at us is acceptable?