Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Wrestling Girls Needed to Break the Internet

A hearty fuck to anyone who makes Viper or any woman associated with wrestling uncomfortable in her own skin
Photo via @missviper91
The year is 2017, and I can't believe people still have to stick up for women fans and wrestlers in this grand and wide thing so many people love. Women fans face sexual harassment, catcalls, gatekeeping, and other barriers to enjoying the show, ones that men like myself, fair of skin and attracted to the opposite sex do not have to overcome. What's worse, not only do some companies ignore these problems, they actively stoke alienation of those fans. Women do not see the same representation in most promotions that men do. Ironically enough, corporately owned WWE and Global Force Wrestling are the best at stocking a roster of women, but even those companies fail at truly featuring them. Meanwhile, Ring of Honor in the past has used sexual assault by the nominal babyface as plot-advancement and refused to eject people who threw things at female valets.

Speaking of female workers, they don't have it much better. Even now, in this "enlightened" age of women's wrestling spotlight, female wrestlers are still judged more harshly for their aesthetic than men are. Just look at Viper/Piper Niven receiving abuse for posting pictures of herself online. Hell, it's not even just anonymous trolls with impossible standards demeaning women who wrestle; Glenn Gilberti, the dipshit formerly known as Disco Inferno, has made it a point to criticize wrestlers for not twerking after matches as if promoting sexuality is not only the exclusive domain of women but a requirement for employment.

Misogynist stimuli could prompt one of two typical responses. Women could see this festering cesspit of sexism and abuse and stay home from live events and remain anonymous online, or they could, in the face of these grotesque manbabies loudly proclaim their fandom and say to the world that no amount of trolls will keep them from publicly enjoying professional wrestling as much as someone with no barriers to entry. Many women on Twitter took the second option and participated in the #WrestlingGirlsBreakTheInternet hashtag. All kinds of women posted pictures of them with wrestlers, in wrestling t-shirts, with memorabilia, or at wrestling shows. They came out in force and did something positive for themselves and their friends and peers.

The response to it from those same trolls and losers the collective female populace of Wrestling Twitter was pushing back against justified why it was necessary for the hashtag to exist. Whether it be overtly terrible things like slut-shaming or negging women's appearance to more innocuous-seeming "Why do you need a hashtag to be proud of your fandom?" questions that are the hallmark of polite sexists, the leeches and goons of the wrestling world decided they weren't having any of these intrepid women showing their love for the art. Those small-minded people are the ones that need to be shut up the most, whose existence as supposed keepers of the sacred wrestling fan experience is threatened by a more inclusive fandom. Nevermind that the very idea of hierarchy among fans or the need to throw barriers at people is asinine. These people will stop at nothing to make sure they and they alone are considered the scene and reap that influence for, I don't know, Twitter followers? Wrestlers liking them?

A war doesn't get won so easily. People who want to fight for their rights need to fire the shots in order to gain acceptance. It's a shitty circumstance to have to deal with, but at the same time, no fan, female, non-binary, or otherwise, ever asks to be placed into a position of scorn or scrutiny based on demographic. The wrestling girls breaking the Internet was a necessary first step to make this thing a more hospitable thing for them to consume and partake in just like anyone else.

However, they need help. That's where people like you and me come in. The wrestling girls have broken the Internet, and now they need help charging through the breach. If you care for a wrestling arena that's filled with more than just White dudes who may or may not secretly be Nazis, then you gotta help out. Helping out doesn't mean taking center stage or putting on a show for Facebook and Twitter likes or public rounds of applause. It means boosting signals of women online. It means stepping in at shows if you see harassment. It means supporting companies that foster safe environments and ignoring companies that continue to perpetuate the abuse. It means doing all that anonymously or discreetly rather than to an audience or in a way that brings applause to you rather than merely mitigating an uncomfortable situation.

Wrestling girls breaking the Internet is a great first step, and wrestling spaces, both online and at shows, should remain inclusive. All must foster environments where women aren't meant to feel like eye candy or made to answer inane trivia or face threatening presence. Basically, women need to be treated not as some kind of unicorn, but as a person, because they are people. Furthermore, female wrestlers need to be treated with the same respect expected of male competitors, and neither male nor female (nor non-binary) competitors should be mistreated or slurred. The fact that women had to make a hashtag to feel like full members of a community is fucking pathetic, but at least now, they have a starting point. It is up to everyone in the community to make sure their progress continues unabated.