Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lefitsm and Wrestling: Gender Is A Work

Why should their genders matter anyway?
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Even though capitalists and conservatives run and populate the wrestling business, as an artform, it lends itself to leftist ideals. This series hopes to show wrestling fans why they should embrace the left, not just for the sport/art, but also for themselves.

Yesterday, I wrote about the limited career opportunities of women in wrestling outside of WWE and to an extent Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground. The easiest solution to this problem is to dissolve the distinction between male and female wrestling. It's an artificial barrier anyway, and it's one that even WWE disregarded for about half-a-decade bridging the turn of the century. When Chyna is on record as being a multiple-time Intercontinental Champion, and men are on film taking bumps from and giving bumps to Beth Phoenix and Kharma in the Royal Rumble match, one can no longer pretend that promotions anywhere on the dial have to keep women separate from the men. This bit of history doesn't stop people from clucking and cawing about how men and women are different and PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES and all that other happy pseudoscientific bullshit.

Honestly, I'm not up to speed on other sports and their acceptance of women in men's fields or even trans people in their actual gender and not the one assigned by body parts at birth. While I feel like it's still bullshit, and that given the same grooming and training regimens done by men or male presenting athletes, a woman or a femme could reach the same levels. It rarely ever happens in society because of society's strict adherence to enforcing gender norms. However, pro wrestling is not a shoot outside of times when Sexy Star, Yoshiko, or Hardcore Holly decide to get full of themselves and break trust.

The good wrestling promises that anything can happen; the best wrestling actually provides it. It's no shock that companies that bring the best return on investment of "anything happens" are ones that tend to let women wrestle men. Chikara, Lucha Underground, Absolute Intense Wrestling, Inspire Pro Wrestling, and several others have few gender boundaries. Sometimes, they mess up, and when you mess up an intergender bout, things go south very quickly. Still, the idea that gender doesn't make much of a difference between performers is crucial to understanding the idea that gender, to use a wrestling term, is a work.

Gender thought generally has two diverging schools debating it. One is that the set of genitals you're born with determines what gender you are. It's rudimentary science based on only the outer appearance, and is what is clutched by both the right and "trans exclusionary" individuals who are quick to adopt liberal and sometimes even leftist positions but only if they don't benefit trans people, whom they deem as misogynists and predators despite the fact that statistics bear out that they are the most vulnerable people among us. The other school of thought is that gender is mostly a mental thing, and that it's less a binary and more a spectrum. It's more a state of mind than anything defined by genitalia. Science is increasingly supporting this idea, that people can be fully male or female, some combination of both, or even identify with no gender.

This gender theory pretty much states that outside of the kind of genitalia you have, your gender is a blank slate, that you are just a canvas of flesh, bone, sinew, and organs. Your body may come preloaded with organs and a predilection towards either estrogen or testosterone, but other than that, it is truly a blank slate. You can condition your body to be good or bad at nearly anything. The skills you develop and the body shape you cultivate are wholly up to you. Thanks to science and medicine giving people things like hormone replacement therapy and other procedures for trans people, and even cosmetic surgery, you can even sculpt your body to your will. In whatever case, you can totally be whomever you want. Gender is then a state of mind.

So if all else is equal, and human beings are all just creatures made out of the same stardust, then why should it matter where they go to the bathroom, where they play sports, whom they wrestle in the grand, underwear ballet of fake fighting that I and everyone reading this fucking blog love enough to write about it or read hot takes about it? If gender norms are garbage in real life, what does that make them in wrestling, which takes real life and shakes up the possibilities even further in the direction of infinite than within the bounds of reality? Why should men only have to wrestle other men and not women? Hell, why do wrestlers even have to identify as either men or women and not genderfluid or asexual or any gender in between?

It's a radical way of looking at things, but tradition has held people down for too long under the guise of normalcy or safety. It's bullshit. Trans people, those outside the gender binary, whatever, they all don't just need to be normalized, they need to be empowered and made to feel like true equals. Seeing gender barriers dissolved and the concept of gender itself being faded out may be a small consolation to the number of non-binary wrestling fans out there (and many exist, even if it's just anecdotally evident through my travels online), but it's enough to make people feel like someone out there gets them.