World Wrestling Entertainment Will Never #GiveDivasaChance As Long As It Prioritises Bad Men.

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A.J. Lee as Divas Champion.

After years of viewing the Divas (women’s wrestlers) matches as bathroom break time, it seems the time for women wrestlers to be cast in roles other than “eye-candy, crazy-person, or reality television shill” has finally come if recent social media campaigns are any indications.

Last week, the hashtag #GiveDivasaChance began trending, and some NXT (WWE’s developmental brand, with a weekly show airing on the online subscription service, the WWE Network) Divas were involved in a #LikeaGirl advertisement for the SuperBowl. This movement isn’t without its detractors, as NXT announcer Corey Graves took to Twitter to assert that the Divas don’t need a hashtag to make their own opportunities: yeah, ’cause that’s worked so well for them up to now.

This debate has emerged in the wake of WWE COO Triple H’s (real name: Paul Levesque) comments about the future of women’s wrestling on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s live podcast, broadcast on the WWE Network, a month ago. When asked about the trajectory of WWE moving forward, Levesque said, “I would like to see the women get more time and more dedication. We have a large fan base of women that watch and I think [the WWE Divas] are inspirational.” While it wasn’t until the last two minutes of the hour-long podcast that Levesque made reference to WWE’s female performers (instead calling the wrestlers “the guys” throughout the rest of the interview), it’s interesting that he thinks they should be given a higher priority in WWE when he’s arguably one of the only people who can make that happen.

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Chyna as Intercontinental Champion, the first and only woman to ever hold that title.

Austin also asked Levesque if he thought Chyna—a pioneer in the world of wrestling, both women’s and otherwise—would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. (Again, that’s a decision Levesque would have a lot of sway over.) Despite Chyna’s (real name: Joanie Laurer) status as Levesque’s ex-girlfriend, she’s also found a post-wrestling career in porn, which severely limits the likelihood of her induction. Levesque said:

“I’ve got an eight-year-old kid and my eight-year-old kid sees the Hall of Fame and my eight-year-old kid goes on the internet to look at, you know, ‘there’s Chyna, I’ve never heard of her. I’m eight years old, I’ve never heard of her, so I go put that in, and I punch it up,’ and what comes up? And I’m not criticising anybody, I’m not criticising lifestyle choices. Everybody has their reasons and I don’t know what they were and I don’t care to know. It’s not a morality thing or anything else. It’s just the fact of what it is. And that’s a difficult choice. The Hall of Fame is a funny thing in that it is not as simple as, this guy had a really good career, a legendary career, he should go in the Hall of Fame. Yeah… but we can’t because of this reason. We can’t because of this legal instance.”

Surely a nod to Chris Benoit’s double murder-suicide of 2007 there, but is porn really the equivalent of massacring your whole family? In addition to having abuse allegations made against him by Laurer, which Levesque denied, he is a also good friend of Laurer’s ex-partner and co-star in that porn video who also allegedly physically abused her, Sean “X-Pac” Waltman. While not a Hall of Fame inductee yet, he’s a member of the infamous Kliq, including Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall, the latter of which was inducted last year.

stone cold steve austin nwo kevin nash scott hall sean x-pac waltman

All of these men—from left, Sean “X-Pac” Waltman, Kevin Nash, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Scott Hall—have been accused of or arrested for domestic abuse.

Furthermore, while Benoit may never be inducted, and rightly so, it’s not like the WWE flat out prohibits the induction of violent criminals: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is under suspicion for the accidental death of a woman he beat unconscious in a hotel room in 1983. While never charged, that investigation was reopened last year. Other criminals in the WWE Hall of Fame include convicted rapist Mike Tyson in the celebrity wing, the aforementioned Scott Hall, who has been arrested numerous times for domestic violence as well as the 1983 murder of a man in a bar, and the host of the very podcast in which Levesque made the comments that inspired this article, Stone Cold Steve Austin, a serial domestic abuser.

Recently, the WWE added a domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault clause to their wellness policy, stating that “upon arrest for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately suspended. Upon conviction for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately terminated.” In the wake of other sporting codes’ embarrassingly lax attitude to domestic violence and crimes of a similar nature, this is a step in the right direction for WWE. The host of wrestlers who are or have been under contract to WWE with similar charges brought against them prior to this stipulation must be thankful for a time when they were swept under the rug.

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Triple H (Paul Levesque) with, from top, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Mike Tyson, who’ve both served time for assaulting women.

To Levesque’s point, it’s easy enough to find out any of this information with a Google search. In the wake of the podcast, the first page of Google results yields nothing about Laurer’s adults-only post-WWE career. (Granted, you’d have to prefix Tyson, Austin et al.’s names with their respective crimes for those results to appear first.) If Levesque is as close to Hall, Waltman, Austin, Tyson (he and Shawn Michaels, as D-Generation X, inducted him into the Hall of Fame) and even Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who is also a serial woman abuser who was recently denied entry to Australia because of this, surely his children have met them. Why, then, is it so hard to talk to your children about Laurer’s choice when you associate with convicted criminals? Presuming Levesque and his wife, WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon Levesque, have told them about the substance abuse problems Hall’s had of recent, they can talk to them about the travails of what you can find online. In this day and age, it’s never too soon to start.

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Some of the cast of E! reality show, Total Divas.

It wasn’t so long ago that WWE unapologetically traded on the sexualities of its female performers such as Sable, Stacy Keibler and Laurer herself. Total Divas, the E! reality show charting the lives of eight WWE Divas, could arguably be said to be doing the same thing. And there’s nothing wrong with a woman using her body to her benefit if it’s consensual and she gains pleasure from it. What Levesque is saying, whether consciously or no, is that using women’s sexualities to sell a product is fine, as with the WWE’s mid-to-late 2000’s trend of Divas posing for Playboy, but getting pleasure (presuming porn was pleasurable for Laurer) from them is a no-no.

In addition, this promotion of legitimately dangerous and criminal men over women such as Laurer (it should also be noted that Laurer’s been charged with domestic violence against Waltman) indicates that despite Levesque’s lip service, the WWE prioritises bad men gone by over its current female roster. WWE may profit from the Divas’ physicality, but it’s dropped the ball when it comes to protecting them physically. For example, Debra Marshall (then Williams) was under contract to WWE when her partner Steve Austin, also under WWE contract, beat her. Debra was never again to be seen on WWE programming while Austin is still lauded as one of the greatest performers of all time.

So to #GiveDivasaChance may finally indicate a change in consciousness coming from wrestling fans but comments from within the company such as Graves’ and Levesque’s show that insider perceptions of women in wrestling still have a long way to go, baby.

Related: Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Pop Culture as a Feminist.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] The Choice to be a Total Diva.

[Bitch Flicks] Body Image on Total Divas.

[The Work of Wrestling] The Women Warriors of NXT.

[Pyro & Ballyhoo] Full Joanie “Chyna” Laurer Shoot Interview.

[E! Online] WWE Star Kevin Nash & Son, 18, Arrested for Domestic Violence After Fight at Home.

[The Morning Caller] Grand Jury to Review Death of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Girlfriend.

[Fox Sports] Ramon Charged with Domestic Violence.

[The Smoking Gun] Stone Cold Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[WWE] Talent Programs & Policies.

[Deadspin] The Trouble with Floyd Mayweather.

[Herald Sun] Floyd Mayweather’s Visa Application Rejected by Australian Authorities.

Images via The Outhouses, Jobu’s Rum, Shitloads of Wrestling, Zimbio, Sabrina Brand, Pro Wrestling.

International Women’s Day: Why I’m a Bad Feminist, or Women Can Be Misogynists, Too.

In honour of International Women’s Day and Roxane Gay’s book, Bad Feminist, which I’m going to hear her speak about tonight, I wonder whether I’m a “bad feminist” for asserting that women can be misogynists, too. 

I could be accused of being a “bad feminist” for the assertion I’m about to make. After all, feminists are supposed to support all women, right? Even women doing unfeminist things, like Sarah Palin, or women in traditionally male dominated industries, like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and who throw feminism under the bus.

But in my experience women can be misogynists, too. And as I write this I’m thinking of one woman in particular.

A few years ago, one of my closest male friends started dating someone new. My friend later relayed to me that upon stalking his Facebook, as you do, said new paramour stumbled upon several photos of the two of us. Most of them were taken at costume parties or clubs, so my feminine façade was amplified perhaps more than usual. We were probably standing pretty close together in the photos, too, and our natural affection for each other would be evident. This led her to ask about me, “Who’s that slut?”

At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I wrote on my blog at the time that I could see where she was coming from: her insecurity at her date’s close relationship with a woman she didn’t know manifested itself as slut-shaming. It was slut-shaming as a defense mechanism, if you will.

Presently, that woman has now become a colleague; not someone I work with directly, but who has contact with many people I do both professionally and outside of work. Through this network I’ve come to find that it isn’t just me she’s made libelous comments about but many a female coworker who happens to fit the conventionally feminine and attractive mould.

I don’t know exactly what was said about these other women, but I’m pretty sure it was as unwarranted as what she said about me (although I am loathe to defend myself against her name-calling as that implies that some women are sluts and others aren’t). One of the women is ditzily endearing and while I don’t really know the other, she seems pleasant despite her bitchy resting face.

The first comment about me could be chalked up to the green-eyed monster rearing its head, but when such behavior begins to occur on a regular basis, it’s hard not to wonder whether this woman is actually a misogynist.

It could be that she thinks she’s “not like other girls”, which is inherently misogynistic; she doesn’t buy into feminine conventions that she implies other women do, and she’s “one of the boys”. Like Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s Cool Girl screed, or as Reign actress Caitlin Stasey tweeted, being “‘One of the guys’ implies that to resemble any kind of man is better than actually being any kind of woman.” But the very fact that she’s engaging in the stereotypical feminine act of “backstabbing” makes her just like these “other” women, no?

Whatever the case, though, this woman has serious other-women-problems. And if we can accept that men can be feminists, it would stand to reason that women can be misogynists, right?

Related: Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [Feministing] Once More, with Feeling: Sarah Palin is Not a Feminist.

[Jezebel] Does it Matter if Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think She’s a Feminist?

[Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

The Worst Time I Was Street Harassed.

As a woman in the world, I’ve been harassed in public many times. Called a cunt by my next door neighbour, followed into shops, touched on public transport, you name it.

Perhaps the worst time I was street harassed was when I was jogging early one summer morning to escape the heat that would surface later in the day. I was residing with my mum at the time who lived near a lake. As I was rounding the imaginary finish line in my mind I encountered a flock of ducks waddling across the road. Further ahead, I also passed a motorhead who revved his gears (at 6am? Seriously dude, people are still sleeping.) and sped up when he saw me bounding along. Remembering the duck family moments before, I glanced back to make sure the driver saw them. Of course he a) didn’t and b) thought I was looking back at him, impressed by his hooliganism, and sped up even more… right into the flock!

Wanting to make sure the birds escaped unscathed, I jogged back to the scene of the crime where I saw that one of the ducks’ numbers had been up that day with its innards spread across the road, having bottomed out of its feathery body on impact.

And that’s the worst time I was street harassed.

Related: The Year of the Stalker.

To Live & Die in Brunswick.

The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in Cleo.

There Are Far Worse Words in the World Than “Fuck”.

Yesterday a video of girls dressed as princesses saying the word “fuck” went viral. While the apparent point of the video was to spread awareness of the inequalities and atrocities women and girls face in the world, it was actually made by for-profit t-shirt company FCKH8 who would donate $5 from each t-shirt sold to unspecified charities (presumably charities benefiting women). Capitalism aside, the video begs the question, what’s worse: little girls swearing or facing the likelihood that they’ll be raped or paid less than the men doing the same job?

If popular opinion is any indication it’s the former.

I was just thinking about this a few days ago. Why do we have to “watch our language” around elders or in professional settings when the same respect isn’t shown when it comes to sexism, racism and just generally being a decent person?

I swear “like a sailor” and have since I was the age of the girls in the video and even younger. At a third birthday party I yelled “fuck” while the guests were singing happy birthday. I got kicked out of kindergarten for swearing. My colleagues devised a swear jar to be mostly filled up by me. (I’ve never put a cent in it.)

What I want to know, though, is where’s the “problematic ideologies jar” that the same people who are offended by a word that has essentially lost all meaning other than to punctuate something or as a less formal way to say “make love” should be making deposits into? The same people who are offended by my refusal to burp under my breath or curb my fondness for the f-word but bang on about women who get raped shouldn’t get so drunk or go out with so little clothing, calling Adam Goodes a monkey isn’t racism because he does look like a monkey, when a man cheats on his wife it’s the other woman’s responsibility, and girls being inherently catty and bitchy.

Why should I have to watch what I say less an f-word pop out when people will freely volunteer that they think being gay is wrong, or that it’s not wrong, but at the very least it should be harder for them to have children as they “chose” that lifestyle.

What it comes down to is that women and girls should be seen and not heard. We don’t want little girls to say “bad” words because it offends the collective sensibility. We don’t want to know that women are more likely to face gender-based violence as long as they sit there, shut up and look pretty. The made-up princess aesthetic of the video is certainly fulfilling that aspect, but once the girls open their mouths they’re shamed for saying something that we’d rather not think about. Nay, saying anything.

It could be said that FCKH8 is only interested in making a profit from the t-shirts this video aims to sell. That may be the case but they have certainly got people talking. Just as the company has co-opted feminism for their own purposes feminism can appropriate their money-making ways in an effort to change the attitudes of the same people that are oh-so-offended by an f-bomb but are happy to espouse even more harmful ideologies.

Elsewhere: [The Belle Jar] FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls in Order to Sell T-Shirts.

Bad Feminist: All of My Favourite Songs Are By Men.

Roxane Gay writes in the feminist tome of 2014, Bad Feminist, about how her love for problematic music such as “Blurred Lines” makes her, well, a bad feminist:

“As much as it pains me to admit, I like these songs. They make me want to dance. I want to sing along. They are delightful pop confections. But. I enjoy the songs the way I have to enjoy most music—I have to forget I am a sentient being. I have to lighten up.”

Ahh, the catch cry of offensive joke tellers and sexist comment makers everywhere: lighten up.

I recently compiled a list of my favourite songs for personal purposes and while the list is only small it does consist solely of male artists, and not wholly unproblematic ones at that: INXS, Fine Young Cannibals, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams.

I’ve written here before about having to detach yourself from the more troublesome aspects of pop culture in order to consume it lest you become a hermit. Like Gay, this is the same attitude I have to take when it comes to music, especially the kind you want to get down to in the club (which I do when it comes to all of the above. To be more specific, they are “Need You Tonight”, “She Drives Me Crazy”, “Chop Me Up” and “Beautiful” respectively. The fact that they focus primarily on the sexual attraction of women or a particular woman is fodder for a whole ’nother blog post.). It’s unfortunate that the music that has the sickest beats also had the sickest attitude to women. And other minorities. And crime. And violence… The list goes on.

Related: Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Pop Culture as a Feminist.

On Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I have a stalker.

I write that partly in jest, but I do have someone that has expressed an unwanted interest in me of late, despite no indications from me that I would be remotely interested in this person apart from being cordial when he asked me a work-related question, that could potentially turn into full blown stalking.

When I relayed this to a male friend, offhandedly saying that if I go raped in the near future he would be the most likely culprit, he initially expressed MRA-levels of outrage.

“It’s a bit unfair to automatically assume that this seemingly nice guy who probably just has a crush on you could be a rapist,” he offered.

This is not the first time I’ve received a similar response when bemoaning the unwanted male attention thrown my—and many other women’s—way.

“But what if a guy thinks you’re cute and just wants to come up and say hi and ask you out for a coffee?” one male friend asked.

There have been a few instances where that has happened, and when I’ve said thanks but no thanks, they’ve accepted that and let me go on my merry way. But we have to ask why men feel entitled to women’s bodies and time as they’re going about their business with no indication that they’re interested in being interrupted so some NiceGuy™ can air his feelings to you in the first place. Why is women’s privacy and right to be left alone less important than men’s? Patriarchal conditioning would be my best guess: boys and men are taught that they’re the gatekeepers of not only women’s bodies, but women’s happiness, too. Go out and get it/provide it, essentially.

Back to my friend who questioned my use of the stalker moniker. I agree that it is unfair to assume he’s going to rape me, but at some point, deep down, most women have to assume that all men are going to—or at the very least, can—rape them. Enter Schrodinger’s Rapist.

I’ve written about the fact that for the most part I personally don’t let fear prevent me from going out at night and, if it comes down to it, I won’t be afraid to tell my stalker where to go. But I also avoid certain areas where I know harassment is rife. Again, deep down, I know there’s always a chance I can be taken by surprise when my guard’s down because women can be harassed and raped and treated as second class citizens at any time or place.

And not only are women never truly physically safe, they’re not ideologically safe. Thankfully I’ve never been in the position to have to report a sexual assault to the police or take a sexual harassment claim further than nipping it in the bud in the first instance, but if I was, I’d surely be blamed for inciting it; abused all over again, as it were. I’m not trying to insinuate that my friend is a bad person for automatically jumping to my stalker’s defence, but even the fact that he didn’t believe my descriptions of his stalkerish ways illustrates that it takes a bit of convincing for a woman to have her claims believed.

As the husband of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher, Tom Meagher, wrote for the White Ribbon blog, the myth of the rapist being a monster hiding in the bushes, as Meagher’s rapist and murderer Adrian Bayley was, blinds us to the fact that many rapes are carried out by people known to the victim. Partners, family members, friends, colleagues. So my deduction that my stalker could certainly become my rapist is not that far of a reach.

Related: The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

Walking While Female.

To Live & Die in Brunswick: Reflections on Jill Meagher.

On Stalking.

Elsewhere: [TheVine] Feeling Like a Stalker.

[Shapely Prose] Schrödinger’s Rapist: Or A Guy’s Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced.

[White Ribbon] The Danger of the Monster Myth.

Robin Thicke’s “Paula”: He Still Hates Those “Blurred Lines”.

Robin Thicke, along with Pharrell and T.I., came out with arguably 2013’s most controversial song, “Blurred Lines”, about this time last year.

Now the son of Growing Pains actor Alan Thicke is back with a whole new album about his estranged wife, Paula Patton, entitled simply, Paula.

Thicke was caught with his hand on a female fan’s bottom and allegedly followed this up by cheating on his high-school sweetheart Patton, with whom he’d been involved for 21 years and has a son. The unflappable Patton seemed to take the split in her stride, at least compared to Thicke, who’s taken to social media and radio waves in an attempt to win his former ladylove back.

The fact that his forthcoming album’s tracklist consists entirely of breakup-and-makeup songs is supposed to be romantic, but to the discerning eye, Thicke’s predation that was front and centre in “Blurred Lines” has come to the fore yet again.

Not only does his public begging read as more desperate than romantic, it publicly shames the other party who’s chosen to deal with the dissolution of their marriage in private.

But we all know Thicke’s favourite pastime is to “degrade a woman” and that’s exactly what he’s doing with this ill thought out album. For some perspective, the titular woman filed for divorce from Thicke in February this year, and the album’s first single, “Get Her Back” was released in May, giving Paula a lead-time of three months. And it has only been a year since Thicke’s previous album, Blurred Lines, featuring the rape anthem of the same name, came out.

The actual Marvin Gaye medleys that Thicke has become so well known—and taken to court—for and that make up Paula aren’t the worst in the world, but it’s when listeners pay mind to Thicke’s lyrics that the album really starts to run into trouble. The calypso rhythm of “You’re My Fantasy”, for example, can’t rescue it from this little ditty: “Your legs on my walls/Your body’s on my ceiling”; while Thicke makes reference to the cheating rumours on the Motown-y “Black Tar Cloud”, crooning “I thought everyone was gonna eat the chips/Turns out I’m the only one who double dipped”. (Thanks for that visual.) The mumbly “Forever Love” is luckily accompanied by a lyric video because Thicke’s enunciation is so poor it’s hard to sing along like the 14-year-old sung along in Patton’s ear to Stevie Wonder’s “Jungle Fever” upon their first meeting as teens in early ’90s Los Angeles.

“Get Her Back”, the earwormy lead single is arguably the album’s only redeeming one however its problematic video, featuring scrolling text messages that we’re to believe were sent between Thicke and Patton atop close-up shots of a fake-bloodied and allegedly crying Thicke being groped by masked women who look marginally like Patton before they plunge head-first into cavities of water, references intimate partner violence, like much of the album.

Thicke carried out a thick (so to speak) and fast social media campaign for Paula, including the hashtags #GetHerBack and #AskThicke, which ultimately backfired in a flurry of negative feminist press. Thicke even went so far as to engage in a cross-promotion with 1800-Flowers, for which the “Get Her Back” bouquet will set you back a cool $350—but it comes with a free digital download of Paula, so you’re actually saving money. But it would seem that many music consumers are holding on to their pennies this time around: just 530 fans in the UK and a dismal 54 in Australia forked out for Paula.

Thicke might not be a one-hit wonder (remember his 2002 debut, the equally as rapey as “Blurred Lines”, come to think of it, “When I Get You Alone”?), he proves that perhaps sex was the only thing that sold “Blurred Lines”.

The Hollywood that Thicke grew up in would have us believe that male persistence is the way to a girl’s heart: “the boy keeps trying to get the girl until she says yes,” writes Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. “You need to look no further than the outrageously popular Twilight series—books and movies—to know that the stalker-as-romantic lead looms large in our cultural imagination.” Real life headlines about intimate partner violence suggest that stalking is more deadly than romantic.

Further to that, Alyssa Rosenberg writes over at The Washington Post that “the simple fact of male persistence ought to be enough to bring a woman around to loving him”, while Clem Bastow asserted on Daily Life that Thicke’s quest to “Get Her Back” is “about the feelings of the man in question, not the woman he is searching for or seeking to reconcile with”.

But that’s Thicke’s pattern (pardon the pun); he’s crafting a pop cultural narrative where he’s the ultimate NiceGuy™ and if Patton continues to reject him she’s a cold-hearted bitch. And if Thicke was hoping for a deluge of sales to help him convince Patton to take him back, he’s sorely underestimated the public’s keen nose for desperation.

Elsewhere: [HuffPo] Robin Thicke Cheated on His Wife, Claims Socialite Lana Scolaro.

[HuffPo] Marvin Gaye’s Family & Robin Thicke’s Label Settle in “Blurred Lines” Dispute.

[Time] Robin Thicke’s #AskThicke Hashtag Completely Backfired.

[1800-Flowers] Robin Thicke Flowers & Music Download.

[Vulture] Which Country Hates Robin Thicke the Most?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke’s Video: Further Evidence That We’re Romancing the Stalker-Esque.

[WaPo] The Real Problem with Robin Thicke’s Creepy Attempts to Win His Wife Back? They’re Boring.

[Daily Life] The False Romance of “Winning Her Back”.