On the (Rest of the) Net.

charlotte wrestlemania 32 women's championship

I wrote about World Wrestling Entertainment’s new Women’s Championship and the renaissance of women’s wrestling. [SBS Zela]

In praise of the “ugly cry”. [New Republic]

“She just wants attention”: the insult du jour. [Slate]

What we can learn about clapping-back from Beyonce. [Elle]

The toxic relationship between masculinity and meat hinges on the “factory farm industry that makes billions of dollars insisting that men are the strongest when they have the most muscle, the least amount of feelings, and ingest the most ‘manly’ protein, like bacon, steak, and sausage.” [The Establishment]

Why millennials love music about work (work, work, work, work, work). [The Vocal]

Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji is an alternative—not an answer—to Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji. [Good]

Hillary Clinton said feminism and being pro-life can co-exist. Here’s a reminder of what being pro-life actually means. [Daily Life]

And Jill Filipovic unpacks it in a practical, US-centric sense. [Cosmopolitan]

Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Anita Hill 25 years after testifying that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. [Essence]

More feminist goodness at the 95th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Sacraparental]

Image via WWE.com.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

I wrote about Twitter as a tool for feminist connectivity. [The Vocal]

The objectification of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau isn’t sexist:

“You may be disturbed or annoyed by the shirtless photos and swoony responses to our new PM, but that concern shouldn’t come from a sense of worry that Trudeau will be hurt—socially, politically or personally—by this so-called ‘sexist objectification.’ Because that is simply not what is happening. It’s not as though Canadians will now see him as a vapid, slutty, airhead with nothing to recommend him but his pecs or as someone who got ahead through either fuckability or literal fucking. The reality is that these sexy pics and the fact that so many find him physically attractive serves to enhance his power rather than diminish it. This is because he is not a woman. He is a man. And a powerful one at that.” [Feminist Current]

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Presidential race, toxic masculinity reigns supreme. [Elle]

“Why aren’t we seeing more images of Kim Kardashian in business meetings or changing her kid’s diaper?” [Time]

The inherent sexism of emojis. [NYTimes]

The sexual politics of the “brogressive” and the Manic Pixie Dream Feminist. [Daily Life]

Why are so many white people identifying as Native American?

“One of the biggest reasons it’s been acceptable for white people to posture as Native is due to a certain romanticism about Native culture and people. ‘If you go back to the journals of Christopher Columbus,’ [Taté Walker, editor of Native Peoples magazine] said, ‘it references [Natives as] these free-spirited nature sprites who dance naked in the moonlight and their kids are running wild, and it just sounds so savage, but savage was a term for free.’ As colonialism spread across the continent, so did that idea of freedom, and ‘the idea that ‘Natives have it great, so let’s take it’ has become “Natives have it great, so let’s take it as an identity,”‘ Walker said.” [Fusion]

In praise of Vin Diesel’s Facebook page. [NYTimes]

Queer New Day.

new day elow mojo

This article originally appeared in Calling Spots Issue 18. Republished with permission.

For my latest contribution to Calling Spots, check out Issue 19 featuring my cover story on Sasha Banks, “BOSS: The Beginning & the End of an Era”.

Like many of us, I’ve been a wrestling fan since the age of thirteen. So when a family friend revealed he was starting a wrestling company that would begin with a mockumentary about wrestlers I grew up watching on tour in Australia, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved. While I’ve met wrestlers before, this was the first time I got to interact with them for more than 30 seconds in an autograph line and as fellow human beings instead of as demigods.

As a feminist who unpacks gender roles and expectations for a (freelance, part-time, side-job) living, my presence was somewhat of a novelty to the cohort, but hanging out with sports stars working in one of the most masculinity-obsessed forms of entertainment not only appealed to my inner mark but it also served as an anthropological study breaking down just how covertly feminine wrestling actually is. You know, in case the blatant homoeroticism of near-naked muscular, oiled up men grappling with each other’s flesh wasn’t clear.

For example, something you wouldn’t necessarily notice when watching the high definition WWE Network is that wrestlers are covered in stretchmarks. Upon consideration, it isn’t an unlikely phenomenon considering many wrestlers push their bodies past their natural limits, and people who’ve both lost a lot of weight and put weight on receive purple, and then faded white, squiggly lines of war paint for their efforts. With stretchmarks on my lady lumps and humps myself, I previously only associated them with being a woman: we are socialised through magazines, the media and the mirror to believe that stretchmarks are a solely female marker.

Another attribute traditionally seen as feminine but a must amongst men in wrestling is grooming. Over the years, I’ve been witness to an amount of leg shaving, hair straightening, baby lotioning, spray-tanning and eyebrow-threading to rival my own as a fairly high maintenance woman. I’m just a normal person whose looks don’t (or, in a perfect world, shouldn’t) determine my livelihood but pro wrestlers rely on their appearance probably more so than their physical abilities.

After all, the way wrestlers look indicate their success to a certain extent. In a way, professional wrestling is like the gendered polar opposite but looks-based counterpart of the women’s modelling industry. While success in one profession is dependent upon how thin you can get and how prominent your cheekbones are, emerging victorious in the other relies heavily on becoming Bigger, Stronger, Faster (the title of a 2008 documentary about steroid use in sport and American culture as a whole). Different from legitimate sports, though, where athletic ability is the determining factor to success, in wrestling if the powers that be (*cough* Vince McMahon *cough*) don’t feel you can be marketed as a character, it’s the end of the road. As long as you’re marketable, can work the mic and look good (read: big, and that’s where steroids, though technically illegal in WWE as per their Wellness Policy, and prescription drug dependency play a part), you’re in with a chance. As one wrestler told me once upon a time, “we don’t actually have to be strong; we just have to look it.”

Despite this, there are some wrestlers who don’t fit that mould who’ve managed to get themselves over; Daniel Bryan being the biggest underdog success story in recent memory. Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow and New Day also come to mind as fan favourites who deviate to varying degrees from the widely accepted archetype of a hypermasculine wrestler.

The team of Kofi Kingston, Big E (formerly Big E Langston) and Xavier Woods, collectively known as New Day, are the ones particularly challenging what it is to be a black tag team today.

Listening to the trio speak on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho, New Day was its members’ own brainchild, however McMahon was the one who pitched the gimmick of gospel preachers who jovially extol “the power of positivity” because apart from savages, rappers and criminals, what other roles are there for black wrestlers, right?

Originally debuting as babyfaces, which can often be the death knell of many a career trajectory, the decision was made after some months to turn the group heel, and since then E, Kingston and Woods have been responsible for some of the most entertaining and subversive promos, backstage segments and after-match celebrations in WWE in a long time. This is not to mention their in-ring work which has successfully amalgamated the power of Langston, the agility of Kingston and the intellect of Woods to become two-time tag team champions in the less than twelve months since their debut.

Examples include Woods employing the use of a trombone during their entrances and at ringside, the booty shaking that occurs after a win and their appropriation of campy Sinatra classic “New York State of Mind” during SummerSlam weekend. Their acceptance of the #JustKeepDancing social media challenge to raise funds for pediatric cancer saw New Day singing and dancing to “Kiss from a Rose” by Seal, replete with a cameo from Sasha Banks.

Meet Joshua Benton aka JAM! #jemandtheholograms @dragoncon

A photo posted by xavierwoodsphd (@xavierwoodsphd) on

Woods is perhaps the most insurgent of the trio, cosplaying at Dragon Con as a gender- (and race-)swapped Jem from Jem and the Holograms, debuting unique and feminine hairstyles such as relaxed locks and a Rufio from Hook-inspired ’do, and calling former WWE Superstar Virgil out for allegedly telling Woods he’d never make it as a wrestler because of his race. (Having played the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s manservant and, in essence, his slave, is it any wonder Virgil’s internalised this racism?) He’s also a Brony (a male fan of My Little Pony) and will be the first professional wrestler to get his PhD, a role model for the increasing rates of black men obtaining university degrees.

That New Day can still be over with performances so overtly challenging yet simultaneously so covertly queering the the dominant paradigm in wrestling is a testament not so much to the higher ups willing to push them but to an increasingly diverse legion of fans (the same fans that brought about the #GiveDivasaChance and #DivasRevolution campaigns, no matter what Paige or Stephanie McMahon tell us) willing to cheer them. And not only are they subverting the traditionally masculine archetype of a wrestler, they’re toppling the savage, out of control machismo of the archetype of black men and black wrestlers.

When I asked feminist wrestling critic Jetta Rae to elaborate on recent tweet of hers asserting that New Day “is the answer to wrestling’s toxic masculinity”, she had this to say:

It’s important to note that racism is integral to toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is the assignment of roles based on race: white is purity, black is raw, Asian is effeminate, Hispanic is overly romantic, etc. By challenging the confines of race, you challenge masculinity.”

This is not to discount the fact that New Day still very much subscribes to a fit, strong, straight and cisgender (as far as we know) image of manhood. Kingston has a running gag with Dad of the Year Titus O’Neill as to who’s a better father (which in itself disputes the stereotype of black men as deadbeat baby daddies) while Langston was featured on an episode of Total Divas as a potential paramour for Nattie’s sister Jenny.   

At its core, professional wrestling is a spectacle. Match outcomes are predetermined (going back to the importance of character and appearance as opposed to physical power), and foreign objects such as chairs, tables and barbed wire in the more brutal instances are often employed to further the storyline and, thus, the accentuation of masculinity: those who are able to withstand the most violence win.

That’s why New Day’s #SaveTheTables promos leading into their Night of Champions clash with the Dudley Boyz were so revolutionary. Not only were they expressing disdain for a less PG era in which the Dudleyz revelled in putting their opponents and the odd woman through a table, but they’ve equated WWE’s props with the first Thanksgiving table and the table the Declaration of Independence was written on, making a larger argument about traditional white American masculinity taking precedence over those of other cultures at a time when #BlackLivesMatter has emerged in response to police brutality and racial profiling. (Yes, one half of the Dudleyz is a black man, but D-Von’s position as the getter of tables could be seen as a modern day equivalent of Virgil.) Woods utilised that all important social media to further New Day’s agenda between Raw and SmackDown!, retweeting fans who (presumably) jokingly opined that because of the Dudleyz penchant for breaking tables, they no longer have a dinner table to eat at, further drawing attention to high rates of poverty among black families. As Rae observed, “… New Day’s #SaveTheTables could also be seen as a rejection of a prior model of ultraviole[n]t masculinity.”

While I don’t necessarily believe that violence in the media has a detrimental effect on young minds, there definitely needs to be some education and debunking of masculinity myths to go along with the watching of wrestling, the playing of video games, the consumption of porn, etc. Male viewers need to be made aware that violence and the acquisition of the biggest, most ripped bodies aren’t the be all and end all of modern masculinity, just as young women are becoming accustomed to body image clinics put on by schools, community groups and, increasingly, fashion magazines, the very commodities that are seen to negatively affect self-esteem.

New Day are part of a new wave of wrestlers working within the sport(s entertainment) to challenge these notions. Guys like Joey Ryan, who wrestles in intergender matches on the indies as one half of The World’s Cutest Tag Team with Candice LeRae, parodies the hypermasculine sleaze archetype so successfully that it almost results in a high-camp, feminised version of it, while Max Landis’ Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling YouTube short turned the hypermasculinity of wrestling on its head by genderswapping iconic masculine roles such as John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H.

New Day is special not only because they dispute toxic masculinity and racism in wrestling but because they’re redefining what it means to be wrestlers.

Related: My Weekend with Wrestlers.

Elsewhere: [Calling Spots] Issue 18 Preview.

[Calling Spots] Issue 19 Pre-Order.

[YouTube] Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling.

Artwork by Elow Mojo.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I wrote about how writing about Taylor Swift ruined my friendship. [Writer’s Bloc]

I also recapped Outback Championship Wrestling’s latest show.

And I hosted their podcast, chatting to Ricardo Rodriguez.

While we’re shamelessly self-promoting, I’m also at Bitch Flicks writing about Shondaland’s bad mothers. More bad mother content to come in next week’s collection.

How to talk to random women on the street: don’t. [The Nib]

The history of masculinity in fraternities. [The New Criterion]

The problem with #StellasChallenge. [Daily Life]

The Good Wife‘s Alicia Florrick’s wardrobe changes as her character does. I’ve just started watching this series so it’s interesting to see the looks I’m familiar with and how Alicia changes over the subsequent four seasons I’m yet to watch. [The Hairpin]

These lyric intelligence ratings from pop songs from the past ten years made my blood boil. More to come next week. [Seat Smart]

“Follow that”: a #WomensWrestling roundtable. [World Wrestling Entertainment]

More HIV-positive characters on TV will lead to an increase in awareness about the disease. [HIV Plus Magazine]

ICYMI: The death of McDreamy will allow Grey’s Anatomy‘s other characters to grow and change.

Image via One Week One Band.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

tom cruise age difference leading women

The age disparities between leading men and their love interests. [Vulture]

I’m on Twitter! Follow me @ScarlettEHarris.

Nice Guys of OKCupid has paved the way for homosexual creeps with Douchebags of Grindr.

Why was Boston “terrorism” but not Sandy Hook, Aurora or Columbine, for example? [The Guardian]

Feminist awakenings. [Daily Life]

Sexism on MasterChef. [Daily Life]

A collection of essays on Spring Breakers. [The New Enquiry]

Shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords on the recent vetoing of background checks for gun buyers by the U.S. Congress. [NYTimes]

The Tribeca Film Festival is honouring one of its female filmmakers with the inaugural Nora Ephron Prize! [Tribeca Film Festival]

If we needed a reminder of the patriarchal corners of the world women have yet to be granted entry into, there’s now a Tumblr dedicated to just that! [Boys Clubs]

How to discuss Tyler Perry without sounding racist. [AV Club]

The symptoms of and treatment for feminist burnout. [Bitch Flicks]

James Deen on gender equality and slut-shaming (NSFW). [James Deen Blog]

Gun control does not mean penis control: guns and masculinity. [Women’s Media Centre]

How much murder and rape is there on TV? [Vulture] 

Image via Vulture.

TV: Modern Family is Anything But.

modern family mud portrait

After a recent spat with my housemate about the apparent modernity of Modern Family, in which he defended the show for its gay couple with an adopted Vietnamese baby and a strong Latino presence while I cried stereotyping, I decided I should actually watch an episode or two of it before I denounce Modern Family as an archetype perpetuating farce.

Now, with three and a half seasons and some informed opinions under my belt, I can wholeheartedly say I abhor the sexist tropes of the fiery Latina, Gloria, and the shrill, controlling housewife, Claire, and Modern Family’s blatant racism, homophobia and slut-shaming. Let me count the ways…

Right off the bat in the sixth episode of season one, “Run for Your Wife”, there were some troubling stereotypes about stay-at-home mums. When the Dunphy kids head off to their first day of school for the year, mum Claire looks forward to some downtime to get started on a new book. Phil, who’s supposed to be the breadwinner of the family, is also home and wants to hang out with his wife. After blowing off some open-houses he’s supposed to be putting on as part of, you know, his job as a real estate agent, Phil gets embroiled in a mid-afternoon jogging race with Claire.

As a child who grew up with a stay-at-home mum, I can tell you that I never once saw her sitting down to read a book in the middle of the day or challenge my dad to a childish competition. There was too much cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and picking up to do. In fact, my dad was barely home and often working more than one job in order to put food on the table and keep us in a home one fifth of the size of the Dunphy’s, which is more than we can say for Phil who is rarely shown at work.

While the acting of Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) is something to write home (or at least the awards shows) about, their characters leave a lot to be desired. Phil is always dropping the ball (or getting it thrown into his face, as in “Door to Door” in season three) on being a functioning human being, let alone a good husband and father, and Claire often refers to him as her fourth child (she technically only has three: Haley, Alex and Luke). The trope of wife-as-replacement-mother is a tired one, but that doesn’t stop Modern Family for milking it for all it’s worth.

This brings us to Gloria, who is anything but. She’s young, sexy and, most notably, a loud, sassy Latin woman who’s always getting arked up about something. In season one’s “Up All Night”, Gloria’s son Manny’s dad comes to visit. While Gloria is now remarried to the older and dependable Jay, ex-husband Javier is a fellow fiery Latino who tries to make up for his absence by showering Manny with extravagant gifts. In the episode, Javier takes Jay and Manny to a baseball field in the middle of the night, and the next day comes bearing motorbikes. Gloria becomes audibly incensed that Jay’s falling for Javier’s tricks, like she used to, and storms off, yelling in Spanish. Every portrayal of a Hispanic woman in pop culture doesn’t have to be that of the “hot blooded” Latin mama; just look at the gay, Latina orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres in Grey’s Anatomy, a show that is far more modern than one with that word in its title, for example.

Speaking of the gays, what portrayal of contemporary American life would be complete without the requisite homosexual couple with an adopted Asian baby? Certainly not Modern Family, which turns the gay dial up to eleven with stay-at-home dad, former farm-dweller and part-time clown Cam, the uptight, dogmatic (unsurprisingly the brother of Claire) lawyer Mitchell and their über inappropriate ways. For example, in “Run for Your Wife”, Mitchell accidentally bumps baby Lily’s head against a door frame, and they take her to the doctor. The doctor happens to be Asian-American, so Cam embarks on a sermon about how he and Mitchell intend to raise Lily with influences from her Asian roots, completely disregarding the fact that the doctor was born and raised somewhere in middle America and identifies first and foremost as an American.

Later on, in season two’s “Unplugged”, Cam and Mitchell try to get Lily into a preschool. When they realise Lily’s going up against an adopted African-American boy with disabled-lesbian parents for the last spot at a prestigious private school, Cam flubs the interview by emphasising his 1/16th Cherokee heritage and speaking in pidgin English. As someone who is also 1/16th Cherokee, I’m sure you can imagine my offence at this.

Cam, as I’m sure you can imagine if you don’t already watch Modern Family, is the flamboyant half of the couple, and enjoys dressing Lily up as famous gay icons and encouraging her creative side. In the episode “Chirp”, in season two, Cam goes against Mitchell’s wishes and has Lily film a commercial for a furniture store. The ad is completely racist, using emphasised Asian accent voiceovers and Godzilla, and when Mitchell points this out, Cam uses the defence of hipsters the world over: “It’s ironic.” I suppose because they have an Asian kid, they’re allowed to be racist…?

While there are some redeeming qualities throughout the show’s run, such as the “Mother’s Day” (season two), “After the Fire” (season three), and “Schooled” (recently aired as part of season four) episodes which seek to unpack gay parenting and stereotypes of femininity, masculinity and homosexuality, it’s also rife with slut-shaming (Jägermeister is a magic potion that puts girls to sleep but instead of waking up “in a castle, you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation” in “Moon Landing”, whilst Phil marvels in “Travels with Scout” that with his “emotionally distant father” it’s a miracle he didn’t end up as a stripper), homo- and transphobia (dad Jay insinuates that Mitchell is a cross-dresser because he’s also gay in “Starry Night”), and jokes about domestic violence (when Mitchell asks his dad to teach him how to fight in “Game Changer”, Jay asks if he’s having problems with Cam).

As I’m sure Glee can attest, an after school special-esque episode here and there doesn’t make up for Modern Family’s utter lack of modernity the majority of the time.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Chica & the City] Casting Call for “Hot Blooded” Latina Moms Makes My Blood Boil.

Image via BuddyTV.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

One Direction and performing straight-queer masculinity. [Daily Life]

Why India is the worst country in which to be a woman. [Daily Life] 

FOMO (fear of missing out) on YOLO (you only live once). I can totally relate to Mia’s predicament: at the moment I’m kind of experiencing a guilt or anxiety about not getting out and being social enough and doing things, but at the same time, as Mia writes, no matter how much you want to want to do something, you can’t force yourself to want to do it. So I’m taking solace in that fact. [MamaMia] 

I’ve been in two minds about the show in recent episodes, but looking back, I’m sad to see Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 go. [Jezebel] 

We need to talk to our partners about porn. [Jezebel] 

Gala Darling has some fab tips for getting inspired and your time organised as a blogger. For those of you who visit this site regularly, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been pretty slack with content over the past couple of months, and that’s because I’ve been so uninspired. Now, as I start to get back into the swing of things and I’ve made a concerted effort to get inspired and start thinking of blog and freelance ideas, I think The Scarlett Woman will start looking more like the blog you know and (hopefully!) love. Thanks, Gala!