In Defence of Eva Marie.

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This article originally appeared in Calling Spots Issue 20. Republished with permission.

For my latest contribution to Calling Spots, check out Issue 21 featuring my story, “Navigating Kayfabe in the Reality Era”.

I instinctively ducked for cover from the IWC (Internet Wrestling Community) when the idea for this article popped into my head after Eva Marie, perhaps the most hated woman (nay, person) in wrestling today, faced Bayley in a NXT Women’s Championship on Thanksgiving Eve last year.

I’d been ruminating on Eva Marie for quite some time, at least since her debut in NXT in mid-2015, but probably closer to the time we were introduced to her as the “rookie” Diva on E!’s reality show about World Wrestling Entertainment’s women’s wrestlers, Total Divas, in 2013.

Let me first say that I think Eva Marie gets a lot of unwarranted flack for seizing an opportunity that was arguably handed to her. Who among us would honestly turn down a prized position with guaranteed exposure in our industry of choice presented on a silver platter? Just because she didn’t bust her butt on the indies for ten years à la wrestling darlings such as Kevin Owens and Calling Spots cover stars Finn Balor and Daniel Bryan it doesn’t mean there’s not a place for her in WWE.

Let me also say that this is not so much a defence of Eva Marie herself, per se, but what she represents. She may have a background in modelling with designs on becoming “the female Rock” (she shares a manager with Dwayne The Rock Johnson—who also happens to be his ex wife—and Johnson has been a vocal proponent of hers on social media) who only joined WWE months before she gained a starring role on Total Divas, but women like Michelle McCool and the Bella Twins were models before becoming Divas. Oftentimes their success is boiled down to their associations with men in power, but McCool became known as the first ever Divas Champion (a title which she held twice) and a two-time Women’s Champion and Nikki Bella’s in-ring prowess has improved in strides in recent years, landing her the top spot on PWI’s top 50 women wrestlers in 2015 and the Slammy Award for 2015 Diva of the Year. And while much has been made about the IWC’s pride and joy Bayley and Sasha Banks’ desire to be wrestlers since childhood, current Divas Champion (at the time of writing) Charlotte only expressed an interest in wrestling in the last few years, so if the logic surrounding Eva Marie’s heat is to be applied to her, she doesn’t deserve her success either.

If anything, we should be encouraging of Eva Marie’s return to NXT to hone her skills in the foremost wrestling training program in the world. While her in-ring dexterity isn’t at the level it needs to be to warrant a NXT Women’s Championship shot, if we’ve learned anything from the chanting along of Ryback’s catchphrase, “Feed Me More”, implying to the top brass that he’s “over”, the vitriol spewed at Eva Marie from the Full Sail crowd (who are obnoxious at the best of times) signifies that she’s the biggest heel NXT has. If we want her to fail, stop responding to her.

The drama surrounding her championship shot at Bayley on Thanksgiving Eve was pitch perfect and elicited a riotous response from the crowd not seen since John Cena faced Rob Van Dam for the WWE Championship at ECW One Night Stand in 2006. Eva’s pre-match promo where she hijacked William Regal’s office with gifts from her Total Divas supporters, while not good, served to position her as a corporate placeholder along with the insertion of WWE senior official Charles Robinson as referee. (Michael Cole also appeared as the adjudicator for Finn Balor and Samoa Joe’s NXT Championship contract signing earlier in the night, giving the whole show a sort of coopted-by-management feel, perhaps not accidentally.) The deployment of Eva Marie was apt and echoes a criticism often levelled at the corporately-appropriated #DivasRevolution: she was put there by management despite, until a few years ago and a few months ago, respectively, expressing little desire or talent to be a wrestler.

Eva Marie is like the female version of John Cena: she appeals to a certain demographic (Total Divas fans who are often young women), as Cena does to young fans, but is reviled by wrestling purists, smarks and the IWC as exemplified by the Full Sail crowd. Putting her in the go-home match before Thanksgiving was “actually genius”, according to [former] Diva Dirt reporter Jake, and a perfect example of her marketability.

Her season four Total Divas storyline was interesting, and the bust up with the rest of the cast, particularly the Bella twins, was unwarranted (if scripted and dramatised for the reality TV cameras) in my eyes. It wasn’t so long ago that women like Nikki were lambasted for their apparent lack of drive and wrestling talent which has since developed to see her become the locker room leader and voice her desire to “stay and continue to help women conquer this industry”.

But the utter hatred levelled at Eva feels like it has passed disdain for her lack of passion and skill and entered misogynistic territory. A tweet from user @nadavid47 asserted that “The hate for Eva Marie has gotten to such an uncomfortable ‘this is deeper than her lack of skill’ level” while @JulieAnnBird was concerned that “it will become even more obvious if/when the Takeover London crowd throws slut chants at her.” (I’m loath to qualify the “slut” accusations because it implies that certain women are sluts while others aren’t, but for as long as we’ve known Eva Marie, she’s been with the same man who is now her husband. Hardly slutty behaviour, but I digress…) In an interview with Bayley in The Independent ahead of NXT Takeover: London, writer Martin Hines even asked the then-Women’s Champion if she thinks Full Sail’s taunting of Eva Marie is less to do with her character and is more personal. Bayley disagreed as NXT stars are wont to do (Kevin Owens and Charlotte are the only wrestlers that come to mind who’ve spoken out against Full Sail), perhaps in an attempt not to upset an audience that seems increasingly on the precipice of spilling over into hostility. Eva’s treatment is antithetical to the #DivasRevolution and harkens back to the not-too-distant past when women wrestlers were valued for their T&A (as evidenced by the tag team of the same name managed by Trish Stratus in her eye-candy beginnings) and their “popcorn” matches were an opportunity for a bathroom break. As much as the Revolution found its beginnings in NXT, its fans are anything but respectful to women wrestlers, and wrestlers at large, giving priority to their excessive chants rather than what’s going on the ring. If there was a question left as to whether Eva as a person and her polarising wrestling character can be separated, porn site Brazzers tweeted the following to Eva Marie:

But NXT seems to have let Eva fall by the wayside since her Women’s Championship match against Bayley, pushing Eva’s henchwoman Nia Jax (or is Eva Nia Jax’s henchwoman?) into the picture with a title match against Bayley at NXT Takeover: London. Eva has seldom been seen on NXT TV and was in Dubai while NXT Takeover: London was underway. While some may welcome her absence (and I’m glad @JulieAnneBird’s “slut” prophecy didn’t come true), it’s a wonder they haven’t utilised her undeniable heat more. Call it slow burn booking, or maybe she’s upping her training again to feasibly be able to go toe to toe with Bayley and NXT’s burgeoning women’s roster, but WWE has dropped the ball on Eva Marie, much like the #DivasRevolution at large.

Related: The Beginning & the End of an Era—Sasha Banks’ Evolution from NXT to the Main Roster.

Are Divas Finally Being Given a Chance?

Elsewhere: [Junkee] How Caitlyn Jenner, the Kardashians & Total Divas Are Making Reality TV Relevant Again.

[The Independent] Bayley: NXT Women’s Champion Talks NXT in the UK, Eva Marie, Coffee & The Future.

[SBS Zela] A Diva is No Longer the Women’s Version of a Wrestler.

Artwork by Elow Mojo.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

greys anatomy you are the sun

Following on from last season’s “lean in” motif, this season on Grey’s Anatomy it’s all about its women taking time for themselves, whether that’s personal or professional. [Bitch Flicks]

Personal space is a feminist issue. [Sociological Images]

Loving football (and, indeed, wrestling) doesn’t make you a bad feminist. [Kill Your Darlings]

How will you know when you’ve made it? For me I think it will be when I’ve been published a) on Daily Life and b) in the American market; headhunted for something; verified on Twitter; and when those I admire in the same industry see me as a peer. How will you know? [The Hairpin]

And Rachel Hills ponders what it means to have made it, and ways to pass the time while you’re waiting to. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Young, single and successful women are increasingly living alone in affluent cities. [Daily Life]

In defence of Amber Rose:

“Amber Rose is hot. Amber Rose is also a mom. Amber Rose was also a wife. And if T.I. can be a convicted felon who’s rapped about sex, guns, and drugs and still be ‘father knows best’ on The Family Hustle once a week, why is a sexy woman suddenly an unfit mother just because she posts photos in her lingerie? If you don’t like what you think she represents, make sure you’re just as vocal about these less-than-angelic men raising children while bragging about one-night stands and trappin’. If they’re just entertaining and expressing themselves, then so is she. If they’re just living up to an image and a brand, then so is she.” [The Daily Beast]

And while we’re at it, in defence of Rihanna. [Buzzfeed]

Can World Wrestling Entertainment #GiveDivasaChance to be in the main event of WrestleMania 32? [Between the Ropes]

It wasn’t Jackie’s responsibility to get the details of her rape correct; it was Rolling Stone‘s. [The Guardian]

Stop calling women crazy. [Birdee]

ICYMI: the ties that bind us in menstruation and do you ever feel like you’re trapped behind a screen?

If these links haven’t sated your appetite for feminist goodness, the 83rd Down Under Feminists Carnival has arrived featuring much more from Australia and New Zealand. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Tumblr.

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.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Ursula

The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula is the feminist fairy octomother you never knew you wanted. [Bitch Flicks]

I dissect why we insist on calling women “girls”. [TheVine]

Newlyweds, and later The Hills and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, was a pioneer of the “celebrity best friend” trope. [Grantland]

In the wake of my “Wrestling with Obsession” piece for Writers Bloc, they interviewed me for their newsletter. Sign up here.

How the capitalism of Fifty Shades of Grey reinforces the ties that bind women to abusive relationships. [Buzzfeed]

Clementine Ford thinks the word “slut” is too far gone to be worth reclaiming. [Daily Life]

“The Radical Queerness of Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber.” [The Atlantic]

So a character on Girls had an abortion and was super relaxed about it. [Jezebel]

Cripface Oscar bait reigned supreme at this years’ Academy Awards. [Disability Intersections]

And here‘s everything else that was wrong with the Oscars. [Bitch Flicks]

Lesbian representation in women’s magazines. [The Conversation]

Meet the Feminist Fucker: a guy who sees feminists as the ultimate conquest. [Spook Magazine]

ICYMI: When you realise all your passions are no longer cutting it.

Image via Disney.com.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

kendall-jenner-model

An open letter to Kendall Jenner from a struggling model who doesn’t think she should be handed instant high-fashion fame because “doesn’t she get enough cash from that show that all of ignorant America glamorises?” And, “didn’t her sister have sex with someone on camera and profit from the video sales to get their family its new line of limelight?” I didn’t see the same rhetoric when Georgia May Jagger or Daisy Lowe started modelling and they both come from famous families. But it’s right there in the letter: Kim Kardashian’s family should be punished for the fame they garnered from her sex tape (not to mention the rampant slut-shaming). Aah, just like beauty, the slut-shaming of Kim Kardashian knows no bounds. [The Blot]

What it’s like to work as a violent men’s behavioural counsellor. [Daily Life]

I profiled Outback Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Andy Phoenix and the shades of grey that have been his controversial championship reign. I’ll be writing a bi-weekly column over the summer break, so make sure you check it out.

The tragedy that is redneck reality TV. [Buzzfeed]

Where are the representations of chronic illness in pop culture? Certainly not in scripted television, so reality is a genre that actually prevails in this instance in that it actually portrays a wider cross-section of everyday people. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Caro Cooper on envy, a phenomenon I’ve certainly been dealing with in recent months. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up writing about it, too. [The Lifted Brow]

Janay Rice, in her own words. It’s nice to hear the wife of former NFL Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice detail the night her then-fiance knocked her unconscious in an elevator instead of having football brass speak for her. It doesn’t make her story any less harrowing, though. [ABC]

What happens to women when they fight back against street harassment? Ridicule, more harassment and murder. [Daily Life]

30 Rock made a Bill Cosby rape joke before anyone else gave a damn. To be clear, this wasn’t a rape joke that made fun of the victim, like most rape jokes do. This skit positioned Cosby as being in the wrong and shed light on his purportedly predatory past before the recent spate of rape allegations came to light. [Crushable, Jezebel]

Rachel Hills has a release date for her book, The Sex Myth! Words cannot describe how excited I am for this book to come out. I’ve been following Rachel’s work for about five years now and she has become a mentor of sorts for me. I can’t wait to see what revolutionary ideas about sex and relationships she packs into this book. I’m currently reading Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy and I’m not super-impressed by her narrow-minded and dated assertions. I dare say Hill’s ideas will be much more progressive. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Image source unavailable.

We All Have Naked Bodies. Jennifer Lawrence is No Different.

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Do you ever wonder whether you’ve been a positive influence on someone who’s no longer in your life? Well, if I influenced the particular ex-friend I have in mind—the one responsible for the above Facebook status and the shitshow that followed—in any way it has surely dissipated as she took great joy in victim-blaming and slut-shaming the myriad female celebrities who fell victim to the mass nude photo hack earlier this week.

While the leaking of 101 female celebrities’ private photos from their iCloud accounts—many of them long deleted—is a “flagrant violation of privacy” as perhaps the most-high profile victim Jennifer Lawrence’s PR team put it, it is also a crime. Many a think piece has been written in the days following about how looking at Lawrence, Kate Upton, Alison Brie, Adriana Grande et al’s personal photographs makes us complicit in said crime, much like viewing child pornography is a continued violation of the abused minors. I do not deny this but, apart from Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Peterson’s take on the “scandal” as compared to the nonconsensual publication of Marilyn Monroe’s “Golden Dreams” nudes in the ’50s, I have seen nary a word written about how the naked body is not, in fact, scandalous.

If many of the comments on the above Facebook thread are to be believed, people—nay, women, because let’s be honest, the only men targeted in this mass hack are those who happen to sneak into a shot with their female partners, as Roxane Gay points out—who take photos of themselves in various stages of undress are idiots, especially if they’re famous, because it’s only a matter of time before they’re leaked for the world to see. Never mind the fact that we all have bodies underneath our clothes and that some people like to take photos of said bodies. To return to Peterson:

“The only way to prevent a market for these type of photos is to stop treating them, and the ‘secrets’ they reveal, as revelatory or scandalous. They don’t tell you anything new about Lawrence. They don’t make you think differently about her. You know why? Because sexuality isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a dirty secret. In her public appearances and interviews, Lawrence has never attempted to make it so. And just because it’s private doesn’t mean it’s dirty…”

This isn’t the first time photos of nude, female celebrities have been leaked, though. In the past few years similar photos of Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus and Mila Kunis have made their way into the public domain, but it’s hard to remember there being an outrage on such a level. I tend toward the fact that these hackers specifically targeted seemingly as many female celebrities as they possibly could in an egregious example of misogyny. But it could also be because Lawrence is “Our Jen”; “Cool Girl Jen”, and her almost mythical status in fangirl (and –guy) world makes us super protective of her. Those other women—Cyrus, Johansson, and even those that specifically market their sexuality as part of their brand (that’s not to say Cyrus and, indeed Johansson, don’t)—kind of deserved it, didn’t they?

From Kate Leaver in her article “Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot” on MamaMia:

“This is not like that time Kim Kardashian (or, more accurately, her mother/manager Kris Jenner) ‘leaked’ a sex tape in a brazen grab at fame. This is not a staged accident, like when Nicki Minaj’s top serendipitously fell open on stage at the VMAs. This is not a seedy publicity stunt from a desperate celebrity.”

And so what if it was? Lawrence et al presumably had a certain amount of agency in creating these photos in the first place. Their agency and privacy was taken away by some hackers with too much time and misogyny on their hands. Let’s not feed into that by further denying it to women who do traffic in the commodification of their bodies for a profit, whether explicitly or implicitly. Only then can we start to accept the naked body as something that everyone has and not something that can be “leaked” and used to shame women into submission.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] Those Jennifer Lawrence Pictures Aren’t Scandalous.

[The Guardian] The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014 is Just the Beginning.

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

[MamaMia] Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot.

Images via Facebook.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

orange is the new black pennsatuckey teeth

What Orange is the New Black‘s Pennsatucky’s dental health says about class. [Bitch]

The history of the sex education film. [Alternet]

Most women have periods at some stage, so why are we so afraid to talk about them? [The Lifted Brow]

There should be a Bechdel test for mothers in kid’s movies: “Show me an animated kids’ movie that has a named mother in it who lives until the credits roll.” And when mothers are present, they act as a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Mum, paving the way for the main characters—and their fathers—to carry out the rest of the narrative. [The Atlantic]

Duke porn star Belle Knox writes about her experience being slut-shamed from within the industry she works. [Jezebel]

Image via Bitch.