Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WWE's trouble with women

24 hours after one of the best women's matches in the last decade between Beth Phoenix and Tamina Snuka, WWE pissed away their goodwill by having Eve inexplicably turn heel. Further, they had her explicitly state she was using Zack Ryder for fame and intended to use John Cena to the same end, only to have it all blow up in her face and have John Cena reduce her to tears seconds later by calling her "hoeski," "bitch," and then express concern that her "skankjuice" might give him a "disease."

Naturally, it was the biggest pop Cena's got in quite awhile.

In my Elimination Chamber review, I lamented that the only thing that hurt the Phoenix/Tamina match was the dead crowd, but you couldn't blame them when they've been conditioned for years to look at the Divas as nothing more than wrestling vaginas. Same thing happened with the crowd going bonkers to Cena verbally degrading Eve, they're going to cheer for it because she's a conniving gold-digging bitch with herpes and should be shamed for it, right!?

In all honesty, I have no problem with the fame-hungry bitch character. It's a bit cliché, but wrestling certainly isn't above cliché and it's present all throughout entertainment. Without it, reality TV would evaporate and Cee-Lo Green wouldn't have anything to write about, but if you're going to do it, at least build toward it. But that's how little WWE concerns themselves with the Divas, a female character can do a complete 180 in one show and it'll be fine because who cares, it's just a Diva. They'd never be allowed to get away with that with a male character that has gotten as much TV time as Eve has in the last two months. She went from horror movie victim at the end of last week's show to Kardashian sister at the beginning of the next. That's laughably bad.

And then it went from laughable to just plain offensive thanks to Cena's rant. I understand pulling the plug on the story, it was stupid and not something Cena needed dragging him down this close to what is being hyped as the biggest match in WWE history, but come on, slut-shaming and STD jokes? Really? A teary-eyed Eve literally throwing herself at Cena was just the icing on this shit cake, basically summing up the entire segment with a "LOL, bitches and their emotions, am I right, fellas?" I was waiting for Rick Santorum to show up at any moment.

I don't mind a woman being the target of a guy's anger or snark in a story, I don't even mind a woman being called a bitch when she's acting like a bitch or a guy being called a dick when he's acting like a dick (though I'm sure MANY will disagree with that and have a valid counterpoint), but why is it that women in WWE can only be defined by their gender? WWE Divas are never anything more than girlfriend, damsel in distress, bully that makes fun of someone over their looks, conniving gold-digger, or fat old pig if you're Vickie Guerrero, and that's it.

I hate when people try to look clever by complaining, "lulz, B.A. Star, the Bellas bully people every show." It's okay to have bully characters and then do anti-bullying PSAs because you're supposed to boo the bully, but when Cena, the face of the company and the face of this campaign is being the bully, that is a problem. Yes, Eve's character is suddenly bad, but Cena didn't "rise above hate," nor did he "embrace" it, he just came off like a dickish meathead. A frat boy who overcompensated after his friends gave him a hard time about the chick he hooked up with last week.

WWE, you're my team, but like seeing a Bengal get arrested every week or the rampant sexual harassment that goes on during halftime of a New York Jets game, this stuff makes me embarrassed to be a fan. I can't excuse it like I did when I was 14 and thought it was "edgy," because it's not edgy, it's stupid. And while you're certainly not alone, the video game, comic book and music industries are often just as bad and perhaps even more cynical about it, that doesn't make it okay. I don't think (or I at least don't want to think) this presentation of women is malicious, but the ignorance is staggering. It's 2012, we really shouldn't need to have this conversation.


  1. I didn't like it, either. It was so jarringly off-color and crude. The mock humiliation of a woman in front of thousands by, like you said, the figurehead of the company.

  2. In the grand scheme of things, I think this was pretty darn minor. Yes, it was silly to go THAT fat on a PG programme, but this wasn't about objectifying vulnerable women, it was about Eve's character who was evil, getting what was coming to her for doing the sneaky on Ryder. n

    I will say though, their treatment of the Divas has been poor for several years.

    1. It wasn't even about Eve, it was just a cheap, tacky way to get fans behind John Cena. And I find it really sickening just how well it worked.

    2. It wouldn't have been as bad if John Cena hadn't spent the last two months rescuing Eve like she was Princess Peach, then she just suddenly becomes a stereotypical soap opera villain with absolutely no build up. The STD jokes didn't help either.

      It's not the worst thing they've ever done, but there's certainly a pattern to WWE treating the women, their stories and characters as basic, interchangeable, lowest common denominator nonsense.

  3. Completely agree with this. It was a stupid, offensive ending to what has been a bad angle that, in my opinion, weakened every single character involved (including resurrected Kane and Ryder.) The fact that the acting has been hilariously bad from all parties didn't help much either.

    Why not play fair and mention the fact that Cena's a married man? Just because WWE doesn't mention it on air doesn't mean it's not true. And you know every single shrieking 13 year old Cenation fangirl knows it, because that's what teenage fangirls do, they read about their celeb crushes on the internet. After the Eve kiss segment aired, the WWE Facebook page was flooded with "but what about Cena's wife?!?" comments. Of course, WWE just totally ignored this on-air. I'm sure the reasoning is "Cena the character is different from Cena the man" because that's always the answer when WWE chooses not to address pesky character-defining details.

    How much would that segment have been improved if Eve threw out "you seemed to enjoy that kiss a lot for a married man" at Cena and gave him a reason to defend himself. Shit, have The Rock do it next week.

    1. Or how about do what Edge did at the end of HIS abysmal angle with Kane (where he murdered Paul Bearer)? Declare "victory", grimace a little so everyone knows that the whole thing was a fucking fiasco, and move the fuck on? Just drop it. Let it die.

      Except that wrestling is, in large part, defined by masculine exclusion and ridicule of women. Or, at least its WWE incarnation is -- I seem to recall that Baby Doll and Precious weren't ridiculously demeaned in the NWA days (I may very well be wrong about that). It's not even control of women, it's ridicule and humiliation of "hot" women by a bunch of dudes so insecure in their masculinity that they have to slap on 100 pounds of muscle and create an exclusive club of men. It's awkward boys laughing at playmates.

      And yeah, this seems hardcoded into WWE's very DNA, as are several other unfortunate traits that don't really jibe well with a would-be fan who wants to see entertaining wrestling but doesn't want to be confronted by an atavistic mindset at every encounter. And to see CM Punk incorporate that DNA into his own on-screen persona is troubling. All well and good for him to Tweet about wanting to kick Chris Brown's ass, but onscreen he's still railing dudes for having their balls in purses.

      There is a dark misanthropy at the heart of WWE that manifests itself in weird, unsettling ways, one of which is this awful misogyny.

    2. I may be wrong, but I don't think it's intentional on WWE's part, just laziness. Women being conniving bitches is easy storytelling and it instantly gets a reaction. A dude calling another dude a fag or a pussy is easy and gets a reaction.

      Put on a headset and round of Call of Duty and you'll hear the same thing. I don't think every idiot on there is an outright sexist or homophobe, but those schoolyard insults are so ingrained in our culture that they come naturally to those that don't think.

      WWE writers don't think. And they rely on easy storytelling because they have to pump out four hours of content a week and they're not exactly the Breaking Bad writing staff, so we get shit like this.

      Again, I could be wrong, there could be some underlying malice, but I don't think WWE would willingly partner up with GLAAD and so quickly admit a mistake when Cena did all those gay jokes last year. For a company that's usually very defensive, Vince did the right thing and outright apologized immediately. I suspect/hope they'd do the same if they get enough pressure over last night's debacle.

    3. Great review Razor.

      I wrote about this too. I agree with you that it was easy storytelling. It's easier to just play along with stereotypes, rather than do something different and more true to reality.

      I'm also disappointed because I really thought they were starting to turn it around with the Diva’s Division too. Kharma’s return at the Rumble was treated seriously and with respect. (Kudos to Ziggler for selling the Implant Buster like Big Show gave it to him.) I really liked the Beth Phoenix and Tamina Snuka match at the Chamber. It was presented as two women competing against each other to see who is the better wrestler. The Bellas were portrayed well in the opening segment last night.

      Then the Cena promo happened. It set the Division back a little I think. It’s like WWE took two steps forward and then one step back.

      Do I think they will respond, like when Cena made the gay jokes? I don't because feminism and the treatment of women isn't a hot button political issue right now.

    4. Oh, I don't think it's intentional, but as you said, it's so ingrained it's an easy go-to. Slut, bitch, faggot. And I get that the writers are pumping out the material as fast as they can, but I also know that the tone gets set at the top, and if Vince or Triple H is giving a chuckle to a pitch where Eve's a slut and she's got girl disease and blah blah blah, that's not going to change the creative culture.

    5. And ignorance and laziness certainly aren't excuses either, I don't want to give off that impression.

      And I think it's pretty safe to say Vince McMahon has the worst sense of humor ever.

    6. The late Katie Vick would likely agree with that last sentiment.