Looks like we’ve got another edition of “what really grinds my gears.”
Tonight, why the continued use of slut shaming in WWE concerns female fans like me.
Before I get started, let me explain that this isn’t a shot on male fans who defend the angle. Male fans have a different perspective than female fans about certain things & we are going to identify a different way. I remember laughing when Chris Jericho called Stephanie McMahon THAT name as a kid because I didn’t understand what women go through every day. They don’t either. This is about informing, not attacking.
My daughters love WWE programming, but most notably the women. They own piles of merchandise, they waited in the snow for five hours hoping to meet Sasha Banks and Bayley. My youngest has a countdown to the next live event where she hopes to meet her idol Nikki Bella. But one of their favourite personalities is Lana. Yes, Lana. Two years ago, they squeaked with delight, pledging allegiance to mother Russia if it meant she would take selfies with them. They cheered for Lana through her husband Rusev’s match. Lana was the best thing ever to them. When I asked why, it was because Lana was strong, unafraid, when she spoke, people listened & she wasn’t just another girl, she was Rusev’s equal & he treated her that way. Lana was amazing.
For little girls, Lana represented more than just a Russian woman that was hot. She was an eloquent speaker, Rusev listened to her, respected her, and everyone cared what she had to say. Men had Paul Heyman, women had Lana. Even during that disastrous love triangle storyline, my girls would plead with Lana to get back in her business suits and tear everyone apart.
Recently, WWE started a storyline where resident loudmouth Enzo Amore flashed Lana. Instead of apologizing, he flirted with her. Then, he spent weeks telling her husband Rusev that Lana wants him, fantasizes about him because he’s just soooooo manly. The story played out where Lana decided to show Enzo how it felt to feel ashamed, helpless, victimized. She offered him a chance to come to her hotel room, stripped him down, and Rusev beat him up, which of course in wrestling land meant Big Cass, Enzo’s partner needed to settle things by having a match, not like, calling the cops.
Last night when I got home from work, the PPV event Roadblock had already started and I asked my girls what I missed. They proceeded to tell me it was awful, the New Day lost! But my nine year old also said “Enzo called Lana a bunch of bad names and I don’t like him anymore.”
When I read an excerpt of what he said, I was floored.
How is he the good guy? Is it just because the character of Lana is Russian and Rusev is Bulgarian?! How does any man saying that to another human make him the guy to cheer?!
I understand for male fans, it’s hard to understand, but for female fans, we deal with Enzo Amore’s three times a month. I recently just wrote about how a man harassed me for WEEKS because I said no. When I decline a date, I get “well you weren’t that hot anyway,” “you led me on by saying you liked video games and wrestling,” “I bet you’re a cheap hoe.” This is the behaviour that Enzo Amore is exhibiting. He was told no and he proceeded to tell Lana for weeks that she didn’t mean no, she wants him. When she set up what many women have fantasized about, flipping the script on their harasser, she was the villain. Rusev is defending his wife from a creep, how is he the villain? He seems like a great guy, trying to protect his wife. But in WWE land, he’s a jerk and Enzo is just trying to have fun. Okay.
This sort of thing needs to stop. I’m all for TV and people getting it’s make believe, but it’s obvious that WWE doesn’t know how to write for women. Women don’t see Enzo as a funny guy. To us, he’s every guy at the bar that stalked us to our car (after calling us fat & a slut to get high fives from his friends) because we said no. Girls are watching and being shown this behaviour is okay. That if a woman says no, she’s the bad guy. Women fans deserve better.
In WWE land, women are consistently marginalized when they are accomplished. Big Cass’s real life girlfriend (& former manager) Carmella was recently written as a catty girl jealous of Nikki Bella. Carmella was written to say a promo where she credited all of Nikki’s success to her boyfriend John Cena. And male fans nodded in approval. Yes, this is what happened. My seven year old screamed at our TV to stop because Nikki worked so hard to come back and girls shouldn’t say this about other girls. But this is considered status quo.
Yes, Nikki got her revenge, by beating Carmella and proving that she is the better athlete (to the delight of my seven year old), but the damage is done. Places like Reddit belittle Nikki, talking about how she keeps her job by opening her legs. No mention of how she worked for months to come back to a full time schedule after a debilitating neck injury that could have left her paralyzed. More attention is paid to her two second hip wiggle. Nikki’s marketability as a role model is questioned. My youngest will tell you Nikki is strong and brave and athletic and she & her sister Brie could best everyone because they outsmarted them. No mention of a hip wiggle. But lots of mention of Nikki’s determination, bravery, kindness, athleticism. Maybe we need to listen to kids.
You can have great storytelling without women bringing each other down. Sasha Banks & Charlotte Flair have done it for months. They just wanted to be the best. Carmella & Nikki could have done the same without the tired mean girl is jealous schtick. Rusev could have been praised by the announce team for being a stand up guy, defending his wife from inappropriate behaviour and condemning the frat boy antics. But alas, WWE went another way. However, I do hope male fans understand that while to them, it’s a funny storyline, for female fans, it’s a daily reality for us, that our success will always be marginalized to build up a man, or that when we say no to creeps, we are somehow in the wrong. Maybe, WWE will listen to the fans (and Lana herself, who has been very vocal on Twitter that she finds this distasteful) and we will see Rusev and Lana be celebrated for standing up to the bullies. But more likely, we’ll see a new shirt emblazoned with one of the catch lines designed to humiliate her.