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We’ve Been Ready (To Rumble) Part II: Hardly A Hope Spot



Ronda Rousey & Exceptional Outsiders

Author Note: Rousey reportedly told TMZ yesterday evening (Jan 25th, 2018) that she has not yet reached a deal with WWE, but due to the likelihood of her eventual involvement and the possibility of a work, I decided to move forward

For years now, rumors have been very strong that Ronda Rousey, a self-proclaimed wrestling fan, might appear in WWE, and these have only grown in the face of the Royal Rumble announcement. WWE has extended their “Give Divas A Chance” tailwind to giving honorary titles to female sports stars since it began, the US Women’s National soccer team for example, and have even hired former women UFC competitors, such as current NXT roster’s Shayna Baszler. Ronda Rousey’s life and career in both judo and MMA (successes and failures, wins and losses) are indicative of a wrestling fairytale, so why am I not happy to potentially see her?

On the surface, she’s just a terrible improver who has two facial expressions, which is sort of the opposite of the skill set required for pro wrestling. Her bit at the WrestleMania with the Rock was cringe inducing and exhibited that she doesn’t really know how to feed off of a crowd. She’s the opposite of Chris Jericho, if that’s helpful to anyone not currently watching. Is true equality letting women also have a Goldberg, by which I mean a useless mass of muscle that cannot emote and is incapable of narrative because of it? In some ways, I suppose yes, but even if I weren’t invested in progress holding hands with raising the bar for this art form, we need to discuss how Rousey represents every pitfall in WWE’s sordid past with representation.

Rousey certainly challenges masculine versus feminine gender roles, often standing up for herself when some have bullied or belittled her for her strong features but her Instagram fueled “do nothing bitch” mantra left some things to be desired. To quote Rousey she doesn’t think she’s “infallible enough for [being a role model],” per UFC 190’s vlog series, but nonetheless, she’s a public figure who many found themselves relating to, and she explained that these so-called do nothing bitches are only pretty or muscular or fit to seduce millionaires and be taken care of. Perhaps she didn’t mean for this to spin into women pitting women against each other, but if you examine the hashtag on Instagram you’ll see that it has been used to take down fitness models, commercial models, and pretty much anyone with a following for their aesthetic.

It’s yet another way for women who feel that they do not fit conventional modes of beauty and femininity to, in lieu of celebrating themselves or questioning the social institutions that try to classify all women and people, drag women who do fit that mold down. As recently as the feud between The Bellas and AJ Lee with Paige, WWE has a notorious problem with this. It is one of the biggest points of toxicity within pro wrestling fandom, women considered conventionally attractive (like the Bellas) often being torn apart for “sucking” or “not improving” without any examination of their moveset, mic skills, in ring storytelling abilities, appeal as faces or heels, simply because someone in Converses and darker eyeshadows is offered up as their “Other”.

The bigger issue with Ronda Rousey being brought in as a pinnacle of feminine athleticism than her casual forays into internalized misogyny (and we all have a journey to go on… this is perhaps the only way she knows how to stand for herself and I don’t wish to tarnish a hero to young women and even men who need her at this point in their own lives) is her blatant, unapologetic transmisogyny. In a company that, despite its significant steps forward in the past few years, has yet to give us positive, active representation within the LGBTQ community, we cannot afford to offer a hero that responds to accountability for transmisogyny with uneducated excuses.

In 2013, Rousey responded to a gross rant Matt Mitrione was suspended for, wherein he called transgender fighter Fox Fallon a lot of gross things you’re welcome to look up at your own risk by saying, “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair. […] I understand the UFC doesn’t want to be associated with views like (Matt Mitrione’s). I’m also glad they didn’t straight cut him.”

Rousey has faced intersex competitors before in Judo, but when asked about this, doubled down on her harmful opinions by stating that for Fallon, “it was a decision she made. She should be aware in her career after that, it’s going to be an arduous path. […]What if she became UFC champion and we had a transgender women’s champion? It’s a very socially difficult situation.”

It’s not socially difficult. Those hormones change your body. I, of course, am writing this as a cis woman who has never experienced this myself, but it takes an incredibly small amount of time to do base level research into the process of transitioning, and to understand that after estrogen based treatments to feminize one’s body (I do not mean to speak to Fox Fallon or anyone’s specific experience or treatment) you are no longer effectively at the general testosterone level of a biologically born male, outside of the larger issue of hormones and human bodies and gender being immensely complicated things that we do not generally test for before athletic competitions. Most fighting competitions are divided into weight classes… I don’t know of any that test your hormone levels before a match up.

(And once again, WWE is less a bout of athleticism and more a Shakespearean Soul Calibur.)

You Created Your Context, WWE

We can’t keep blindly moving forward without setting all the bones we broke. The Attitude era, yes… I could talk until I’m blue in the face about bra and panties matches, evening wear, ho trains, puppies, Lita’s retirement match, etc… but even the run of our forever longest reigning Divas champion Nikki Bella was rife with a very clear brand of what they believed women to be.

I don’t want to tear apart any well-meaning writer, but I’ve seen a few arguments that women are a “new” base that WWE should cater to… and just like the women in the locker room… we have always been here. We have always deserved more. Yes, we’re best for business, but we’re also people you’ve stepped on for years. You, male fans, have also neglected us. All that Total Divas, Mattel, the women themselves, have done to prove that women support women would be essentially erased, made null and void, if we brought in an outsider of any kind, to proclaim them as better, stronger, more capable, more talented, more driven, than a woman already on the roster. Even an outsider woke enough for the niche of Socialist Wrestling Twitter (I don’t know the official name of the stable, you guys) would be undermining all that the women who are here have done.

And if there are no mistakes, and if I am in awe, not only of how not blatantly offensive and shitty it is, but of how GOOD it is…

At the end of it all, the women get what? A shot at the Universal Title at WrestleMania?

Oh, right.

Only men get to face a former UFC champion who only deigns to appear four times a year.

At the Raw 25 year celebration this very Monday night, the only honor the women received was to be called out on stage, and to smile and wave. There were no promos. There were no backstage segments. There was no old king, no king. There certainly wasn’t anything comparative to the nostalgia and niche off that we saw DX, the I guess Bullet Club, and the Revival have. Lita, one of the only women to main event a Raw or to have a substantial storyline before the feud between Sasha and Charlotte a few years ago, was not even present, and if it isn’t a work, per her Twitter, she was not even invited.

This is one drop in an ocean of differences between how we treat male and female Superstars… look at how we cover the injury and rehabilitation of Seth Rollins versus Nikki Bella, how an in real life story was used to celebrate and enhance Edge but to shame Lita, how we book John Cena in comparison to someone like Bayley or in years past Kelly Kelly, the list goes on and on, and that is within the meager representation that we have to offer anyone not male and not white, still leaving so many people and experiences unrepresented in such a grandiose and melodramatic medium.

And so, mere days before this milestone, the first time I’ll see special attention given to women in the match and pay per view that has been my favorite for as long as I can remember, I’m left to wonder:

What’s the point?