When I was 6-years-old there were two things I knew for certain. Smells Like Teen Spirit was the best song in the world and I was going to grow up to be a Professional Wrestler. I was smitten with wrestling from the moment I started watching, so it was only natural that I would want to grow up and be a part of it. I practiced my entrance (Thanks HBK for having such awesome entrance music for me to borrow) and held many a title match in the backyard with my best friend. It only took a few matches for me to realize that it was a lot harder than it looked, however I did not let it dissuade me.
After taking a bat to the back in the name of my future career, I was sprawled out in the grass, out of breath, a little woozy, and trying my best to keep my tough face on, my best friend turned to me and informed me that even though I took the bat shot like a champ, I wasn't going to be a wrestler, because I was a girl.
At first, I was certain she was wrong, after all, what about Sensational Sherri, Miss Elizabeth, Sunny etc. Then I realized most of them (remember I was 6) I had only seen in a manger/valet position. To say this was disheartening is an understatement. I didn't want to be a manager. I wanted to be part of a great tag team, like The Rockers and fly off the turnbuckle and dazzle the crowd.
Not letting my revelation hold me down, the dream stayed alive for a few more years. As I got older, WWF/E started phasing the Woman's Division back in and in 1998 the WWF Women's Title was reinstated, thanks in larger part, to the growing popularity of Sable. Finally, women in the ring were kicking butt and taking names.
My enthusiasm was short-lived however. I wondered to myself why the men got HIAC matches, Tables, Ladders, and Chairs while the women got Bikini and Evening Gown matches. In case there is any confusion as to what an Evening Gown match is, it is where the winner is determined by whoever rips the others dress off first. Thus, marked the beginning of the end for my pro-wrestling dreams.
Sure, I could have mat wrestled in high school (Actually considered it and came close to trying out) or I could have found somewhere other than WWE to pursue my dreams. Truth is, I grew up and new dreams found me.
New dreams aside, I continue to be a wrestling fan and I watched the Diva Division being born, and women like Trish Stratus, Lita, and Victoria begin tearing it up in the ring, there seemed to be hope on the horizon. Now here the WWE had a pool of talent to make a strong Women's Division and get it over with the fans, which they eventually did but mostly through cheap gimmicks and sex appeal (Trish Stratus barking like a dog for Mr. McMahon anyone?).
I can't help but be a little disheartened when I bring up Lita to male wrestling fans, and they bring up her thong. Was it sexy? Yes. Racy? Definitely. I didn't even really know what a thong was until I saw it popping out of her pants, but that was not a factor in her becoming one of my favorite wrestlers. She was a firecracker in the ring, misused towards the end of her time with WWE and eventually disrespected and exploited upon her retirement.
With the retirement of both Stratus and Lita, the firing of Mickie James, and Beth Pheonix being made to look more like a joke than an athlete, the Division seems to be a sinking ship. The few Divas left with in ring ability are underrated, underutilized, and are still pigeon held with sexist gimmicks.
I can't help but blame this on sexism. This term, used to describe an attitude that one sex is superior to another, more competent and more valuable, describes WWE's attitude towards the Diva's Division pretty accurately. Not only are the storylines getting worse (Piggie James anyone?), the amount of Divas on roster with actual in ring experience and ability is dwindling (cue the Bella Twins) while more experienced/talented Divas are being ignored and let go from the company all together (Gail Kim, Mickie James, etc). The Division just does not seem to be a priority to Vince McMahon.
I wish I could say the mindset of superiority and exploitation, as it pertains to professional wrestling, was strictly WWE. However, being a lifelong wrestling and football fan, that just isn't the case. A lot of times female sports fans are ignored and dismissed and while most of BR welcomed me and my two cents with open arms, my first week on the site was less than warm and fuzzy.
Making the mistake of using my real name to write under, my Facebook and Myspace received a few disturbing private messages. Everything from claims that I knew nothing about wrestling, I only watched it to check out guys, did I want to go on a date, how big are my breasts, the only reason I like John Cena is that I am a girl, etc to suggestions that I write about something else, I write about a women's sport, or even just keep it strictly to the Diva's Division. I'm not here to cry woe is me to the masses; I dealt with each message individually and as respectfully as I could but I couldn't help but be a little saddened by it all.
I don't see male or female when I am reading an article, I don't think male or female when I am commenting on an article. I feel your sex has very little to do with whether or not you are a true wrestling fan, have an opinion, or put out great work. Unfortunately, for me, and other female writer's, this sentiment isn't shared by all. The IWC is a brutal place. Brutal on WWE, TNA, ROH, or whatever we are commenting/writing on at the moment. We want the best, think we know best, and don't have any qualms about saying so. We tear articles apart, openly criticize, and are not always respectful. These are perhaps not the finest points of the IWC but hey, if I could not stand the heat, I would get out of the kitchen. I just don't think someone's sex is relevant to the way they are treated, taken seriously, or how good their article is.
I guess my final question/though is this, if the IWC can't take it's female fans seriously, how can we expect WWE to take the Diva's Division seriously?
****Thank you to those of you (and I am pretty sure you know who you are) that have been nothing but wonderful towards me. Much like I welcome and respect any and everyone's opinion, you welcomed and respected mine. It means a lot.*****