My husband and I have a guilty pleasure. We like watching professional wrestling. We mostly watch Lucha Underground on Netflix. We watch that show because the way the characters are treated as characters, the way the story is told, and the way the women are treated. Women on Lucha Underground Are treated as people with agency, who are involved in their own storylines and are not just victims other’s decisions.
I stopped watching professional wrestling in the late 90s/early 2000s because of how the Attitude Era in the WWE treated women. The Women’s Championship was a belt used as an excuse to see women take their clothes off. In 1999 at the pay per view called Armageddon the Women’s Championship was fought over in a “take off the dress match” where the winner was the last woman with her dress on after taking the dress off of multiple women in a large swimming pool. I know that professional wrestling is scripted, but it wasn’t for me.
After showing me some Youtube videos my husband convinced me to watch 2018 Wrestlemania, and the matches and storylines for the female wrestlers were extraordinary. These wrestlers who happen to be female were treated as that. There were an array of characters and arcs, heels and faces.
To watch WWE payperviews it’s cheaper to get a subscription to the WWE network. So as I am home with my son today I was watching a series of videos about D-Generation X. This was the WWE faction famous for the phrase “suck it.” And in an interview conducted in 2014 the wrestlers involved discussed the cultural impact of their group. They talked about how society had to be waiting for them, for DX to take off they way that they did. And I think they are right.
1997 was an interesting time in this country. We were stuck in the middle of a presidential sex scandal, while the left was trying to take over. The US was on an economic upswing, and yet the youth was being accused of being lazy and entitled. DX spoke to the group that was feeling the most forgotten about at that time, young men. Men who had no war to fight, a path that was laid out for them by their parents, but were looking for something different. Women were seen as something to be obtained by these men, a trophy or prize.
If women were objects then why would WWE show them as truly capable without their man? They wouldn’t. They would make them calendar models, pin-ups, and women who can be won in wrestling matches. Over the last 20 year though the way culture treats women has fundamentally changed the way women are portrayed in media. Gone are the days of women not having any agency.
On October 28th WWE is going to have an all women’s Pay Per View called “Evolution.” Is this the culmination of the revolution in the way women are viewed in our culture? I’m not sure. Many think that WWE is only doing an all women’s Pay Per View because they had an all male pay per view in Saudi-Arabia earlier this year, and may have one later this year. But as any wrestling fan knows, management will not produce a product it doesn’t think will make money, so at least we know that popular culture is starting to see women as bankable.