Exploring Gender Equality in Professional Wrestling - An Interview with Beth is a Hoot
In a relatively short space of time, Beth has gathered a sizable Twitter following whilst tweeting about mental health, pro-wrestling, music, politics and gaming. I first noticed her on Twitter, tweeting about politics including the relatively niche belief of Universal Income being a positive possibility.
I invited Beth to give her some opinions on issues around gender in professional wrestling. I have often spoken about reservations around the presentation of women in and around professional wrestling, to which I have often received contrary opinions from readers (almost entirely or entirely male responses). I then had a conversation with my partner who mirrored my beliefs. In fact, she reacted quite emotively about the clip in question.
*This is of course an exchange of opinions. This piece is not designed to insult AEW or suggest there is a simple answer. This is an exploration of a very complex subject from a place of exploration and conversation.*
Hello Beth and thank you for agreeing to share your perspective with us today! First off, could you share with us a bit about your background to help readers get to know you a bit?
Hello, and thank you for having me! You’ve made me feel quite humble!
In terms of my background, during the day I work your standard 9-5 Monday to Friday office gig, and honestly that’s it. In terms of my background relating to professional wrestling, I don’t have any credentials apart from being a fan since I can really remember. Early memories that spring to mind are the classic Hardy Boys matches, and Lita and Trish being my childhood idols.
So, the reason I contacted you was I was looking for female wrestling fan perspectives on the portrayal of women in wrestling. When I raise this topic what are your initial thoughts, positive and negative?
My answer to this often depends on the day you’re asking me, and will change depending on mood I’m in. Today, I feel positive about where women’s wrestling is going, across many promotions. Seeing today’s talent like Anna Jay, Asuka, Sasha Banks and Io Shiari do incredible things in the ring really makes my heart warm.
Where my mind goes negative, it’s that even in recent memory, and even to this day- there’s clear examples of where women in the wrestling industry have been taken advantage of by male trainers and wrestlers alike. I’m alluding to the #SpeakingOut movement, and for me- this is a branch to a much bigger issue regarding some of the outdated attitudes towards women in the industry.
My viewing of the Kenny Omega, ‘I’m a big star’ entrance over the last couple of weeks has been conflicted. I love most of it but the use of the ‘dancing girls’ feels out of place. They seem subservient to him. Subordinate, even. How would you respond to my viewing of this presentation?
Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of it, and it’s not for me personally, but I feel the same way about that, as I do about the use of substance abuse in Jeff Hardy's storylines- if the person is okay with it, then I guess I have to be.
It is mad that the idea of a badass woman does an entrance with dancing men in the background seems weird to many people, but equality is surely about seeing both situations the same.
I had a similar response to the use of models during the Bash at the Beach even back in January. Part of the presentation of the event was that they had female models sitting atop lifeguard’s chairs observing the action in the ring. All the ‘lifeguards’ were female, no male models were used. My reading is that this is a supporting of the idea of the male gaze, meaning the world is primarily viewed by men. Am I barking up the wrong tree? Thoughts and/or response!?
I mean considering a great number of lifeguards in real life are men, it makes zero sense to only have female lifeguards’ asides from the reasons you’ve mentioned. So, I 100% agree, although I have this constant fear when I talk about this that I’m being too much of a “snowflake".
Talking about this brings me back to the days where it was seen as a privilege for women to be “managers” to a male wrestler, and I know we’ve come a long way from where we were, but throughout this conversation, I just feel more like “why does it only have to be women who are shown in this way"? It feels defeating to see, but I can see that this will only improve as companies generally become more diverse.
Then of course, we have the AEW Women’s Division. You cannot talk about the portrayal of gender in AEW without mentioning the AEW Women’s division! Some suggest this division highlights AEW’s priorities or lack thereof. Others state that the division reflects the US independent scene’s sexism, and it would be false to push the performers into spots they are not ready for. Where do you stand in relation to the AEW Women’s Division?
I honestly enjoy what is beginning to happen in AEW and the women’s division, although I have to say, I would love to see more women’s matches considering they had such a push in its inception to be more gender inclusive. I’ve given them a pass on a lot as they are a new company, but when I see what’s going on in WWE and in Impact, I do think AEW need to step it up.
They do have some amazing talent who I can imagine will be utilised more in 2021, like Tay Conti, Anna Jay, Hikaru Shida, and Big Swole and others too. It’s like they have all the ingredients for the perfect meal, but now they just need to prepare and cook it.
Finally, if you had any say in how women are represented in wrestling, what would you be pushing for as the most pressing priorities?
You know what? Back when I was a child, wrestlers like Lita and Trish were the exception. I was growing up in a time where Bra and Panties matches, and Bikini contests were a thing. Don’t even get me started on the Playboy cover storyline with Candice Michelle and Maria. For that- I’m glad that now we can see women fight in cells, Royal Rumbles, main event PPVs and have women’s own events like Evolution.
However, there is still a long way to go. There is still the attitude with some in the industry that women are to be looked at, and not heard. I think this starts with more development, both within the wrestler’s character, and with more prolonged storylines that have history. One of the best storylines we’ve had this year was between Sasha Banks and Bailey, and that has been 1. An exception to the rule, and 2. Something that is years in the making.
It would also help of wrestling companies had more women and diverse people within their management and creative teams. All too often, you hear about WWE storylines being done by Bruce Pritchard and Ed Koskey, and AEW by Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. If you had bigger teams in both examples, with more diversity, I can only see a more balanced product in the long term. Once you sort out the management, you can then look into the individual improvements and cultural shifts that need to be done.
You can follow Beth on Twitter @BethIsAHoot or check out her writing at her new blog.