WWE Needs To Respond To Sexism Claims With More Than Just A Statement

by Jason Howard Kelly

The WWE is once again under fire after accusations of sexism were made toward the company following a recent episode of Monday Night Raw. Last Monday on Raw, the company’s flagship live television show, there were two segments involving female talent that raised some eyebrows, and for the wrong reasons. In one segment involving the legendary Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, he is seen interacting with a WWE female superstar and manager, Lana. The Rock proceeds to drop not-so-subtle hints at a “special night” he and Lana had the year prior with an innuendo-laden speech. The Rock joked that he showed Lana some “new stretching exercises” to which he assigned nicknames such as “The one-legged Russian vacuum” and “the DJ mustache ride.”

Another incident took place during one of WWE’s Pay-Per View events the night before, at the Royal Rumble, between WWE Diva Becky Lynch and WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair. Becky Lynch was in a one-on-one match with Flair’s daughter, and WWE Divas Champion, Charlotte. During the match, Becky Lynch was pursuing Charlotte until Ric Flair distracted her by forcibly planting a kiss on the lips of Becky. The distraction allowed Charlotte to defeat Becky and retain her championship. This contributed to the current storyline of Charlotte needing the help of her father to win matches, but it didn’t make the incident any less sickening.

Both of these incidents caught the eye of Alex Goot, who wrote an article for Vocativ hilighting the company’s ongoing sexism problem which he titled, “WWE’s Sexism Problem Is Just Getting Worse.” This is an excerpt from that article:

What do all these characters have in common? They were positioned as babyfaces in their storylines, the good guys that fans were expected to support and cheer for. That, for far too long, has been the strange ethos of the WWE, where women are objects, crude name calling is to be cheered, and slut-shaming is righteous. Indeed, it is no secret that the company has a checkered, problematic past, not only with women, but with race, homophobia, and taking care of its own employees. The empire Vince McMahon built has a rather retrograde history, much like that of American professional wrestling, more broadly.
In response to the allegations, WWE released this statement:
“WWE programming, which features fictional characters that cover a range of personalities similar to movies and television shows, tells stories of good versus evil. In addition, as our on-going storylines develop, we will continue to position women as both strong competitors and compelling individuals.”
But is simply issuing a blanket statement about programming enough to make up for distasteful television? For years now the WWE has used harassment and slut-shaming against its female talent as a way to get a rise out of the crowd. Such behavior is condemned outside the ring, and so it should be condemned inside the ring as well. It must be noted, as well, how far along the WWE has come as it pertains to women’s empowerment. Back in what was known as, “The Attitude Era”, women would have bikini contests and lingerie pillow fights live on television. At least now the fans get to see the WWE Divas compete in actual wrestling matches and have real rivalries and storylines just like their male counterparts.
But it’s still not enough. Personally, I have been a fan of the WWE all my life, and I think the product is still doing very well. However, I can certainly do without seeing a 66 year-old man force a kiss onto a 29 year-old WWE Diva. And as entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny, as The Rock’s promos can be, I’m sure it can be just as good without blatant sexism coming into play. I am calling on the WWE to take these accusations seriously, and to continue to empower its female talent as much as possible. Cut out the unnecessary sexism and harassment, and replace it with segments that show how strong a woman can be in a male-dominated field.
When women succeed the product also succeeds. After all, to quote the McMahon family’s favorite saying, that is “what’s best for business.”

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