I am a female. I am also a fan of wrestling.
Maybe I haven't been a fan for as long as I can remember. I missed the heyday of the 80s when men like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage had their run of the business. I didn't get to admire first-hand the grace of Miss Elizabeth, or wonder in awe just what it was Sherri Martel was up to this time. Heck, I came in so late I even missed Sunny showing us how to distract one's opponent. None of this, however, means that I love the business any less than someone like Mehe, who remembers thinking, "That guy is going to be something special" when Undertaker debuted.
One of the things that kept me following the spectacle when I was first introduced to it, was the women. At the time that I came in, Sable and Luna Vachon were mercilessly tearing into each other week after week, to the point where the company actually reinstated its long-defunct Women's Championship. As time passed, I got to enjoy watching the division grow as incredible talents like Trish Stratus, Lita, Mickie James, and Victoria (now TNA's Tara) graced the ring, excited the crowd, and gave hope and strength to the young girls whose destinies it should have been to be the next generation of WWE Divas.
It saddens me to see how far WWE has let the Divas fall recently. Last year, they consistently let go women who could actually perform in-ring (One of which, at this writing, is the current TNA Knockouts Champion), while simultaneously pushing a model who seemingly never had any ambitions towards professional wrestling prior to being spotted and signed by John Laurinaitis. All women's matches are now squashes, lasting no longer than 2 minutes (maybe 5, if it's a pay-per-view). There are only three to four women ever showcased at one time, and you could well be seeing those same women for six months before there's a change in the lineup. The few women who we know can wrestle (Beth Phoenix, Natalya Neidhart, Tamina Snuka) are forced to lower their bars. Because, let's face it, if they did what we know they can do, the rest of WWE's women's roster couldn't rise to that occasion.
WWE and Vince McMahon are certainly no strangers to pushing things too far when it comes to the Divas. McMahon suffered a lot of heat after a segment in which he forced Trish Stratus to get down on all fours and bark like a dog. Lita fell victim to professional and personal boundaries being blurred. Mickie James (not even mentioning the "lesbian stalker fan" angle that started her WWE career) spent months and months being called fat and ugly before she retreated, much the same as the company was doing with Vickie Guerrero last year. And now, we have Natalya Neidhart.
It came as a shock to everyone when several weeks ago during a segment between Teddy Long, Aksana, and Natalya, there was a loud farting noise, and then Nat ran away, embarrassed. I was sad to read in news articles that this was hardly to be an isolated incident. And last night, the trend followed her all the way into the ring, when she apparently farted on Alicia Fox while locking in her signature Sharpshooter (a classic Hart family submission hold), and the referee ran away in disgust.
When WWE treats its women like this, is it any wonder that when their matches come on, the fans say, "Time for the Divas piss break!"? I would rather watch Kelly Kelly roll up the entire roster than have the company continue this treatment of one of their top talents. It's disgraceful, humiliating, and decidedly not funny. It also conflicts with the anti-bullying campaign they started last year, B. A. STAR. STAR is an acronym for "Show Tolerance And Respect". I wonder, where is the respect for the women of this company?
Where was the respect when the entire announcers table continually took shots at Vickie Guerrero's appearance, directly after she lost a ton of weight? Where was the respect when Michael Cole interrupted every single Diva's match for months, declaring that nobody cares? Where is the respect now, when a third-generation wrestler of the highest pedigree is forced to be constantly humiliated both in and out of the ring? And how am I, as a woman, supposed to defend my love of this sport when other people see things like this?
The short-term implications of this treatment disgust me, but what really disturbs me are the long-term consequences. The message being transmitted to young female fans may be the worst thing to happen to female body image in the last decade. And what about the division itself? Tiny models will be lining up for positions, because they see that they can make it big. Meanwhile, talented athletes will turn elsewhere. And that's the ones that don't give up on their professional wrestling dreams altogether.
WWE is the McDonald's of this sport. No matter what happens, people will keep coming back to them. There are many people who, despite having alternatives, only keep up with WWE programming. As the top company in the business, they should be setting new, better standards for others to follow. They should be leaders in every aspect of the industry. By dropping the ball on the Divas, they very well have the potential to kill any interest in women's wrestling as a whole.
Please, WWE, bring respect back to your women. Prove to us that we are more than just arm candy and punchlines. Give us back the glory that, at one time, made me so proud to say, "I am a girl, and I watch wrestling."