Tag Archives: transphobia

Be A Star, #WWEqual, #GotYourBack and wrestling’s viral equality facade

Pride week is upon us as summer begins and it’s that time of year when corporations come out in droves supporting the “LGBT” community, never mind the Q, I, 2S, A, and so on. Do they really? Sports has always been an iffy field when it comes to equality and I’m going to put wrestling, as an industry, pretty damn low on the list of those who actually make an effort.

That being said, WWE likes to make the appearance that they are all about equality, but there is transparent hypocrisy right down to the very core. Today, #WWEqual is a hashtag that’s popped up in conjunction with wrestlers tweeting about GLAAD’s #GotYourBack campaign. Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.57.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.58.02 PMThis has caught our attention and I’m coloured quite curious right now as to what’s stirring this, other than an opportune moment to get attention. Now, I truly believe the ‘superstars’ who are tweeting as part of this campaign do have the best of intentions; but it’s hard to take anything seriously from a company that has an openly homophobic main eventer, hires transphobic fighters to appear on PPVs and just plain has little respect for women.

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing GLAAD and WWE pairing up, they’ve partnered with Darren Young shortly after TMZ outed him, they’ve reached out to talk to them when John Cena made disparaging remarks in regards to trans people, and there is no shortage of damage control in regards to maintaining their image. It’s an odd image to try and maintain though, since despite these efforts we’re left feeling unsafe and unwelcome in the wrestling community.

Combat sports as a whole, however, are taking huge steps forward with regards to inclusion. We have Fallon Fox fighting with UFC and our first ever openly gay Tag Team Champion in the WWE with the Prime Time Players (Darren Young).

So, how can these efforts to better themselves coexist alongside storylines in which Paige calls Tamina a man and mentions that she’s in the wrong division? Sooner or later these campaigns against bullying need to be effective internally as well as just what they’re spouting out to their fans.

Personally, I really hope that our voices are finally getting through to the big wigs and efforts are being made, but I’ve been burned before. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this hashtag to see if there’s any legitimate partnership or if this is just another bandwagon hop.

Don’t go there, Billy Corgan

Tonight, tonight I ponder what Twilight Zone universe I’ve entered. Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame was announced as the Senior Producer of Creative Talent and Development over at TNA Impact Wrestling a week ago, and it’s taken some time to sink in. He did an interview for Variety in which he mentioned wanting to explore racial and transgender issues. Normally, I’d jump for joy knowing someone in a position of power was willing to subvert wrestling tropes and add greater depths and representation to the characters that are portrayed, but it comes at a hefty cost when the person in charge is a noted transphobe.

Attached is a screenshot from Billy Corgan's Livejournal: http://billycorgan.livejournal.com/11224.html
Attached is a screenshot from Billy Corgan’s Livejournal: http://billycorgan.livejournal.com/11224.html

The words above, and the article linked, are just some of the problems that I fear we have to face coming from Corgan. It seems that everyone is focused on whether or not he has enough of a love for wrestling to do the job, but his knowledge and understanding of wrestling isn’t the problem considering he was the Creative Director for Resistance Pro Wrestling. It’s really trendy to centre storylines in media around trans issues, sexuality and gender politics, but the stories are being told by cisgender heterosexual people and they are making a quick buck off it. This reads as an advertising tactic or something used to draw in viewers for shock value, and shock isn’t the type of representation needed. As Billy states “Those social and cultural issues that are sort of a ‘don’t go there’ subject will result in themes that will feel more meaningful to current audiences”, I think this should be a don’t go there subject for him and he should stick to what he knows best: writing shitty angsty music that tell no one’s stories but his own.

There are opportunities abound for better representation, but a poorly researched exploitative approach is only going to worsen any positive momentum we have and send the big guns running back to what they are most familiar with. It won’t gain new audience members, but the lowest common denominator is the least frightening option at times.

Rousey + Rock: Represent + Repulse

It seems that the WWE is on the path to try to win the “put the most oppressive people on a pedestal in the shortest period of time” award, and for some reason the mass market doesn’t seem to notice or care. Right now I’m going to be touting a seemingly unpopular opinion, and normally I wouldn’t mind, but this is a huge issue: Ronda Rousey’s cameo was by far the worst part of Wrestlemania 31. “But Rousey’s a tough woman who knows how to fight!”, I can hear you all screeching at me. Don’t you worry your pretty little heads, you’ll come to understand soon.

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Let’s rundown what happened on this weekend’s PPV, okay? We learned that it was the night of the irrelevant celebrity, and even made a little bit of a drinking game out of it for our Burning Brawls segment, so cue The Rock showing up even though he isn’t on the card. I can smell his personal brand of home cooked bullshit from a mile away, but against my better judgement I leaned in and listened to what he had to hear. In what was surely turning into Staring Contest: The Match between Steph McMahon, HHH and The Rock, we got glimmering moments in which someone would speak and maybe even fight. Except, to no one’s surprise, we got a whole boat load of misogyny from The Rock himself. Steph’s entire legacy is built on that of Mr. McMahon’s johnson, an image that we all definitely needed planted in front of us. This won’t make Steph back down, she can cut through you with a glare, and that’s a talent that I admire. The Rock reminds all of us that he can’t hit a girl, I think it’s because he’s afraid of Steph, but it’s more likely that he’s a misogynist and believes he has an unfair advantage due to his being assigned male at birth. So, bye bye, Rock.

Wow, what a pointless promo that lasted twice of what the Divas division got for an entire tag match. But wait, there’s a very angry looking woman glaring at him from the front row. I get momentarily excited until I realize it’s fellow transphobe Ronda Rousey. If you don’t remember, earlier this week I weighed in on The Rock’s casual use of transphobic slurs, so I’ll just skip over that bit and focus on the current issue at hand. Ronda is invited to the ring, at his side, to join in the stare down to end all stare downs, before she puts Steph into a pretty nasty looking arm bar and then takes down HHH.

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Here’s where it gets difficult to remain impartial. I get it, I’m genuinely impressed that the WWE no doubt attempted to do something right in the name of entertainment. Someone at some level is obviously up to speed in what’s what and who’s who in popular culture and they managed to book someone who is currently relevant in the world of sports entertainment. This is following them having let #DadFight take the stage and show us what old broken down wrestlers who no longer have that it factor look like for more than 30 seconds. They also convinced the WWE to let a woman who isn’t a valet, or related to someone important within the company, step into the ring and have lengthy airtime. And lastly, HHH agreed to take a bump from a woman. (Yes, I’m fully aware he took one from Brie last year.) These are all extremely impressive and I’ll give them their props… but I’m taking them away since they massively fucked it up. Intention isn’t magic, and I know you tried but trying doesn’t always give you a passing grade. And, Ronda Rousey, I’m here to tell you that neither does being a cis white woman.

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This tough little number who just took down HHH is the same woman who won’t pipe down about how it’s unfair for fellow MMA fighter, Fallon Fox, to fight in the women’s division. Her reasoning is because Fallon has made the choice to be a trans woman. You read that correctly. In the expert scientific opinion of Ronda (I hope you can smell my sarcasm), Fallon has made the decision to be trans and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to fight women who have had the fortune of being assigned female at birth. This does not apply, however, to intersex folk because they don’t have control over how they went through puberty. Ronda, among other medical experts such as Joe Rogan, tout statements such as “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has”  as their main talking point in the advantage that Fallon has over the cis women within the UFC. All of this, but she has no issue judo throwing HHH. Because, even if it isn’t about her ability to fight Fallon, it would give the wrong social message.

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WWE, you’re continuing to give me the wrong social message as a queer “fan”, and I use that term loosely. It’s obvious that despite your campaigns and your pleas that we’re not welcome here. The internet’s been all a twitter about the idea of Ronda making yet another appearance on your show, which you entertained on last night’s RAW commentary, and the only acceptable appearance she should make is one where her and Brock Lesnar have a match to the death, and the other one implodes after their success of destroying on of their own kind. My universe, and that of the WWE, will be a much happier place once this comes to fruition. Until you’re ready to reach that point, keep Brock on his kayfabe suspension, and the only garbage people I want to see on screen from this point forward are the following:

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Boys Will Be Bigots

“He hurt my feelings.” “Oh well, boys will be boys.” I truly wonder how many times Vince McMahon, and the majority of the talent within the WWE, have heard this excuse used towards their actions over the years. I’m of the mindset that once is too many, but here we are continuing to wrestle with homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, you name it.

So, here we have a company that totes it’s anti bullying campaign, Be A Star, and does everything in their power to go against what they claim to stand for. Hot off the heels of hugely problematic trainer and alleged sexual harasser, Bill DeMott, stepping down from his position within the company, you’d think they’d want to push away from this troubling pattern they’ve been stuck in for so long. Instead, they pay big money to resign Brock Lesnar as one of their mainstays. This is more than just my personal feeling about his wrestling prowess, or lack there of, but solely aimed at what message they are sending by promoting a vocal homophobe and unrepentant stalker. He has, on the record, stated “I don’t like gays. Write that down in your little notebook. I. Don’t. Like. Gays.” Not only is he still signed with the WWE, but he is their champion and the face that they continue to push. They also spent a lot of money to keep him around, and if that isn’t a glowing endorsement of his behaviour, I don’t know what is.

People are going to argue that one person doesn’t constitute a problem, or point out that them keeping queer talent on the roster shows that they are trying to change. I wish I could believe that was the case, but when Darren Young came out the transparency surrounding their statement and maintaining his career to save face was strong. You had a man who you were trying to push fairly hard, only to bury him in your midcard moments after he came out. Pat Patterson has had his sexuality ‘known’ by the public for quite some time, but he only came out officially on WWE Legends’ House. There has also been some allusion from wrestlers, such as Roddy Piper, towards treatment along the lines of sexual harassment from Patterson in the locker room when they were first starting out.

Let me run down a list of other horrific examples of this problem, past and present, that drive this point home.

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Billy and Chuck

Billy and Chuck became a tag team duo that’s sole purpose was to incite gay panic. How quaint. They would have extremely homoerotic workout routines and eventually were engaged to be wed live on television. Fast forward to their ceremony, they are about to be pronounced husband and husband and there is a freak out where it’s revealed that it was all a huge publicity stunt and they weren’t really gay.

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Mark Henry

Mark’s entire gimmick is based around him being a lady’s man. Upon attempting to woo Chyna, who was having none of it, Chyna’s friend Sammy was sent back to take care of Mark. Here’s where I point out to you that Sammy is a cis man dressed as a woman, his purpose is to trick Mark into having sex with him. In wonderful attitude era fashion, we see footage of Sammy going down on Mark Henry backstage. Mark starts to feel up Sammy and then proclaims “Sweet Jesus! You got a penis!” Sammy rips off his wig to reveal he’s actually a man and Mark Henry runs to the washroom to throw up.

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John Cena

It hasn’t been long since John Cena was still rap battling his opponents before a match, most of which were peppered with slurs and wholly oppressive in nature. It didn’t take long before GLAAD actually stepped in to address this issue and steer them away from this continuing to happen. This is yet another man who the WWE has at the helm of their company, and is supposed to be a role model to children, or at least that is how he’s marketed.

This list can go on and on, and that is really disheartening. There are lesbian panic storylines surrounding Rosa on E! Total Divas, the countless times that Lawler has called someone a fag on commentary, the time that the Godfather called Regal a fag in effort to entice a fight, The Rock saying John Cena’s wristbands make him look like a bloated transvestite Wonder Woman ready to fight crime, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Cheap pops aren’t worth it, and there’s no way you can look me dead in the eye and tell me “But he makes us money” when you’re spending ungodly amounts to keep them signed and have my believe you and condone your actions. Once again though, I’m none too convinced that your real slogan isn’t “WWE: You like what we tell you to like.”