You Don't Get to Tell Us to Smile (BetchBox segment Transcript from the January 17, 2019 episode "BLISS-full Ignorance"
The past few weeks in the world of professional wrestling have been something of a telling time when it comes to female narratives in the industry. I can only speak as a fan, and the words I’m about to speak are written as such. I have friends in the industry but I’m not a worker myself and I’ve never claimed to be. But what I am is a woman who has been a fan of professional wrestling for 20 years who has experienced every high and low imaginable as a female fan. My perspective mirrors that of thousands of others in the realm of professional wrestling fans, and I implore you to please listen to what I’m about to say. Remove yourself from a place of judgement and really hear it.
When we started the Married Marks Podcast, I had numerous people tell me that we needed to make sure that we kept content light hearted and happy. I was fed advice from well meaning colleagues and friends alike that if we spent too much time focusing on the negative, we’d lose listeners or even have very little listenership. And that’s true to some degree, our following is modest but loyal and on a slow incline. We love our listeners and are grateful for all of you, but I’ve been criticized in DMs for defending women in the industry and told to be happy that women are gaining so much exposure. I’ve been told that I have to let terms like ‘rat’, ‘whore’, and ‘slut’ slide for the betterment of the male fandom. I’ve been told that I am a minority fan in the world of sports entertainment and that my opinions will never matter or carry weight, so I should be happy that I have what I have and roll with it. I was even told that I should be comfortable with moral ambiguity if I intended to remain a wrestling fan, because that’s just the way it works.
Months later, in retrospect, that just sounds a whole lot like being told I should smile more.
If you’ve ever met me in person, I’m a stupidly happy person. I run through life with the energy of an over-excited puppy most of the time and I have been extremely fortunate in this life. I have a great marriage and have been through numerous experiences that have shaped who I am as a woman. I’ve learned that my intolerance from 20 years ago that was fine with puppies and pudding matches cannot stand in this era, and should never have been accepted in the first place. I’ve turned my back on the attitude era and applauded the addition of more time for women in the WWE and other promotions. I’ve learned loads about race equity work, about gender inclusivity, and about growing as a human. I have so many reasons to be grateful so trust me, I smile PLENTY.
But I shouldn’t have to justify that I smile, or why I call out the things that make me sad, or why I refuse to support certain promotions with my dollar because of whom they book and the way they book those people. The very fact that I have to defend myself as a woman, my perspectives as a woman, and even BEING a woman on the daily is exhausting. I had a friend who is connected with the business tell me this morning that having these discussions over and over again is wiping her out. And she’s right. It’s terrible. The fact that I and many of my colleagues, like the PWGrrlGang, have to live in this constant tireless narrative of defending our right to enjoy things while calling out the troubling is...draining. I’m tired. I would love nothing more than to wake up every morning, worship the ground the classics walk on and be complacent in what the masses are fed.
But we live in a world where a woman using a tampon in a wrestling match inspires outrage and a shaving company can be attacked for calling out masculinity and asking men to do better in the wake of the #MeToo movement. And in this world, the voices garnering so much outrage are important. Voices like Kate Foray, or Felicia Rose, or Lola Bradbury, or Danielle Radford, or Lindsey Kelk, or Moses Malone, or the countless other women and allies in social media (Like Richard) who use their voices to promote progressive equitable opportunity for women in the world of wrestling and in it’s fandom, and in the world in general. You may not agree with all of these women, but their voices are still important to the cause and should be heard.
You do not get to tell us to smile more. You do not get to tell us to turn a blind eye or be silent when our sisters are called whores. You do not get to slut shame, label women, or judge them for the way they live their lives. You do not get to judge their sex lives. You do not get to say boys will be boys and defend the days of old.
In Watchmen, Alan Moore wrote “Everyday the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time.” Nostalgia tints memories, often in a more favorable way. Fans often associate a nostalgic fun time with the past, and that need to cling to nostalgia is part of the bigger problem.
It’s ok to realize that YOU do not have to smile too. But more importantly, you should look at why WE aren’t smiling. And you should ask yourself what you can do to help that. You should talk to promoters in your area and ask them what they’re doing to book women in a fair way and give them billing. I’ve done this and it’s had some really great results. You should call out things that make women uncomfortable at shows. Or hell, just call out the dumb shit behavior in general! Ask people to stop. Report them to security if necessary. This doesn’t mean that you have to be rude. But to do this, you have to do something that is truly remarkable for some of you. You have to do something new.
You have to realize that women in wrestling, in wrestling fandom, in the industry, in general, are treated like shit and told to smile about it. And you have to accept that. And maybe you even have to accept that you have played a part in the unsavory bits of that fact. If you have, that’s ok. Everyone can change if they want to. People have that capacity. But you have to ask yourself, are you coming from a place of minimization? And if you are, what’s the step to fix that?
I’ve never been so happy and sad at the same time as a wrestling fan. I’m sure some angry rager will take this audio and send it around with a negative context, and that’s fine. I hope it makes it to the ears of good people regardless. So share this. Share it with your friends. Share it with your families, with your wrestling buddies, with promoters. Share it with talent in training and ring announcers and people who work at the venues, and other female wrestling fans.
Share it because you want to be the change. Share it because you want wrestling to be better, and you know in your heart it CAN be.
But if you’re hearing this, the most important thing you have to remember is this:
You do not get to tell us to smile more.