I remember thinking in 2001 how great it would be to see a WWE Pay-Per-View that was just women’s matches. I fantasy booked the show, made online images as a campaign for a show I dubbed “Ladies Night.”
I also remember being told, mostly by guys, that it would never happen.
Now, almost 20 years later, it is happening. For real.
And I’m being told that it’s just WWE reaching for good PR, just trying to cash in on commercialized empowerment, just trying to make up for the Greatest Royal Rumble. To which I say, “duh,” “they’re a major corporation, what do you expect?” and “good, they should be,” in that exact order. Because while most of my reaction to the announcement of WWE Evolution has been cynical and jaded, I wish it could be the reaction from my 18 year-old self.
There’s nothing like trying to scream at your own brain “will you just let me HAVE THIS?” Can my own mind, for maybe just a few weeks, allow me to be optimistic about something? I know it is asking a lot, but hey, maybe for a little while I can shed my carefully cultivated “okay, but this is why it actually sucks” persona, drop the desire to over-analyze and shout the most buzzkill take possible from the rooftops and, here’s an idea, be happy about something even if I know it won’t be perfect?
I would assume I’d be better at this. After all, I grew up in the 80’s, when cartoons were glorified cartoon commercials. I was a teenager in the mid to late 90’s, where “Girl Power” was a slogan co-opted from a genuine punk movement and used by a manufactured British pop group. I’m a product of the MTV generation, I’ve been sold to since the moment I was born.
But for me, especially as a teenager, this didn’t matter. I found my empowerment where I could, in spite of the packaging. I’d pretend to be She-Ra, Jem and Rainbow Brite as a kid while I dreamed of adventures…and possibly owning a magical horse. I had a group of friends who all picked the Sailor Scout (yes this was before they were Senshi/Soldiers in the US) we were most like. I liked the Spice Girls, I had missed out on Riot Grrrl for a number of reasons, and the idea of a group of women talking about friendship and empowerment struck me. When I got stuck while rock climbing the place I drew inspiration from was Lara Croft, who at the time was still meant to appeal mostly to guys who liked big boobs. Buffy Summers was created by a man who we’ve since discovered is the antithesis of the feminist he claimed to be, but she’s still the reason I made it through high school.
Looking back I can tell you why every single bit of this is wrong today. Find all the flaws and the reasons I was actually being duped into identifying with these characters. I’m smarter about it, I’m doing the right thing because I’m demanding purity and honesty, right?
Look, to tie this all back in with WWE Evolution, of course it’s the company capitalizing on it for money and PR. Vince McMahon doesn’t care about empowering a single one of the women on that stage during the announcement. I can call every single motive that Stephanie and Triple H have into question as well. I can rip this whole thing apart and tell you why it’s just a bunch of lies upon lies upon lies.
But I can also admit that seeing what Bayley and Sasha Banks each posted to Twitter afterwards brought tears to my eyes. Seeing Alicia Fox, who worked with WWE through some of their worst years for booking and exploiting women, front and center during the announcement made my heart swell. So did watching Asuka and Ember Moon immediately hug each other when they heard the news.
The show will also fix one of my only criticisms of last year’s Mae Young Classic, which was that little was done to promote the tournament itself and absolutely no build up was given to the finale. This year, the final match will be held as part of a heavily advertised special, meaning that the tournament itself is going to need to be featured much more prominently. Plus, all three Women’s Titles will be defended and I have to wonder if we’ll see an NXT UK Women’s Title introduced in time as well. Maybe even the rumored Women’s Tag Team Titles could show up.
And if there were anything that could make me want to defend this, it’s that immediately I saw a certain type of regressive, edgy dudes start trying to take it away and denigrate it. The first comment I saw in response to a tweet about the announcement was “bring back the 2 minute piss break matches.” Followed by hilarious demands for an all men’s PPV as if there wasn’t just one in April or, as Wreddit helpfully provided, 110 of them available on the WWE Network for just $9.99 a month…and your first month is FREE. Screams about how “isn’t this just reverse sexism” which, maybe one day I’ll break down the concept of history and power structures to you but right now I’m just going to tell you to shut up. Threats of “no one will watch or attend!!!” were there, and honestly if that means the kind of guys I’ve dealt with at shows chanting about Alexa Bliss’s butt won’t be there, I’m getting tickets immediately. If the entire audience is just other women and men who are actually going to show performers and fellow attendees respect it would probably be the most positive audience experience I’d ever had (this is assuming this audience was also going to be respectful intersectionally, which, let’s admit, is a pretty huge assumption on my part).
To be honest, just writing this down has made me feel better. This probably isn’t the last time I’ll take about this, it might even turn into a continuing series leading up to the Evolution show as I process my own feelings.
We earned this. We’re allowed to have this win if we want it.
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