Content note: discussion of sexual assault, domestic violence, homophobia
So, we’re out of breast cancer awareness month and into November, and I can’t help but think of charities I’d like to see the WWE represent, or causes I’d like to see them talk about. They’ve got a really unique platform in that they can talk to a large age range of various genders about a number of issues. Now, I’m not suggesting that we have a Susan G Komen moment every week, with a different cause, because people would steadily grow tired of seeing inspirational messages instead of wrestlers beating the hell out of each other, but here’s a few ideas I’ve got for causes the WWE could do great things for.
Male rape survivors
There was a big push in the UK for a while, with posters showing rugby balls, punctured, with the slogan ‘Real men get raped, and talking about it takes real strength’. There’s a lot of pressure on men who get raped not to report it, not to mention it, and to live with it themselves, because it’s seen as less than manly, seen as weak – we won’t get into the patriarchal issues which cause men to think something isn’t manly because it mostly happens to women. The WWE has a lot of huge guys, with muscles and tough kayfabe personas, and I think it would do a world of good for them to use that to talk about how you don’t have to be small, or weak, or meek to be raped, that it’s something which doesn’t happen because of who you are, but who someone else is.
Sure, I’d like to see the WWE talk about rape in any context, but as a survivor myself, I know how unlikely it would be that I’d want to stand in a ring surrounded by huge men who could easily hold me down if they wanted to, and talk about my life experiences. I also know that people will say they can’t talk about rape, because there are kids in the audience, and kids watching at home, and that then people would have to talk to their kids about what rape is. Good. If your kid is old enough to watch a violent soap opera where people literally talk about how they’re going to rip their opponents in half, or talk about devouring their souls, then conversations about consent are never going to be a bad idea.
Rape crisis services need all the help they can get, and it would look good to show that, hey, we might show you violence twice to three times a week on TV, but we’re not actually violent guys – and we’re certainly not the sort of people who rape.
Who should talk about it: bigger guys who can give good face, look sympathetic, and talk well
Who shouldn’t talk about it: anyone incapable of expressing emotion, Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler
Domestic violence survivors
When you run a business full of big men who beat each other up, you need to talk about domestic violence. We’ve had Steve Austin up on DV charges before, and yet he still gets time within the company, because he’s a sellable icon. I’m not saying the WWE need to fire everyone who’s ever been involved in a whiff of a scandal, but addressing their stance on domestic violence would be a brilliant start to making the company as a whole seem kinder and more reasonable. The stats on domestic violence going up after big sports events should also be a concern to them, as even though I suspect the Superbowl causes a lot more incidents, who knows whether people respond to Wrestlemania the same way?
Getting some of the Divas in on this would be a good idea, although having exclusively women speak would give the wrong message, and suggest that it’s not a man’s issue, when clearly the way to stop men abusing women is for… men to stop. We already have a ban on male-on-female violence within matches (although making it alright for a woman to slap a man is putting it on dodgy ground, frankly) due to ties to Mattel and not being able to show that sort of thing in case it leads to domestic violence, so why not take a step further and talk about it? Mentioning how hard it can be to leave, how people need help, how it’s not just about people staying because they want to, but because they have no other choice – these would all be great topics to bring up.
Who should talk about it: Divas, babyfaces, older superstars
Who shouldn’t talk about it: Steve Austin, any other wrestlers with DV charges
The WWE has a complicated history with gender and sexuality, as shown over the years with various wrestlers pushing the lines of gender roles in the Attitude era, and some kayfabe gay relationships. Their one openly gay wrestler, Darren Young, came out to support from fellow wrestlers and the company as a whole, which was great to see. The WWE need to admit that there are and will be a number of people who discover aspects of their sexuality or gender identity while watching their product – they’ve got a host of gorgeous people in the best physical shape of their lives, and young people are always going to be attracted to that.
While Stephanie McMahon has her anti-bullying campaign, I think focussing on LGBT+ youth would to the WWE a world of good on the national stage, as well as giving a lot of support to youth outreach charities who need the money, support, and publicity. The WWE need to put their money where their mouth is on LGBT+ rights – and if Darren Young was willing to speak on this, or any stars felt supported and wanted to come out, that would give positive representation for a group who need more support and better role models.
Who should talk about it: Darren Young, anyone with LGBT+ family/ personal stories, young wrestlers
Who shouldn’t talk about it: older superstars – keep it current
This should be an easy one. Female wrestlers have it hard – your body is property, your ring clothes are ridiculously skimpy, and you do little dances on the way into the ring because heaven forbid you walk like the men can. There’s a lot of sexism inherent in the WWE, and that needs to change as quickly as possible; NXT does a brilliant job of booking the Divas’ matches, and I’d like to see more of that in the WWE as a whole. But within the WWE, everyone is only as good as their body, only as strong as their last match, and a lot of merchandise and toys are sold on the basis of attractiveness, across the gender spectrum. So the last thing a WWE Diva needs is to find herself without adequate birth control, ways to take care of her own body, or access to abortion services.
Planned Parenthood has been under attack in a lot of places recently, and seeing the WWE come out in support of them, or any other large scale reproductive health organisation would be incredible. It would send a message about how the WWE supports women, how they treat their own roster in terms of reproductive health, and how they want those options to be available to all. It would also give the Divas a chance to talk about their own lives, if they wanted to, and about how they relate to other women, which is incredibly important.
Who should talk about it: women
Who shouldn’t talk about it: literally anyone else
Obviously, I’m suggesting a number of these as they are personal to my experiences, and issues I think could do with more support overall – and where the WWE can come out looking good, as well as supporting important issues. Let me know in the comments if you think there are some I’ve missed, or other causes the WWE should be supporting.