Women Are Making History in WWE, And You Don't Want to Miss It

By Rebecca Grandahl

On August 20th, 1920, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in all states, giving women in America the right to vote. Finally, women legally were able to use their own voices in determining the fate of their country. But their fight was just beginning. Today, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, and in most countries, women only earn 60-75% of a man’s earnings for the exact same work.

These facts have been out there for the world to take and use, and WWE certainly has used them. The WWE, also known as World Wrestling Entertainment, has in the past several years given its women’s wrestling division a gigantic push into the spotlight. This has been a colossal movement for a sport that was previously almost entirely male-dominated.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the WWE pushed female wrestlers as objectified sexual objects, putting on “bra and panties matches” where the entire objective of the match was to undress the other woman into only her bra and underwear. They also had inter-gender wrestling, wherein males would beat females on stage in front of a live audience. Bikini and lingerie contests were also popular during this time.

Before they could progress, they had to regress. The women’s title was completely devalued by only giving it to the “sexiest” women, and soon after the title was changed to the “Diva’s” championship belt, creating a new era where women were not called women, but “Divas.”

It was not until Wrestlemania 32 when Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, who graduated from Boston University’s Communications school in 1998, pulled aside the female wrestlers and announced that they would no longer be addressed as Divas that things began to change.

“You will no longer be referred to as Divas, you will simply be ‘Superstars,’” McMahon said in a meeting with the female wrestlers before Wrestlemania. “There is no reason why there should be any difference between the caliber of performance of our male and female performers.”

Wrestlemania 32 took place in April of 2016. Within the last two years of the announcement, WWE has made great strides with their female performers, bringing in a number of historic matches to raise the women’s value to the same level as the males.

October 30th, 2016 marked the first ever Women’s Hell In a Cell match, a battle that had long been remarked as a brutal matchup involving opponents trapped inside a 20-foot-tall steel cage with access to weaponry such as tables, chairs, and kendo sticks. Sasha Banks, a 24-year-old Latina wrestler, took on Charlotte Flair, daughter of 16-time-world-champion Ric Flair. The match ended when Sasha Banks was slammed to a table and pinned, leaving many to wonder if Banks was seriously injured.

Following the historic Hell In a Cell match, the first women’s TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs) match aired on November 29th, 2016, where 5-foot-tall wrestler Alexa Bliss won by power bombing the larger Becky Lynch all the way through a table. Seven months later, the first women’s Money in the Bank ladder match occurred on June 18th, 2017, stirring the pot by having a man hand the award to a woman, literally giving her the win. The public was outraged, proving how far the WWE universe had come from supporting bikini contests to wanting the women to get their titles for themselves, without any male impediment. Less than a month later, the first-ever women’s Mae Young Classic occurred from July 13-14th, 2017, showcasing independent female wrestlers from around the globe.

Yet one of the year’s most widely-anticipated matches was the first women’s Royal Rumble, where 30 women participated in one match, eliminating each other one by one until only a single female remained. The match, which aired on January 28th, 2018, brought in old female wrestlers who got a chance to shine after their time being sexually objectified in the WWE previously.

The company continues to move forward with women, having had their first female Elimination Chamber match less than a month ago and scheduling a first women’s Rumble match for Wrestlemania 34 this coming April.

The wrestling company has not hesitated in moving women up as valuable performers. As they set a model in the world of sports and entertainment, so too will the fanbase follow. You don’t need to love or know the world of wrestling to feel the empowerment that WWE is bringing to women — knowing that women are being paid to travel globally and showcase their brute power and confidence is enough to be felt worldwide. For more gender inequality facts, check out my source here.

 

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