Several weeks back, #GiveDivasAChance began trending on Twitter. It didn’t go unnoticed by the WWE brass, as they started using it on television… but what really changed as a result? Sure, the matches in the division have had a bit more time given to them, but the actual focus on these women have been all but forgotten.
Wait… did I say women? I’m sorry, WWE calls them Divas. Wrestling fans (or Sports Entertainment fans, if you insist) have been conditioned to use that phrase to describe their female athletes for well over a decade now. And while fans have probably become numb to the word, those who don’t watch the product aren’t numb and when they hear the word they don’t immediately think of athletic and charismatic women. Why would they?
Long before WWE coined the word, Diva was used to describe someone who was, more or less, a prima donna. It described someone who was self centered and looked down on those around her. Someone who thought of herself as being better than anyone else and getting catty with anyone who disagreed. It was more glitz and glamour than talent. That’s what Vince McMahon decided to brand all the women on his television show (except for one female, named Stephanie, but I’m sure that was just an oversight on his part).
So, after being branded Divas, the focus on athletic competition slowly faded away, culminating with the retirements of Trish Stratus and Lita. What we were left with were a bunch of Divas, pulling hair, arguing over hairspray, and calling each other fat pigs. Actually, the division still had decent matches for a while, and didn’t solely rely on those tactics, but when you call them all a bunch of Divas, that’s usually what sticks out in your mind.
So now, we have a roster full of Divas, fighting over a belt (pardon the term, Mr. McMahon) with a purple butterfly on it, with very little direction. We just had one of the best female, in-ring performers retire and yet her last big feud consisted of her and her “frenemy” trying to “out crazy” one another while hinting at an underlying sexual tension between the two. “It makes sense to me, pal! You know how crazy women are! Haw has hawww!” I’m sure something like that was said backstage to justify the AJ/Paige program… but I have NO idea who would have said it though…
And that really seems to be the underlying problem. The WWE “creative” team doesn’t know how to book women’s wrestling. Well, technically they don’t know how to book ANY wrestling since they’re not writing for a “wrestling” company, but that’s beside the point. These writers seem to have no idea how women behave in real life. They seem to think that the only way two women can have an issue with one another is to call each other a skank and then make references to their weight.
But, of course, these writers aren’t writing for women. They’re writing for Divas. Funny enough, WWE does still have a Women’s division. It’s in their developmental “territory” NXT. And, even funnier, is the fact that these women are given purpose driven storylines and put on amazing matches, all while competing for a belt that doesn’t have a butterfly on it. And it’s all being booked by a guy who’s married to the one female on WWE television NOT called a Diva. I’m sure that last point is irrelevant, but I couldn’t resist making it.
So, what’s my point? The only way these women can truly be given a chance is if they’re taken seriously. There are a lot of talented women on the roster, who work hard at what they do. The current champion, Nikki Bella might be the hardest working person on the roster. Seriously, she’s put a lot of work into her in ring skills and it shows. But her last title defense at Extreme Rules had no story to it. In fact, after spending the last 9 months as the top heel in the division, Nikki was inexplicably the babyface… who won by cheating, no less!
This wouldn’t fly in other companies, whether sports related or otherwise. People in an office wouldn’t call their female employees Divas no more than the WNBA would call their players Divas. I’m sure WWE would never call an office employee in Stanford a Diva. I could go on and on about the Why Factor (as in “Why does Vince see them this way?”) and go back in time and make references to Terri Runnels portraying a woman who faked a miscarriage, Trish Stratus barking like a dog, and anything from Sable circa 2004, but I’ll refrain. In fact I don’t care about the “why”, what I care about is the “when.”
When will these women finally see a change. When will the WWE realize they’re leaving money on the table by not promoting a division that could make a real connection with the under-appreciated female fan base? When will they decide to focus on the women’s division the same way they do the males, giving them real, meaningful characters that don’t rely on tropes, stereotypes, and sexism to get over and letting them showcase their athleticism in the ring. When will WWE realize that the Divas had their chance, now let the women have theirs.