About “Performance & Pageantry”

How women are presented in wrestling is an odd intersection of what they’re expected to do, who their performance is expected to appeal to, and who gets to be considered “attractive.” Practicality is sometimes shelved, and performance isn’t always at the forefront of their clothing. And as far as I’m concerned, the costuming is the most forward-presenting part of telling the crowd what to expect from a woman in the wrestling ring.

I think that’s all fascinating, so here we are. A blog on musings regarding the clothes, the performances women are given, and how these things work together in wrestling.

I have to pause to say: I am not a wrestling fan, strictly speaking. If you want to read wrestling writing by a wrestling fan, I not-at-all-humbly recommend my husband’s writing, which you can find over on Voices of Wrestling sometimes and on his own blog before that — but mostly on his Twitter (@augustbaker12).

Anyway. I don’t know the names of moves. I cannot talk greatest hits, or why X wrestler is the best/worst, or what happened at Wrestlemania in 1989. I can barely tell when a wrestler is objectively good or bad at their job.1

What I am, however, is related to wrestling fans. Lots of them. My parents watched it when I was at the precious age of 12. My brothers wore Sting shirts when we were in high school. Later, they would teach one of my toddler nephews to respond to his mother scolding him with a firm “You can’t see me.” The Rock was quoted liberally and often. Loudly.

And many years after I’d moved out of the house and stopped thinking about wrestling almost entirely, I started hanging out with my (now) husband, who is also a wrestling fan. I have absorbed it through having spent nearly a decade hanging out while he watches it, yells at it, and tells me about it. I earnestly find it interesting as a narrative and a tool for telling human stories — and damn, do I love to criticize it.

While I have strong feelings about the representation of women in media across all spectrums, I have become oddly invested in women’s wrestling and specifically how they’re presented. It has a lot to do with how they’re dressed. Because when I was an impressionable pre-teen, female wrestlers weren’t there to perform any badassery — they were essentially strippers. And while I think that sexuality can convey power, there’s a difference between a woman being sexualized for consumption and using sexuality as a weapon.

When I started absorbing wrestling again with my husband in 2011, they were still called “Divas.” Their belt was a glittery pink butterfly. While that’s certainly changed drastically in the last eight years, there’s still a lot of holdover of “this product is for men, and these women are for their consumption.”

What to Expect

Current plans are to post once a week (Sundays, probably), and on what… well, we’ll see. At the moment the most likely wrestling I encounter in our household are WWE and New Japan — and the latter is lacking in women, other than Taichi coming out with arm-candy. I may expand out! We’ll have to see where this project takes me.

A few notes on language:

I am unlikely to use the word “female,” as it reads really clinical to me. There are not, to my knowledge, any out trans women or non-binary wrestlers in WWE (and boy, there is a topic we could sit with for a damn long time). As I said above — while I may branch out later, at the moment that’s my pool. I’ll use the pronouns “she/her,” and refer to wrestlers as women until I know otherwise.

Please do not hesitate to correct pronouns and language, if I’ve incorrectly gendered or named someone! I’m on Twitter (@CleverlyTitled) and the comments on posts are currently open.

1. With the exception of Ricochet. Ricochet is perfect and I will hear no argument on this topic.