Call for Proposals: PCA 2020 in Philly

Calls

From Paul Heyman to Mike Quackenbush, Philadelphia has given birth to some pretty amazing professional wrestling promotions. In the late 1990s, ECW brought a hardcore, grunge aesthetic to sports entertainment. Since 2002, CHIKARA has been bringing more focus to storylines, characters, and amazing matches.

Cue Joey Styles: OH MY GOD!
The Fun-Filled Super Lucha Show!

Because the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association is holding the annual conference in Philadelphia in 2020, we here at PWSA would like to put a panel together looking at ECW, CHIKARA, AEW, and other non-WWE promotions for how they have shaped professional wrestling and popular culture.

But let’s not stop there!

We’ve got the third season of Netflix’s GLOW out, and we are seeing more attention paid to women’s wrestling from AEW to NXT. Also, given the interest displayed on our Twitter account about a GLOW anthology, this panel may be a good place to start that conversation!

So let’s also think about proposing a panel on GLOW: the original series, the Netflix series, and what it has meant for women’s wrestling since the 1980s.

If you are interested in being on either panel, please send to CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (creinhard@dom.edu) a proposal for what you would present. Please send a 250-500 word proposal, a title, and your contact information. These proposals should be sent by October 1st to be considered for the panel. If you have any questions, please contact CarrieLynn at the email above.

Special Edition for PCSJ on Pro Wrestling

Journal Publication

The editors for the Professional Wrestling Studies Association are happy to celebrate this year’s Wrestlemania week with the new special edition of the Popular Culture Studies Journal on professional wrestling.

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This special edition can be accessed for free here. The essays contain work from a variety of scholars on numerous topics related to professional wrestling studies. All academic discussions were written to be accessible for the widest possible audience.

Along with the scholarly work, the collection contains an essay from a fan on New Japan Pro Wrestling, reviews for various pro-wrestling media (from a documentary to a podcast), and interviews with pro-wrestling indie stars on how they view social media in their profession.

You can see the full list of articles and contributors below.

TOC

PWSA would like to thank editors Garret Castleberry, CarrieLynn D. Reinhard, and Christopher J. Olson for overseeing this special edition, as well as reviewers David Beard, Matt Foy, Charles L. Hughes, Jack Karlis, Dan Mathewson, and Catherine Salmon.

Over the summer of 2018, we at PWSA will be working to organize our own open access, free journal to coincide with each year’s Wrestlemania. If you are interested in this journal, then please contact us at prowrestlingstudies@gmail.com.

Tom Phillips on Netflix’s GLOW

Audience Studies

Britain’s real female wrestler activists are better and badder than GLOW’s could ever be.

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Tom Phillips, University of East Anglia

Professional wrestling is a man’s game – or at least that’s what you may be led to believe, thanks to popular favourites such as former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who made an easy transition from wrestling to super-stardom after appearing in a number of blockbuster films.

The “masculine melodrama” presented by modern professional wrestling programmes such as WWE represents the epitome of masculinity, fighting in epic showdowns for a mostly male audience. Of course, there are female wrestlers – as there are female viewers – but WWE has in the past been criticised for its poor portrayal of women. There are those who say WWE aims its coverage at “15-year-old boys who will cheer for any woman so long as she looks sexy”.

Against this backdrop, Netflix’s new hit series GLOW has entered the ring. The show gives a fictional account of the real-life 1980s wrestling television series “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”, which featured exclusively female performers. Starring Alison Brie as Ruth, a struggling actress who needs a new role in order to make a living, GLOW follows a group of women from Los Angeles who, with no prior experience, get involved in a new televised wrestling venture.

GLOW’s feminism is made explicit from the outset. Despite the proposed show ostensibly being about “gorgeous ladies”, the women are literally fighting the male gaze. The nuances of feminism within the show can be seen at first by the replacement of the white male trainer with Cherry Bang, a black woman. With Cherry in charge, the women find their way together, relying only on themselves to figure out how to wrestle.

As the series progresses, the female wrestlers become more confident in using their bodies as part of their performance, ultimately triumphing in the ring and winning over fans with their physical prowess rather than their looks. As Cherry says to her fellow wrestlers: “We’re empowered, we’re the heroes”.

Sydelle Noel as Cherry Bang.
Erica Parise/Netflix

At first glance, GLOW’s strong portrayal overtakes even the newer ideals of WWE, which has recently made small steps to embrace more explicit feminist politics. It has rebranded its “Divas” division as the “Women’s Revolution”, for example, now showcasing female performers who have historically been marginalised at the expense of their male counterparts.

Yet academics have observed that, despite lauding a catalogue of “powerful” women in their promotional materials, WWE still have not outright addressed issues such as “sexism” or “feminism”. Instead, researchers say, they fall back on the fact that “although feminism may be fashionable in many areas of popular culture, it is still too risky to be named outright by a company with legions of male fans”.

Girl gang

So is there any room in the ring for female wrestlers, outside a fictional context? Definitely. London-based Pro-Wrestling:EVE sells itself as “a secret underground feminist, political, socialist, humanist, punk rock wrestling promotion, for those who identify as women and non-binary folk”.

Though it is aimed at fans of all genders, EVE uses wrestling to help women feel empowered. Its founder Emily Read has noted that: “It’s so conditioned in women to be quiet and small, it’s a real hindrance when it comes to wrestling. And I see women learn to be big and loud and take up space”. EVE gives women a place to enjoy being physical: promotional material shows images of bloodied faces and hard-hitting manoeuvres, adorned with slogans such as “fight like a girl”, “support your local girl gang”, and “follow your fucking dreams”.

 

EVE goes further than the scripts of GLOW and political restraints of WWE could ever allow. It encourages taking the feminist physicality outside the ring and into the real world, explicitly endorsing and encouraging political activism. Not only do the official social media feeds for EVE promote their wrestling brand, merchandise and events – but they are also used as a means for political communication.

The company posted material firmly in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign during the June 2017 general election, for example. And when Donald Trump recently used his involvement in wrestling to hint at his own brand of masculinity, EVE printed a Donald Trump-a-like figure on their “piledrive a fascist” t-shirt design.

For EVE and its supporters, women’s wrestling acts as a training ground for feminist practice and a way to build confidence to take political activism into the public arena.

The ConversationWith GLOW being such a big hit, WWE taking small but progressive steps in the right direction and EVE smashing through with a thoroughly empowered ideal, it’s about time that wrestling’s masculine image was redressed. After all, there’s no shame in fighting for your rights like a girl.

Tom Phillips, Lecturer in Humanities, University of East Anglia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.