Dress Sexy: Latest Revelation Shows WWE's Treatment of Women Isn't Just Appalling, It May Be Crossing a Line

Back in October in this space I asserted that the booking of the Queen’s Crown tournament was the last piece of the façade of the "women’s revolution" to fall as WWE fully backslid into the abyss of Divas Era-style booking. NXT 2.0 has been ground zero for this reversion to the worst, most misogynistic instincts of WWE management/creative in the same way it was ground zero for the "women’s revolution". In a new bombshell interview with Chris Van Vliet, Athena (FKA Ember Moon) revealed just how dire things have gotten behind the scenes for women in WWE. Her revelations not only describe a company that’s no longer even trying to hide its misogyny and myopic opinion of women’s wrestling, it describes a company that’s engaging in what could be considered systemic sexual harassment of its female employees.

Athena detailed the circumstances that led to her departure including losing her tag team partner Shotzi Blackheart to a sudden main roster call-up, an aborted heel turn and character reset, and ultimately being asked to be a coach before dropping a shocking tidbit. "We would have to sit through these stupid meetings about how we’d have to dress sexy". According to Athena these meetings weren’t brief asides but full-fledged two-hour sessions about how to dress like Mandy Rose. It should be noted that Athena had no issue with Rose but simply knew that not everyone could do what Rose could do. The idea of two-hour meeting on how to dress sexy is extremely disturbing. A change of philosophy is one thing but institutionalizing misogyny is another. By holding these meetings WWE is essentially teaching their female wrestlers how to turn themselves into eye candy, teaching them how to objectify themselves, and get over on their appearance as opposed to their actual in-ring skill. This feels like a codification of Divas Era thinking and it’s truly disgusting given the progress WWE made with its women’s division between 2014 and 2020.

That this is happening now isn’t surprising though. WWE began giving up on the elaborate multi-year PR scam they called the "Women’s Revolution" during the Pandemic Era in 2020. What seemed like laziness cause by the disruption COVID wrought on WWE and the world writ large quickly turned into the dismantling of any notion that WWE cared at all about its women. Women’s stories began to significantly decline in quality. A large number of women were released over the course of 2021 including some who had been called up to Raw or Smackdown from NXT but never actually got sustained pushes. The biggest sign that things were changing for the worse for the women however was the return of John Laurinaitis to his former role as head of talent relations. During his previous tenure in that position Laurinaitis was responsible for undoing all the hard work Trish Stratus, Lita, and their contemporaries did to legitimize a women’s division stuck in the sexist quagmire of bra and panties matches. Laurinaitis’ return to power was as sure a sign as any that WWE’s female talent recruitment practices were likely going to change. It was the implementation of the change that was particularly egregious and underhanded. Triple H, the head of NXT, and person most responsible for the "women’s revolution" being a thing in the first place, went into what he recently revealed was severe heart failure and was forced to undergo life-saving heart surgery which forced him to step away from his executive duties for a while. It was during this time that all vestiges of Hunter’s vision and version of NXT were ripped out as the brand was re-christened NXT 2.0. It was also during this time that everything changed for Athena and the other women as that’s when these degrading and insulting meetings were instituted. It takes a special kind of cruel person to destroy your son-in-law’s pet project while he’s fighting for his life but that’s Vincent Kennedy McMahon for you. He specializes in cruelty. Look at the focus on Toxic Attraction, Sarray's fetishized Japanese schoolgirl character, and the presentation of Nikita Lyons, whose entire sexualized aesthetic instantly became a meme and it’s clear that these changes are taking effect.

Besides being incredibly demeaning to current and aspiring female wrestlers who want to be taken seriously for their in-ring talent, these meetings may very well cross into the realm of systemic workplace sexual harassment. When most people think of workplace sexual harassment, they think of a boss making unwanted sexual advances or implying or outright saying that a female employee won’t be promoted or will be terminated if she doesn’t provide sexual favors. Obviously, this not what’s being suggested to be going on behind the scenes of WWE. However, it’s certainly not farfetched to assume that a sustained push is contingent on participating in these meetings and dressing in what the out of touch old men in charge deem as "sexy". Because a sustained push is advancement in a wrestling workplace, that could be construed as sexual harassment. That’s all speculative of course, I’m a historian not a lawyer after all. What isn’t speculative though is the fact that WWE subjecting their female talent to these insulting meetings, meetings the male talent obviously don’t have to partake in, is the height of sexism and misogyny. I can only imagine how female wrestlers who are as uncomfortable with "sexy" directive as Athena was, must feel. Some of them came to WWE years into the "women’s revolution" scam believing things were different and there were opportunities only to find themselves in a world of misogyny they can never overcome. It’s repulsive and it’s truly sickening that in 2022 WWE sees their female talent not as world-class athletes but as objects for their male fans to lust after with seemingly no consideration for their female fanbase at all.

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