Rob chimes in with his perspective on #SpeakingOut and what steps we can take next.
Well the long predicted reckoning has arrived in the wrestling business. Earlier this week the hashtag #SpeakingOut emerged with the stories of a multitude of women telling their stories about being abused and sexually assaulted by men in the wrestling business. Some of these men run schools, some of them are bookers, some of them are wrestlers themselves. The list got longer and longer, and while most of them are from the UK scene some are American and this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. The stories range from verbal abuse to sexual harassment to various degrees of sexual assault, in cars, in hotels, in elevators, and other places. The victims are from all over the wrestling world and some were as young as 12 or 13 when they were first victimized.
There are going to be more names, and not just obscure indie guys that no one outside of Wrestling Twitter has heard of. There will be more guys who work at major companies being accused of things that took place both before they signed with and while they are at their current employer. This is not the time to swear by your favorite or fly the flag of one company over another; if you have an opinion this is not the time to be going loud and proud on the timeline with it. We don’t know these guys just like we don’t know any other celebrities or performers so to ride with anyone because you think they wouldn’t do that is not a good idea. But there’s another hard reality in that most of the stories are not going to lead to a concrete resolution. There aren’t going to be any admissions of guilt and won’t be a lot of smoking gun evidence, and there may not be any criminal proceedings at all so it’s going to come down to how each person’s employer judges their individual case and whether or not it’s bad for business to keep them employed. Some of these guys are going to fight the allegations, and will succeed in casting some level of doubt. Some guys are going to get run out of the business but a lot of guys won’t. No different than every other industry that has these problems (aka all of them). This is going to be messy and will not solved quickly and easily.
Now is there anything that can be done to clean the business up today and at least decrease the chances of things getting this bad again? Yes. I have a few ideas, but the floor needs to be open to as many as possible. Here’s what I got:
Virtually every company from WWE on down to local indies have people in high places who are from an era where things like sexual harassment and even sexual assault were allowed or ignored. They need to go, or at very least be put in positions where they aren’t influencing how wrestlers are treated or can engage in any bad behavior themselves. I don’t expect every single one of them to be banished for life because in every industry men who get shamed out of a job for all forms of misconduct are looking to work their way back in almost immediately and several of them succeed. But we need to get as many of them as possible out and keep up the pressure on every company to keep them out.
There need to be more women specifically in decision making positions, and not just ones that involve other women. There need to be younger people, more people of color, and more people who aren’t old, heterosexual men who’ve been around since the 1980s or earlier. That won’t fix everything but it’s a change that needs to be made in order to improve the conditions on the ground. And while you can’t police what everyone does at hotels, in cars, and other places away from the office and in arenas the overall tone and environment you foster at the workplace at least establishes a standard, one that can be used to address any inevitable future problems. But allowing a wild west situation to remain the norm does not help at all, and to begin putting that to rest for good some of these men need to move on.
There seems to have been a virtual explosion of wrestling schools over the past 15 years, along with a lot of people getting into the business at extremely young ages. Some of the women speaking up were as young as 12 or 13 when they were first targeted by the men who preyed on them. Now maybe I’m wrong but I don’t see any good reason for anyone running a school to prepare people for a job should be taking anyone who realistically should not be working that job for another eight to ten years. Bringing in teenage boys and girls to learn at your school or book for your promotion is a thing that should not be happening. Even if your intentions are not bad you’re offering up kids to people looking for victims to take advantage of. Kids who love wrestling want to be in or around the business and are going to want to go the local wrestling school but you’re an adult who should know better than to indulge them or their parents. Now we can’t trust people to take these measures up themselves so there needs to be regulation and licensing that can be revoked for noncompliance.
The kind of environment that makes this all possible isn’t just perpetrated by companies and wrestlers, it’s also born among fans. Lots of websites and dirtsheets are run by dudes with serious misogyny issues. Fan forums, be they on Facebook, Reddit, or wherever are chock full of ‘ring rat’ stories, rumors, and flat out disparaging comments about women wrestlers and fans. There are a million YouTube guys who trade in this stuff also. Stop frequenting them. Stop giving passes to guys with these problems because they otherwise have ‘good takes’ or say things you like to hear. Stop trying to ‘debate’ rape apologists who have nothing to offer other than a ‘well, actually’ to what are serious allegations. Most of these guys haven’t added anything to the fan experience as it is and many of them have made a lot of people miserable. You have zero to gain from interacting with any of them. And for the love of God stop sharing their crappy posts for your friends/followers to dunk on. The worst thing you can do is give them a bigger platform than they already have.
It’s bad right now and it’s gonna get worse over the next several days. But there’s a chance for things to turn out better in the long run, which is what everyone involved should push for. Real change isn’t just a bunch of guys rightfully fired and run out of the business today, it’s if the conditions that led to all this are not allowed to reconfigure once the heat dies down and business resumes. Until then, allow the women coming forward to say their piece and seek the peace that they are looking for. And for God’s sake stop playing twitter detective, will you? You aren’t Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tracy, or Bruce Wayne you’re a guy on the internet. There is absolutely nothing you are adding to the process by using your 280 characters to fire off your takes as to why (insert name here) didn’t do it and how those women be lying. You’re not helping anyone and you’re only making it worse for the victims to come out. Which should be the most important thing, not saving your favorite wrestlers’ career.