Abraham Zennie interviews Francesca Zappitelli in a 43 minute video. The discussion explores women’s entry and rise into the world of professional wrestling. It is a recent entertainment phenomenon and women are becoming the main events.Other topics covered are the culture, current issues, and briefly its connection to the fitness world. Francesca Zappitelli has wrestled in various independent companies and even has done mixed wrestling for websites. She is now taking on the role of actor and filmmaker in her documentary A Ballerina I Am Not. There are many WWE stars that appear in the documentary. There seems to be the phenomenon of the physically strong woman becoming more visible in pop culture and society. There are some controversies that are revealed in the interview. Topics such as violence and the gender constructs are mentioned. Although professional wrestling is more of a spectacle, it does take strength and skill. Wrestlers do get hurt and the moves are real. As for the rivalries presented these are nothing more than storylines made for audiences and their entertainment. Women are entering professional wrestling in larger numbers and now there are more platforms.
Francesca Zappitelli explains there is no single avenue to get into the world of professional wrestling. It is a matter of simply doing research and remaining focused on goals.
It never hurts to have an inspiration. Zappitelli reveals that her main inspiration was Rachel Mclish the first Ms. Olympia. She did compete in one bodybuilding show at age 18. Francesca said she loved the discipline and being in shape. However, Frankie then claims she wanted more. Specifically she wanted to be more of a performer and to test her physical limits. To Francesca simply posing on stage would seem dull and uninspiring. The acting and performance element is what caught her attention. This was her childhood dream. The irony is that female bodybuilders actually do wrestle. Session wrestling has been a part of the sport probably for as long as it has existed. Francesca did mixed wrestling videos under the name Frankie, wrestling both men and women. With the internet sites a have appeared to cater to this interest. She does not mention this in the interview, but is more or less an open secret that there are men who like to wrestle strong women. Once thought to be in the realm of fetish, now mixed wrestling clubs have emerge were men and women wrestle and test their skills. Mixed wrestling existed before the rise of session wrestling. Now it seems many women in bodybuilding are offering them to finance their sport. It is not just women in the bodybuilding class,but in fitness, bikini, figure, and physique . There was a point in which this would have been unthinkable.
Women with such strength and bodies have radically changed what people associate women with. Mr. Abraham realized that in reality this world of female muscle is a $5 billion dollar industry. There is a growing demand for the physically strong woman, but the market and distribution is disjointed. It comes out in pockets never weaved together. The strong woman is finding mainstream success in professional wrestling, however women struggle in the bodybuilding world due to it being mostly subcultural. If these two mainstream and subcultural venues were to ally it would be a positive event for women. At one time it seemed like that was happening. Ann Marie Cooks and Christy Wolf were bodybuilders who entered the world of wrestling.
Their tenures were not long, but they did provide fans of the WCW with much entertainment. Chyna during the 1990s to early 2000s was one of the most popular wrestlers. Chyna was also a bodybuilder before becoming a wrestler. There is a connection between wrestling and fitness, yet the two worlds seem separate. Women in the past had few opportunities to wrestle. Wrestling was seen as a male only activity and women were not even allowed to wrestle along side men in the same venue. There was a cultural shift that came with Title IX and the feminist movement. Young girls started playing more sports than ever before and society they had more opportunities in employment, education, and having an independent life. Women were no longer stopped from activities that were thought to be men’s domain. The entry into sports created a new type of woman. It was a woman that projected physical skill and strength thought to be a biological impossibility. Dated cultural beliefs and body image held some women back, but other embraced this new paradigm and pushed their bodies further. Women were should developed muscle in various sports,but the highest level of development came from female bodybuilding . Their muscles were defined and larger than anyone had seen before. Wrestlers like the Fabulous Moolah had to break barriers to get to wrestle while women of today have it much easier. Mary Ellison had to challenge the law so that women could wrestle in Madison Square Garden along side men. Women can now wrestle and display powerful physiques.
While there has been progress this project is continuing. There has to be progress in terms of other areas of society, but sometimes it helps when one area is taken care of. Relative to the sports world the progress of women seems immense in such a short period of time. This movement seems to be a small one, but growing. There is a push in fitness among women who are engaged in a women’s physical culture movement.
The progress Zappitelli mentions is that women are embracing the new physical culture movement and it is not just in America. Japan like America has a tradition of wrestling that women are no strangers to. They fight and do acrobatics as well as perform in a similar manner in the US. The Japanese, like Americans enjoy the spectacle and antics of the athletes. Traditional wrestling also has a long history in other parts of the world. Senegal has a tradition of laamb ( a term for wrestling culture ). Women are now becoming active wrestlers, despite conservative objections.
The new women’s physical culture movement has clearly spread around the world. women now are competing in higher numbers at the Olympics. The year 2016 saw more women competing in various categories around the world. There are countries that still need to make progress. Saudi Arabia for example is still attempting to increase its number of female athletes. There has been a paradigm shift in many regards. The first one is that there is no contradiction between femininity and muscle. Traditionally femininity was define as soft and delicate in body, while being modest in behavior. Women are not only projecting physical strength they are showing it proudly. A new sense of confidence. Women are not afraid to show they can be strong or be stronger than a man. The cultural shift is that there are people who are embracing this either moderately or enthusiastically. The fans of female bodybuilding were the first to understand the beauty of it and mainstream society is merely catching up. Women are lifting weights seeking to tone, which really means building muscle. Every woman is not attempting to reach a level of an athlete, but the gym is no longer a male only space. Television and the internet make the physically strong woman more visible.
The physically fit female has appeared in various forms. it depends on how far women want to take it and what their goals are. Francesca states their needs to be more change and their has to be more done. While their is some level on acceptance, there will always be backlash to change. The female physical culture movement has also stretched out to different age groups. Senior citizens are getting involved in exercise and girls are involved in sports like their brothers. Although there has yet to be major leagues for women in baseball or tackle football they are playing these sports. There are women in the US who have organized their own tackle football leagues without NFL assistance. Women are now experiencing the joys of strength and fitness, which men have enjoyed much longer. Society has changed because it was demanded. There have of course been muscular women prior to modern professional sports. The difference is that women in human history have never reached this level of physical prowess or power before. It is uncertain what the future holds, but the evolution is not complete.
The interview goes into the subject of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. Women who go into male dominated fields often face sexual harassment and wrestling is no exception. Such behavior is unacceptable and must be punished. However, there is a problem with the new hash tag movement #me too . Women must realize such sexual misconduct should be reported immediately. Waiting a week and longer to do so allows for culprits to escape changes and punishment. This only makes it more difficult to capture such people. Another problem is there is a tendency to label all men as potential rapists. The strange and somewhat offensive slogan of “teach men not to rape” is another third wave feminist campaign that demonizes all men. Boys are not taught by their fathers to rape women. There are sexist convictions that may be transferred from environment and culture. To say that rape happens because boys are taught it from a young age, ignores the complexities of the problem. Crimes such as rape happen due to some men wanting to assert power and dominance over women. These criminals believe women are easy targets. They view women as sex objects and victims. Their is a tendency to blame entertainment and media for such behavior, but this does not explain such criminal acts occurring before the rise of such media. This is how the rape culture theory falls apart. Simply telling such aggressive individuals not to attack someone is as futile as telling a racist to accept people as equals. The solution requires women to be proactive and good men to be allies. Women must learn self defense and understand that not every man they meet is going to be a good one. Women tend to not have such a great judgement of character in regards to some men. They could end up in abusive relationships with men they thought were decent.
Women should learn to protect themselves, rather than be dependent on men for protection. The idea that women are too weak to defend themselves is harmful especially in a world becoming more violent. This also goes back to cases of domestic violence. Francesca and Mr. Abraham discuss what they see as a trend in which it seems that it is okay to hit women. This really is not a trend or a growing phenomenon. A viral video of a bus driver hitting a female passenger sparked controversy over male and female assault. The following year football player Ray Rice was condemned for hitting his soon to be wife. Acts of violence or domestic abuse are despicable, however there is very little reaction when women engage in domestic abuse and assault. These cases or instances may be are compared to male on female violence, but there is little chance of women getting prosecuted for such actions. Male domestic abuse victims hardly receive any attention and many refuse to believe they exist. At times it seen as something comic. That is why the calls that women want equality seem empty. If this were true both men and women would be punished equally for acts of violence. This is an instance in which the weaker sex stereotype distorts people’s reasoning, because their is a belief that women are just not physically capable of violence. While it is true that on average women are not as strong as men, there are women who are very powerful.
A strong muscular woman could hurt many men if she tried. Men should not hit women, but that does not give women a license to hit men without expecting retaliation. There are women who do hit men for whatever reason, believing that men will not react or that they can handle a strike form the one they hit. When a woman is the initiator of violence third wave feminists are silent, but when a man is the assailant there is censure. The rhetoric of equality and women can do anything is drowned out by how evil men are. They do not want equality,but special treatment. Relevant to violence women are not to be made responsible for their actions in particular situations. This notion is ludicrous. If women want to be equals they should realize that starting a physical altercation with a man would result in a negative repercussion. These altercations are the result of the strong woman image and power feminism. These developments are not harmful in themselves, but give the average woman an overestimation of their physical capabilities. Men have denser bones and more muscle mass giving them more strength. Women should not slap or start fights with men. Men who respond are called ungentlemanly or brutes. Women are not condemned for being assailants. Mr.Abraham says in the interview that “society went off the rails” and that the gentlemen is dying out. The only reason the gentlemen is declining in society is that women do not respect or like such men.
If this strong woman were to assault this man it probably would not provoke a response .
If this man assaulted this woman he would be arrested doubtless of the situation or circumstance.
Women in American society value status over ethical character in men. This explains why women will tolerate abuse from more powerful men. Donald Trump and Harvey Wienstein were able to do harass women mainly because they allowed it and accepted due to the fact they are men of prominence. Most of their advances were unwanted, but women did not fight back because they were more impressed with who they were. There is no rational or legitimate reason for any of those men to have relationships with women or to even be in contact with any. Their actions prove they are dangerous. A kind gentlemen is normally ignored or rejected by women. The lugubrious state of affairs show that women are still being raised to be submissive. Behaviors such as being agreeable all the time or tolerating unacceptable behavior is what women are taught as girls. This will not help them later in life. Women who do challenge mistreatment are either labelled a “difficult woman” or a complainer. Women are going to have to change their behavior and understand they are their own advocates. A knight in shining armor is not coming to your rescue. Chivalry is a dated concept and must be discarded for the reason it perpetuates this horrid cycle of domination. Chivalry is not about just “holding doors open for women” it was about maintaining control in a gender role order. Women were thought to be too weak and helpless to be independent and required male protection. Women did have to an extent a level of comfort, but lacked freedom in terms of education, personal finance, and their own destiny. However, there was the relative social safety net of the male breadwinner that provided resources they could not get access to . Now that women have a level of independence and can show they can take care of themselves, there really is no need for chivalry. Domestic abuse, sexual harassment and violence against women is nothing new; it is just that the public has become more aware of the extent of the problem. Their is a violence culture in the US that is responsible for this and it has nothing to do with the decline of chivalry. Gun culture, militarism, and aggressive law enforcement are attributes of violence culture. The US was founded on violence culture with the extermination of the Native Americans and the enslavement of the African peoples. The US is plagued with these problems and it even comes out in sports. The more violent the sport the more the American public likes it. Wrestling. MMA, and football have a huge fandom. The reason could be for the viewer such acts of violence displayed to an extent satisfies or relieves the need to express frustration. If women want equality they need to understand that means their will be not special privileges leftover from the era of chivalry. If this movement to challenge sexual harassment and assault wants to be serious it needs to target areas in which the problem is much worse. The US military and prison system have a sex crimes problem far greater than the one in the entertainment industry. That must be addressed to the same extent, if not this #me too is nothing more than a media circus distraction, not a genuine movement for change.
Francesca does have a valid position that their is a level of rage at women advancing in any field. This seems more vocal in sports in fitness. There are men with backward views who feel women are invading male spaces for the sake of dethroning them. The reasoning is that women have advance so far, at least there is one element we have left : sports and physical strength. For a moment that was true, but that is not the case anymore. The reactions range from disrespect of women to condemnation. While it is true that their is a rage present in a portion of men in the sports world with women’s presence, there are also male supporters. They are also ostracized for their support and even viewed unfavorably by the athletes themselves. There are men who love female muscle and athleticism so much they are willing to pay to experience it up close. Schmoes as they are called in the subculture fitness world a regularly disparaged, even though their financial support is critical.
Women in male dominated fields are going to have to work harder to overcome certain prejudices that men have. There is always the question of women’s competence. They are scrutinized more and this is the reason women must be mindful to be treated equally with special accommodation. Doing so would only create resentment among male colleagues. If women want to be seen as equal wrestlers they must take hits, be entertaining, and have the love of the industry. Then they will be seen just as wrestlers. Chyna did this to great effect during her career at the WWE.
The women who went in professional wrestling were sometimes the only females in their wrestling training camp. There is a level of intimidation and pressure being the only minority in a group. There has been more women and that has improved the situation for them as a group. The feelings of loneliness can be difficult to bear without any support. Normally it is women wrestling women in matches, however intergender matches do occur sometimes. If women choose in wrestle men they have to accept they are going to take hits ( and men vice versa). Seeing as the matches are determined by the writers and the scripts they produce, there would be no issue. This more about entertainment rather tan pure physical contest. Therefore, strength differences would not effect anything. It is great women are advancing, however this does not mean men should be disparaged. Phrases such as “the future is female” or the power feminist rhetoric preach a desire for matriarchy. The goal should be a happy future together. Empowerment does not mean getting revenge on men or viewing them as a monolithic enemy. Secondly, feminists should follow their own rhetoric. They preach sisterhood, yet white feminists ignore or hold racial prejudice toward women of color. If women in sports were to ban together they could counter the traditionalist backlash. These men can be angry if they want to and this will not deter fans and the talented women.
Women athletes and specifically wrestlers are gaining more internet exposure and traffic yet are getting less of the revenue. This is a representation of how older gatekeepers are controlling content even when consumer taste are evolving. There is a growing number of men and women who want to see this rise of modern sports woman. The internet seems to be more ahead compared to television with new websites and blogs exposing people to this rise in women’s sports entertainment. Francesca Zappitelli’s film will be available on Amazon Prime and hopefully may have a video release. The physically strong woman is becoming more prevalent in society and popular culture. What started with women doing strong woman acts in the 19th to early 20th century evolved into bodybuilding for women. The fitness culture then spread and entered the mainstream. Female athletes to average women began training with weights and embracing modern physical culture. Wrestling thought as man’s sport saw women enter in both the Olympics and professional sports entertainment. Zappitelli’s A Ballerina I Am Not is a historical documentation of how women came to wrestling and how they are changing it.