Australian writer, culture critic, and friend of Bell To Belles, Scarlett Harris, recently penned a book where she detailed the murky past of women’s wrestling, outlining issues that arise from WWE’s revisionist tendencies, while also giving hope for a better fandom and professional atmosphere for all women.
A Diva Was A Female Version Of A Wrestler: An Abbreviated Herstory of World Wrestling Entertainment starts by giving readers a closer look at the author’s personal history as a fan of wrestling, as well as a general outline of what prompted the idea for the book. By her own words, Harris’ purpose for the reading is to group “wrestlers and ideas together to look at what they mean to the industry and culture in general, with a reverence that often wasn’t afforded to them at the time.”
Through feminist ideals, comprehensive arguments, and work from some of the smartest minds within the industry, Harris discussed in detail the history of women’s wrestling, the journey of the “women’s wrestling trainwreck”, internalized misogyny, controversies around the term “Diva”, intergender wrestling, and even Ronda Rousey.
Though I found every chapter to be a fascinating read around the issues within women’s wrestling, my favorite chapter, “Hair Body Face”, explored how female wrestlers use their appearance to tell their story and stand out in a business that pressures them to appear a certain way. Harris describes the transformation of a few women in particular, like Sasha Banks and Bayley, and how symbolism in wrestling gear tells the deeper story the women sometimes are not able to tell, themselves. In this particular chapter, Harris debates the importance of over-the-top makeup in relaying stories within the ring, the concept of “Instagram face”, and the discrepancy between men and women when it comes to physical upkeep.
At first I found myself dismayed at how troubled women’s wrestling has been from the start, with little evidence that there was hope for the industry. However, as I read further into the book, and dissected each chapter more precisely, it could easily be seen that though there’s much to change, Harris believes the necessary changes can happen.
Overall, A Diva Was A Female Version Of A Wrestler provides an intricate and well-told history of women’s wrestling, and the abhorrent hand WWE had in shaping the state of women’s wrestling in the past, while also providing thoughtful discourse on how everyone needs to be a positive part of crafting equality for all women, in all aspects of the business.
I personally recommend Harris’ work to anyone who wants to buff-up on “herstory” within wrestling, or for anyone looking for a deep analysis on the greater issues at hand.
A Diva Was A Female Version Of A Wrestler is available for pre-order now, with a launch date of March 2. Australian readers can purchase the pre-order here. Everyone outside of Australia can purchase the pre-order here. You can find all of Scarlett’s work, including her piece on the importance of “GLOW”, by following her on Twitter here.
[Featured image credit to Lauren Moran]