LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 10: Stephanie McMahon attends the premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “Stuber” at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on July 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
WWE recently announced an upcoming series called Fight Like a Girl, but even well-intentioned plans for the series could hit some major roadblocks.
It was reported on July 10 that WWE is partnering with Quibi, a new streaming platform, to present a series called Fight Like a Girl. The aim of the series is to partner young women with a WWE Women’s Superstar to help them overcome issues in their personal life. Hosted by Stephanie McMahon, who also serves as an executive producer, the show promises to help the young women “become tougher, stronger and healthier versions of their former selves inside and out.”
There are a lot of reasons to believe the series could be a positive experience for and influence on young women. Many of the women in WWE have been open about their own personal issues in the past and fans have related positively to seeing these incredible athletes struggling with similar situations.
Alexa Bliss has talked candidly about her experiences with an eating disorder. Nia Jax has also been a strong proponent for body acceptance. Paige has overcome addiction and some truly toxic relationships. Women like Liv Morgan, Dana Brooke, Natalya, Carmella, and Bayley are all success stories as well as being truly positively minded people in general.
And the fact that the women of WWE are presented to young girls as powerful, independent people who succeeded in chasing a dream shouldn’t be overlooked. I do believe that the individual women of WWE want to use their position and experience to empower their charges. I want to believe WWE will take the care necessary to make the show a success and truly help the young women they select to appear on it.
However, I am deeply apprehensive about the entire project for a number of reasons. First and most obvious is I wonder how you can look at the current WWE television product and reconcile how women are portrayed there with the concept of WWE wanting to empower young women. One of the major plotlines in recent weeks revolves around Maria Kanellis being a shrill harpy who berates her husband while revealing she’s pregnant with a child that isn’t his, with bonus “pregnancy craving” and “pregnant women have crazy mood swings” jokes.
Meanwhile, Lacey Evans has on multiple occasions implied she performed sexual favors in exchange for shots at the Raw Women’s Championship (“curried favor” in her words) and Alexa Bliss is once again a backstabbing fake friend to another woman. It is not the fact that these women are heels that is the problem, it is that their heel characters are terrible, sexist stereotypes which in the end do nothing to even empower their opponents beyond “Look, I’m not like one of THOSE girls.”
Beyond the onscreen product there are other concerns. One of biggest things that jumped out to me when I was reading the description of the series was that the women being mentored are “struggling with a personal issue that has been holding her back.” This is a very vague statement. I wish examples had been given so we got an idea of the sort of things the WWE women will be trying to tackle, and I would like some reassurance that this will not be run-of-the-mill lifecoaching.
The immediate comparison my brain made was with the 2018 revival of Queer Eye, a show where five gay men visit various people also struggling with personal issues and helping them reinvent their life. The show is incredibly well done and touching, with the Fab Five doing their best to be aware of the unique challenges each person they meet faces in life and that solutions are not one-size-fits-all. There are rarely feel-good self-esteem platitudes, instead there is careful and considerate discussion back and forth.
In a perfect world, this is the sort of thing I want Fight Like a Girl to be. Taking into account various social and racial and sexual and economic and mental health factors for each young woman and taking the utmost care to consider those while advising them. But I worry because this is something that is very, very difficult to do.
The advice we want to give stems from our own experiences and our own not always healthy ways of handling things. There are people in the world who have a mentality that is very much “you create your own problems and just need to pull up your bootstraps!” which can be devastating and impractical advice for others. There are many people who may not understand that something very simple for them can be incredibly difficult for another person depending on any combination of those factors I listed above.
I especially worry because all of this can be done with the best of intentions, with your heart in the right place and still utterly fail in the end if it’s not done right.
I don’t want to brush off WWE’s philanthropy work. In the wake of Stephanie McMahon’s endorsing the idea that “philanthropy is the future of marketing” a lot of people have questioned WWE’s motives for their charitable efforts. But regardless of their motives they are still doing good.
I do not want this to turn into “charity only counts when it’s selfless” because no, the work WWE does with Conor’s Cure and Make-a-Wish and the Special Olympics absolutely counts to the countless people it helps year after year.
So I do want to be positive about what may come out of Fight Like a Girl, and I hate that my initial instinct is to be cynical. Yet at the same time, I think we have to approach the series with some apprehension. But who knows, maybe the fight will leave us pleasantly surprised and everyone wins.