Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Member

Dr. D. Travers Scott, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Erin Ash

Committee Member

Dr. Darren Linvill

Abstract

For a long time, professional wrestling has existed on the outskirts of society, with the idea that it was just for college-aged men. With the rise of the popularity of the World Wrestling Entertainment promotion, professional wrestling entered the mainstream. Celebrities often appear at wrestling shows, and the WWE often hires mainstream musical artists to perform at their biggest shows, WrestleMania and Summer Slam. Despite this still-growing popularity, there still exists a gap between men's wrestling and women's wrestling. Often the women aren't allowed long match times, and for the longest time sometimes weren't even on the main shows. Many fans considered women's matches "bathroom break" matches and would often objectify the women wrestlers. In February 2015, after a 30-second long Divas tag team match, the hashtag #givedivasachance started trending on Twitter, and changes started happening in the WWE. Eventually, in April 2016, the company got rid of the term Divas, and started calling their women wresters "˜Superstars' "“ the same term the men are called. They also retired the Diva's Championship and introduced the Women's Title. It is in this New Era of wrestling history we currently are in. This thesis explores how current long-term and short-term fans of professional wrestling feel about the ways women's wrestling has changed, and to see if there is more work to be done to have women's wrestling truly become equal to the men. Using in-depth interviewing, findings include fans loving to see the women get violent in the ring, are proud of how far the women have come, and are still critical of storylines and characterization the women get. Findings also show that participants emotionally identify with women wrestlers, and are critical because they care.

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