November 8, 1999
Feminists lose their heads over a doll
To say that a World Wrestling Federation action figure promotes the "brutalization of women" is ridiculous, particularly if you actually watch the WWF's TV programming.
Somehow an international incident occurred last week when one person, complaining to one Wal-Mart about one action figure, particularly that of Al Snow, got that figure banned across North America.
See, the Al Snow character is a little crazy. And he carries a female mannequin's head with him as part of the gimmick. Snow talks to the mannequin's head - which goes by the inventive name of "Head" - and Head "talks" back. Somehow, this keeps Allan Sarven (Snow's real name) gainfully employed in the wrestling business.
But Sabrena Parton, an assistant professor of communications at Kennesaw State University in Georgia claimed the Snow doll, with its tiny Head, promoted the "brutalization of women." Apparently Parton thought it was a severed head.
Parton also noted the doll's packaging said it was suitable for kids over the age of four. "I could see if this was an adult novelty item people could make a choice about whether to buy it," said Parton, who must believe the alleged depiction of a woman's severed head is fine if consenting adults are involved. "But the label says it's recommended for children ages four and over. That's terribly wrong."
Of course, Wal-Mart in the United States sells rifles and shotguns, too. Real ones that can kill real people real dead. But it's easy to see why a little plastic doll could be a greater threat to society at large.
A day later, Wal-Mart in Canada, which had received no complaints about the Al Snow doll, pulled the doll too.
The criticism kept on coming. Calgary psychologist Lori Egger said the Snow character was a "television image" that "draws a link between sexuality and violence and implies it's normal male behaviour."
And the Edmonton Journal, in a typically over-the-top editorial last Thursday wrote that when the WWF "produced and sold a doll whose gimmick was to carry around the severed head of a woman, they showed their true colours." The Journal called the Snow doll a "horrifying toy with a violent message."
Obviously, none of the critics have actually watched the WWF recently. Because if you're going to be a humourless, politically correct busybody complaining about the way women are portrayed in the wrestling world, Al Snow and Head are at the bottom of the list.
The WWF, after all, recently finished up a storyline involving Jeff Jarrett (who departed for rival World Championship Wrestling last month) and his rather unfeminist treatment of anyone carrying two silicone bags under their breasts.
If Jarrett wasn't beating up his manager, Debra (whose ample chest inspires "puppies" chants from the crowd), he was putting a submission hold on the female ring announcer, or the WWF's makeup girl, or plastering any number of surgically enhanced women over the head with his guitar.
A poster boy for the National Organization for Women he was not.
Just last Monday on Raw Is War, Chyna, who as the WWF's Intercontinental champion is the first woman to compete in the men's ranks and get a championship, got plastered over the head with her title belt by male wrestler Chris Jericho.
And while this usually doesn't involve violence, any discussion of the WWF and women can't ignore the Godfather, who comes to the ring with his "hos" and proclaims to the crowd that "Pimpin' ain't easy!"
So it's laughable that college prof Parton had to go find a plastic doll carrying a plastic head to claim that wrestling is "normalizing violent treatment of women" and "telling young boys that this is acceptable behaviour."
All she had to do was turn on her TV.
Michael Jenkinson, a columnist for the Edmonton Sun, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His homepage is at http://www.the-newsroom.com.
His columns have appeared in SLAM! Wrestling before, including: