The Complexities Of Rooting For Ronda Rousey

Screenshot via WWE Network

How insidious is the WWE’s plan to make Ronda the face of its women’s division?

In 2015 and 2016, Ronda Rousey faced a very public humiliation after losing much-anticipated UFC fights against Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes following an almost-unheard-of 12-win streak. Her career suffered irreparable damage: Before these defeats, Rousey had been considered a paradigm-shifting figure in terms of female athletes and fighters, garnering more attention and money than perhaps any woman in the sport before her. People were unsure if her reputation would ever recover from the devastating and unexpected trounces. Now, years later, Rousey is back, this time as a professional wrestler for the WWE, a much different format in which to showcase her talents. But Rousey's re-introduction to the public eye has not been scandal-free, either. It's hard not to want to root for the disgraced brawler's second chance, but could Rousey's skyrocketed position in her new company be yet another botched attempt at angling the WWE as a feminist product?

Ronda's debut was proceeded by years of massive changes within the WWE. In 2016, the WWE's chief brand officer, Stephanie McMahon (who plays a fictionalized, villainous version of herself in the WWE's shows), announced that the federation would be revamping its women's division. The female wrestlers of the company would finally be given a new chance to compete on an equal playing field as the men—their matches would be longer, their stories would be more developed, and they were finally going to ditch the "divas" moniker and the sparkly pink butterfly belt that went with it. Steph claimed that it was seeing the success of women like Rousey who inspired the company to rethink gender parity.

Since then, the WWE's attempts at feminism have ranged from truly triumphant to completely botched. The company held its first-ever all-women tournament, and the popularity of many female superstars has since matched and surpassed that of the men's division. Women have participated in cage matches, hard-core matches, an elimination chamber—all previously considered too brutal for female combatants.

Not everything has gone so smoothly. In a strange twist, the first women's Money in the Bank match was confusingly won by a man, James Ellsworth (on behalf of his partner, Carmella)—despite the event being hailed as a groundbreaking feminist achievement. The public outcry over the situation was so severe, it held the exact same match two nights later, this time letting Carmella win on her own. Similarly, the first-ever women's Battle Royal was announced as the "Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal," named after a legendary female wrestler who also happened to be a known sex trafficker. Public outcry (and threats from sponsors) over the blunder was so drastic, the company was once again forced to rethink its branding. They dropped Moolah's name from the match. In April, the WWE held its first event in Saudi Arabia and featured no women on the card in accordance with local customs pertaining to "modesty," sparking a larger debate about the hypocrisy of its progressive positions.

Before that, at the first-ever women's Royal Rumble in January, rumors had been swirling about Rousey potentially signing a contract with the WWE. Since many entrants of the Rumble are usually surprises, the WWE was being particularly secretive about the deal they may or may not have been making. Fans speculated about her entrance and bemoaned the likelihood of her winning the entire 30-person match —they mostly wanted to see the women who had actually been fighting (both literally and figuratively) for recognition get the credit they deserved. The Royal Rumble did, in fact, bring back a handful of legendary female wrestlers who were never given the opportunity to compete in this kind of fight, and the ensuing brawl truly was a heartwarming acknowledgment of the under-appreciated work of previous generations of women. It was ultimately the (at the time undefeated) Japanese wrestler Asuka who emerged victoriously.

But as soon as the Rumble was over and Asuka was given her chance to choose her next competitor, Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" blasted over the stadium's speakers: Ronda had arrived.

Ronda stayed silent during her debut in the WWE, only pointing at the Wrestlemania sign (a bizarre, time-honored tradition in the company) wordlessly. Fans noted the awkwardness of her arrival but recognized the WWE's attempts at not overshadowing the other women on its roster. But the next day, it was Ronda's name generating headlines—not Asuka's.

Women in the WWE bemoaned the world's excitement about Rousey on social media, wondering why their achievements were overshadowed. Dave Meltzer, the world's most esteemed pro-wrestling critic, hypothesized their responses were a "work"—that is, an elaborate ruse used to further a story line. If that's the case, the WWE has certainly done nothing to explore that angle since. Perhaps it noted the tiredness of tropes about pitting successful women against each other, perhaps they just thought of something else for Ronda to do.

Ronda would go on to start a planned feud with McMahon and her husband, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (aka Triple H, nee Paul Michael Levesque, the executive vice president of talent, live events and creative who also plays a fictionalized, evil version of himself on WWE shows). It was easy to see Ronda's nervousness in promos, but her hits still packed a punch. The scripted dialogue between her and McMahon emphasized that she would be looking to earn her opportunity at future matches—the two would go on to battle in a mixed-gender match at Wrestlemania. During the fight, Rousey would pummel both McMahon and Helmsley. Far surpassing expectations, Meltzer wound up rating the bout as the best of the entire night.

Out of the squared circle, Rousey's personal life has been fraught with controversy. Her relationship with a man who has been accused of domestic abuse certainly raised eyebrows, but it was a handful of publicly expressed political opinions that caused many fans to abandon her: "She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has. It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair," Rousey had said of transgender MMA fighter, Fallon Fox, in 2013. It's unclear if her opinions on the matter have evolved since. Similarly, many advocated for Rousey's suspension after she issued a series of bizarre tweets questioning the reality of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013. (She would later go on to apologize for the incident.)

On the one hand, Rousey's good-faith efforts and exciting in-ring work make her redemption arc both believable and exciting. In the face of low expectations, Rousey has already proven doubters wrong—truly the makings of an organic feminist narrative. Her recognition of the support she has gotten from some other female wrestlers has been heartwarming, as has her truly earnest reaction to new fans. Who doesn't want to watch a talented, passionate person succeed despite the public's doubts?

On the other hand, Rousey's complex political situation within the WWE means that she is being put forward to the public as the representative of the successes of women before her, and will likely be positioned as the face of the women's division for years to come—despite her relative inexperience in this medium. Similarly, given some of her incredibly strange (and sometimes outright hateful) publicly expressed beliefs, there's something insidious about the WWE's insistence on her as a symbol of equality. 

With every feminist gesture the WWE makes, fans continue to doubt the company's sincerity: It was the WWE itself that prevented gender parity within the sport for so long, and the self-congratulatory creation of historical "first-time" events for women suspiciously resembles a publicity ploy rather than actual attempts at reconciliation. Can we really consider Rousey a feminist icon, as the WWE wants us to? With the WWE's track record on women's issues being what it is, the extent to which fans can really trust the company's good intentions by positioning Rousey as a charming underdog is certainly a question.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.