On Wednesday, August 5, AEW announced the launch of “a dynamic membership platform for female wrestling fans,” in the form of AEW Heels. A yearly subscription to this membership platform comes out to $49.99.
Full disclosure, my sisters and I paid for the first AEW Heels event, back around 2020’s Double or Nothing. It was a great time! Fans got to ask roster members questions, and we got to see the women of AEW in a more natural, lighthearted setting. However, it was $20, and if I didn’t have 2 sisters to split the cost with, it never would’ve crossed my mind to attend. Asking fans to pay more than double that, when they don’t know exactly what they’re in for, comes across as shady.
Brandi has spoken a lot about what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated field. She talks about feeling ignored, or feeling that her voice is continuously brushed aside. Perhaps this is blindly optimistic, but I trust that Brandi had good intentions when pitching the idea of AEW Heels to Tony Khan and her fellow higher-ups in the company.
With the announcement of AEW Heels, I’ve seen some LGBTQ people raise concerns over whether the platform will be inclusive to trans women. This is another area where perhaps I’m blindly optimistic, but I have faith that AEW will be fully welcoming to non-cis women fans (I’m saying non-cis as there’s a broad spectrum of women/feminine aligned people). At the very least, the AEW women’s division is pretty diverse, and I’m sure they wish their fanbase to reflect that.
(And, from a capitalist standpoint, $50 is $50, whether it comes from a cis or a trans woman)
A Seat at the Table
Now, into the negatives. AEW has been dismissive of their women’s division, to say the very least. The latest example of this has been the Women’s Tag Team Tournament being pushed onto YouTube, rather than giving their roster TV time on Dynamite. Of course, the roster has been struggling from injuries, and the fact that much of the roster lives abroad and can’t travel during the pandemic, but this tournament was the perfect chance to introduce new faces and strengthen those on the roster that haven’t been given a proper build.
When considered together, pushing the first women’s tournament to YouTube, and offering women a separate platform feels a lot like giving women a kiddie table to be content with, while the men get to sit at their own, much bigger, much nicer table. It feels greatly dismissive, and while offering a space for women can have benefits, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that women would prefer to be treated equally to their male colleagues, not just segregated from them.
All in all, I believe Brandi had good intentions when pitching AEW heels. Its price, though, suggests that it’s only for die-hard AEW fans to join. This means that all the input given in the fan club will undoubtedly be positive, and in light of AEW’s mediocre handling of #SpeakingOut, and the continuous brushing aside of their women’s division, AEW deserves criticism. Charging women $50 for what is essentially a Zoom tea party seems tone deaf at best, and money hungry at worst.
Speaking from a trans-woman’s pov I really could give two craps about this. All I want for this division is tv time and storylines. Give me more than one female oriented segment a week. Give me more than one storyline. Make the title mean something. I mean come on. A $50 Zoom meeting isn’t even a bandaid for this considerably large bullet hole.
I just don’t understand paying for something that men get for free, and still don’t entirely understand what you’re getting for the cost of admission.
I attended the last free event where there was a Q&A with Nyla and a makeup tutorial. It was a fun time had by all. If we are saying there will be 12 of those a year for about $4 each would I join? Yeah maybe. I’d much rather pay my $4 before the event than $50 up front not knowing how consistent events will be.
I get paying if it leads to in person opportunities like a meet and greet or photo op before a match, but that clearly is not going to happen anytime soon.
I agree with you, I do think it was well-intentioned, and frankly, the fact that we can even have this discussion is an improvement from watching wrestling growing up. But when my husband first read the announcement he said it comes off like a pyramid scheme and sadly I agree.
Could this not just be a heavily moderated private Reddit thread with a monthly virtual Q&A sponsored by one of those meal companies they all use?