Friday, November 13, 2009

Week 12: A response to "Wrestling With Manhood" and the readings

*Please answer this prompt by Thursday the 19th along with the other blog prompt for Week 13. It is not an optional blog, both will be graded*

Analyze the film in relation to your readings for this week and think about the way we are all de-sensitized to violence as it is presented to us in everyday life and in the culture that surrounds people in the United States. Also, keep in mind the class issues that are brought up through pro-wrestling and other sports that are seen as a "release" for blue collar workers and what this means in relation to violence portrayed within privileged communities versus those which are more oppressed.

19 comments:

Merritt Johnson said...

Wrestling with Manhood....

As I watched this movie, I could not help but think, why on earth do all these parents allow thier children to watch it & why do women allow themselves to be used as sex symbols in the way they are shown in the film? I watched Dancing With the Stars when Stacy Kebler was on it and I thought she was a beautiful classy woman, when I saw this video my whole perception of her changed. The men treated them as sex symbols clearly showing how they are less than them. Wrestling was compared as "a soap opera for guys" it evokes emotion to draw you in. The "men" in wrestling have; physical strength, scare factor, intimidate and invite conflict.

Such shows as Jerry Springer are a result of this physical violence. It was very disturbing to me that they would taunt them emotionally after they wuld lose a fight. They poured vomit on them, put heads in toilets, one man even got peed on by Steve Austin. This is the ultimate physical/mental humiliation. The movie states that every seven minutes a child is bullied on a playground, it is very clear that wrestling invokes such behavior. The women in wrestling were known as; having big boobs, are silly play things, entertainment, and even bark. Many men watch wrestling as it is thought "the women might kiss". It was sad how they would laugh about Chuck and Billy being gay and refer to them as bitches. One wrestler won the gold at the olympics and cried, he was then called a sissy. He then went on to beat the shit out of the guy in match later on. I feel that wrestling is a very structered way of violence, they make fun of homosexuals and opress women. It's all about being a bully and being an "ultimate man".

Zen Lien said...

This was a tough documentary to watch. I have never really watched WWE and I truly did not realize how horribly misogynistic it was, not to mention how misandrist it was as well. This was just senseless violence against people for the sake of money and entertainment. I was nauseated.

We have had many discussion on language and how using words like "rape" in a casual or joking manner is damaging as it just minimalizes what it really means. Just like in the film, people get to hide behind "its just entertainment", "its just a joke" so they get out of being responsible or guilty. This is why it is so important for men to stand beside us and stand up for us when we aren't around. Hank Shaw's article "How Two Aspiring Pornographers Turned Me Into The Ultimate F Word" spoke to me the most. Just as we saw with the WWE, misogyny is rampant in entertainment. You'd think by now people would consider violence against women as a universal wrong, but no, its fun and you should be laughing too or you're just a humorless bitch. Shows like "Life Without Shame" in Shaw's article are just a larger representation of what we encounter every day. They are a sad symbol of our culture's values.I admires Shaw's attempt to bring real statistics of rape and violence to drive the point home. Yet even with that he and his WAVE comrades were still mocked and pushed aside. Heaven forbid anyone gets serious, or dampens the mood with a dose of reality.

As it was mentioned in class, we all have our outlets. Some like heavy metal or rap music which are known to have lyrics that are offensive to women. Horror movies (among many other genres) depict women and men being tortured and murdered. Dating shows like The Bachelor or Bachelorette exploit single, desperate people. However I know many women and men who identify as feminists and yet still enjoy being entertained by these products. The difference is that they are educated and not mindlessly zombified by the sexism that at times overwhelms the humor or entertainment value. Just like saying "don't try this at home" doesn't stop people from backyard wrestling or pulling stunts from Jack-Ass, saying "its just entertainment" doesn't mean everyone understands what they are watching is wrong and should never translate into the real world. The "release" turns into hypnosis and before we know it masses of people are laughing at people beating the shit out of each other on TV and then they are ignoring people beating the shit out of each other in the real world. So what can the minority of us who were not hypnotized or de-hypnotized to do to wake up the rest of the population?

Like Shaw and the men of NO MORE in "Breaking the Silence one Mile at a Time", standing up against sexism is the first step to change. As a woman, I am called all kinds of names,"bitch", "whore" and my personal favorite "feminazi". Just as men are called "pussies" or "fags" when they align themselves with women-friendly causes. Shaw stood up against the misogyny despite enormous amount of backlash he and the WAVE members received.However, taking the path of resistance is a lonely road. For every person that stands against the grain there are a dozen more pushing back. And for every success there are always a few casualties. Standing up for yourself even in the smallest way can cost you friendships and question if you can make any difference if people are willfully deaf and blind to these issues on even a micro level what about the rest of the world? Hopefully, people who care about violence and rape and are willing to voice their concerns will keep their resolve.

Jo said...

The movie Wrestling with Masculinity ties in well with the Shaw article “How Two Aspiring Pornographers Turned Me Into the Ultimate F Word.” In both cases we’re talking about media that is super misogynistic and degrading to women in the name of “entertainment.” I have to admit that I’ve never been a wrestling fan, but now I hate it even more. I didn’t realize exactly how much worse it had gotten; particularly speaking about the myriad of women characters that now participate. Watching this, it felt to me like a step backward on the evolutionary scale, certainly on the feminist evolutionary scale. I was disturbed seeing how many parents, particularly moms, allowed their children to view these events. My friend tells me that for her, watching wrestling with her brother when they were younger was a bonding experience that they shared, which I can understand. She also tells me that her parents kept it in context and included their own information surrounding what was taking place. I wonder how many of the other parents do any explaining of the women’s role in the drama. It worries me to think of how those images and words translate to a child without any additional information. I realize that wrestling followers will argue that everyone “knows it’s all fake” the way that the Shame boys argued that their commentary was “lighthearted and funny,” but where does it stop? If this is entertaining and funny, does that mean it’s ok for a man to make similar comments if he’s trying to make his friends laugh? If we condone this type of entertainment are we giving men the go ahead to call us bitches or tell us where our place is in the name of “joking?” I don’t know, but it definitely makes me wonder.

Sara N said...

“Wrestling with Manhood” denaturalizes the toxic brand of masculinity that the WWE espouses. While I think it is important to keep class issues in mind, I think this is only one of many important issues to analyze. I do not want to underplay economic factors but I do want to note the importance of other sets of complicated characteristics that play a role in perpetuating or breaking the cycle of violence. In a class “Domestic Violence in the Justice System” my professor, Dr. Ross, is the best example to demonstrate this idea. He came from a violent home as one of 13 other siblings and managed to put himself through school (including getting his Ph.D.) and is now a distinguished professor and positive role model with a wife and children. He came from a working class background yet there are other intersecting factors we must consider like resiliency. “Resiliency factors include awareness, responsiveness, education, flexibility, empathy, communication skills, problem solving skills, religious differences, resourcefulness in seeking help from others, critical thinking, creativity, social networks” and the list goes on (DV in the Justice System, chapter 3 notes, 9/17/08). While some to most of these factors are interconnected, I do not want to reduce all of these complex factors only to class. There is much variation within and between broad (and sometimes empty) identity classifications and we should not reduce people to labels they may occupy like class status. Of course, these problems are disproportionately linked to class.

That being said, although Atherton-Zeman knows that “Love isn’t about control and sex isn’t about coercion,” Stone Cold, McMahon and the rest of the WWE missed the memo. I think Jhally and Katz very effectively point out the problems that Shaw and Schafer point out in their essays. There is certainly a link between language, media and culture as Jhally highlights, much in the spirit of Stuart Hall. Jhally says “Anything that’s popular reveals something larger about our society, about its deep seeded values, the morality that underpins it.” So what does our society value? Big muscled douchebags, wife beaters, and ridiculous hyper-real narratives, apparently. But, masculinity “doesn’t have to mean aloofness, toughness, unreasonable jealousy, and possessiveness” or excessive aggression and competition for that matter (MSO, Atherton-Zeman, 259). I sympathize with Schafer’s assertion that “change starts with language… [it] influences and guides action, so if we can change our language a change in action will follow” (MSO, Schafer, 261-2). Obviously this means that the WWE actors are upholding misogyny and sexism by using terms like “bitch” as the ultimate insult on a man’s masculinity. It wouldn’t be a problem if we could watch this stuff and not incorporate it into our reality. To borrow from Madonna’s infamous sex book, I don’t have a problem with men looking at women; it’s what you do in your everyday life that counts.

Accordingly, it takes a strong person to stand up and speak out against these violences. I agree with Shaw and Schafer that these are the true heroes and role models precisely because the kind of masculinity (singular) that is valued in our society has serious implications like violence against our neighbors. In other words, there’s a lot of shit in this world. And, although “there comes a time when you’d rather plant a garden than fight a reeking landfill” shit makes for great manure (MSO, Shaw, 121). Raising awareness of these issues is a way to transform all the shit into something useful. You turn it over and over until you can start that garden.

Ani Reina said...

I was brought up in a home that watched WWE, in fact my 28 year old sister and most of my cousins still watch it from time to time. The class collective response made it all too real that people can live in a bubble and not know that pop culture is perpetuating these images of men and women. Maybe this is because our class is predominantly upper class and female. As women we were gendered not to watch wrestling I’m sure that during the early ‘90s when most boys were watching The Undertaker kick butt, the women in our class were watching Saved By the Bell or Boy Meets World, which lets be honest perpetuates hetero-normativity and gender roles as well. It bothers me because I feel we, as leftist thinking people, wrap ourselves in a bubble and forget what pop culture tells people, how it is continuously molding society; even if we feel “above” it. This brings me to the article by Hank Shaw “How two Aspiring Pornographers turned me into the Ultimate F Word”. Hank told us about how a popular show was his call to activism, through his part the group he organized with started a ban on a local pizza parlor that advertised during the shows air time. If Hank and the women of WAVE did not pay attention to different shows they would have never been able to make a difference. Not to say that these shows are great for being around because they give us something to fight against. What I am trying to say is that if we look outside our bubble of Democracy Now, and Feministing, we can have a way to understand the “outside” world. When the show Grey’s Anatomy had a lesbian couple it was very interesting to hear the women at my job talk about the show and almost never speak of the relationship, however as a huge fan during that time, I made a point to bring it up and ask them how they felt. I wanted them to think about it, to talk about how the relationship made them feel, if they thought it was positive, if it made them uncomfortable etc. We should be aware of what people are viewing, how and why people are forming gender roles.

As the blog prompt brings up that pro-wrestling was seen as a release for blue collar workers. This was extremely evident in the film. Take the character Stone Cold Steve Austin, who the film critics stated was the “bad” character and that for some mysterious reason fans began to support. Well let us look at SCSA’s attire; his costume was that of the “every man”, blue jeans, t-shirt (with or without sleeves) and working boots. Unlike other wrestlers who wore boxing shoes adorned with colorful fabric and fringe, SCSA was one of the first characters to look “real”. Let us also look to the beer that made him so loveable-Budweiser. Which has for a long period of time been a traditional working class beer, most high end restaurants would never think of serving this beer because the serve to the upper class.

We can even look at the acting work outside the ring by other well known pro-wrestlers to see how they appeal to the blue collar masses. The Rock has appeared in movies like The Mummy Returns and Walking Tall where his body is still being used as a tool of fear and control. Lately he has taken on tons of children movies but in those he is still the mega hero, even sometimes becoming “soft” which tends to be used as a joke. If we look at John Cena who catapulted into the silver screen with the movie The Marine, we can see not only use of men to protect the lives of women but also a glorification of military life after war. Since we have talked about the glorification of the military among the working class as well as the recruitment that goes on in those areas, it might be good for you all to know that when celebrities go to visit those stationed over seas, it is typically filled with men and women from the WWE.

Cristoina said...

I first saw this film about a year ago in my Sex, Gender & Culture course and it has stuck with me ever since. I did not grow up watching wrestling, but I was surrounded by its fans on a day to day basis during a majority of junior high. These fans were mostly young men who would continually imitate the actions and catchphrases of their favorite characters. These characters being real life people, actors, trained to perform the outrageous cartoon like stunts performed throughout the show. I feel that since there is a real person (compared to a fictional comic book character or superhero figure) for these young men to see this hypermasculinity it made it easier for them to identify with that image and the man portraying it and want to emulate that. Since this form of wrestling is completely scripted and fictional but done so in a fashion where many believed it was real, the men were given almost superhuman abilities to seduce and dehumanize womyn, beat and attack one another but also a resilience to the countless beatings they received making this "cartoon violence" as Katz described, seem real, fun and have no consequences. Much like when a superhero comes out victorious and without a scratch these hypermasculine, superhuman men are fine at the end of the day and the only thing bruised is their ego because they were subjected to being called a womyn. The whole show revolves around promoting violence as the answer and womyn as an insult. So as young boys are growing and developing along with idolizing these men, they take on the characters persona and do their own daily performance including practicing the moves the saw on TV with their friends (most likely ending in injury) and walking around saying "suck it" to their peers, and this is just entertainment?

This "entertainment" as Vince McMahon calls it, just desensitizes violence and makes it seem like the ideal arena for men to really express themselves and be a man. A depiction of a man that fosters the ideas that violence against womyn is ok, there is no such thing as consent, physical strength=power and domination along with other ideas that aid in the institutionalization of sexism, racism, classism and homophobia. So this harmless piece of entertainment is anything but harmless. As they stated in the film, "...we need to examine how something watched so frequently by so many boys and young men might cultivate, legitimate and glamorize certain ideas about what it means to be a man, and therefore certain behaviors that conform to these ideas." It has come to a point that this program is not just supporting the ideas our society has on masculinities but creating them as well. Giving men the images, actions, and programming to make them a man, a seemingly practical blueprint of manhood. This blueprint is being handed to the working class who are the target audience of this type of "entertainment". This is their supposed release, where men can be men, let loose, get back to their animal instincts and connect with other men. In past readings we have covered how working class men feel emasculated by work, therefore seeking power in other areas of their lives, and one possibility being exercising their power over women and acting on their sense of entitlement. Instead of attacking capitalism and the system in place making them feel emasculated and questioning why that is, the answer is to escape. Escape by watching the WWE and watch hypermasculinity at its finest, that encourages domination, humiliation and the glorification of violence in general and violence against womyn. Wouldn't this heighten domestic violence within the working class and working class families? So once again entertainment is praised and the fear womyn already experience grows.

Cristoina said...

There needs to be an overhaul on what it is to be a man. The CEO himself, Vince McMahon was accused of sexual harassment on 2 accounts (but not charged) and on one account supposedly forcing oral sex after a female referee refused his advances. Atherton-Zeman explains, "One of the reasons our brothers and fathers have abused their wives, girlfriends, and partners is because we haven't said, with a unified voice, that this is not a "manly" thing to do." When people do not say anything, that silence is seen as compliance and the first step is rejecting these portrayals of masculinity and speaking out against the program, the stations that allow it and the actor/actresses that participate within it and do not take responsibility for the effects it has its viewers.

Brian H. said...

What I found most interesting about the movie "Wrestling With Manhood" was how sex and sexuality dictated practically every aspect of the WWF. This hyper hetero-normative projection ranges from the women involved in wrestling, to the constant need to prove one's heterosexuality by insults or blatant use of stereotypical "queer" wrestlers.

I had no idea the extent to which women in wrestling were subjected to a constant assault of sexual innuendos and are used as tools to prove male dominance and heterosexuality. The women themselves practically look like porn stars and are made to look like "every man's fantasy woman". Not only is this degrading to the women themselves and creating pressure on other women to look a certain way, but it also enforces the men's perception of what a woman should look like and act like. The defense that is is only entertainment is laughable when you take a step back and see how the fans react to the degradation of the women involved. I feel like this unhealthy representation of women has been escalated due to the mob mentality of wrestling fans and commentators. In such a hyper heterosexually charged atmosphere such as wrestling, it would be difficult for a male fan to step up and express that the women are being humiliated and objectified. Speaking out against this portrayal of women would most likely call into question the male's sexuality, and lead to insults and alienation from the crowd. Since no one wants to be ostracized, it is easier to go along with what is presented to you, and cheer along with the 4.5 million other wrestling fans.

Since the WWF and other professional wrestling is so inherently homoerotic in nature, the over-compensation to prove its straightness and create an incredibly dangerous, hyper masculine image trying to distance itself from what is perceived as traditionally feminine or "queer". The blatant homophobia presented by the WWF corporation and owners is accepted and even escalated by the fans watching. The producers of WWF knew exactly what they were doing when they cast the wrestlers, Chuck and Billy, as overly feminine and having an ambiguous orientation. The fact that they portrayed them so over the top and characterized every queer stereotype, didn't make me as mad as how the fans reacted and what they said when Chuck and Billy entered the ring. The violence against the "queer" wrestlers only justifies queer bashing and internalized homophobia.

I was wondering if anyone felt that "Wrestling with Manhood" should have had some coverage of possible racism in WWF. It seems that if there is sexism, homophobia, and classism, then there's probably a good deal of racism too. I don't watch wrestling but I was wondering if anyone who did could clarify or tell us how the WWF approaches race. Overall, I feel like the issues in pro wrestling are overwhelming and out of control. It promotes and glorifies violence against practically everyone, but most discerning is the violence against women and "queer" wrestlers. It seems the logical next step for the WWF is to incorporate children in the matches for better entertainment and more money.

taco said...

Many of the posts have explored in-depth the relationship portrayed in the movie between the WWE and women and some have touched on the relationship between the WWE and 'queer' wrestlers. What I found most interesting, though, was the treatment of the male wrestlers themselves. The things which the wrestlers were forced to endure seemed to me like torture - and whether they are paid, whether they are actors, the actions which they inflict on one another are 'real' to some extent. The man who was peed on was actually peed on; the man who was dragged around and insulted was actually dragged around and insulted. I don't know for sure, but whether the wrestlers receive monetary compensation or not, I feel like these forms of degradation must be partially internalized.

And it's not as if I never realized this sort of complete humiliation occurred (not just in WWE wrestling, but every day in real-life scenarios), but I think this film helped me really realize: patriarchy holds everyone down. And I knew that, too. That's one of my stand-by's for my guy friends who question my feminist wiles; "patriarchy sucks for everyone - not just women." And I can go into a discussion of how patriarchy affects male-female relationships, the way we view the environment, masculinity as a social construct, etc etc etc. But until viewing this film, I still always thought, "Oh, straight, white, middle-class males. It's us against them." Even knowing that patriarchy affects everyone, I still mentally stashed 'those guys' in their own compartment.

"Wrestling with Manhood" made me realize that, while straight, white, middle-class men have the ability to subjugate more effectively than anyone else (a somewhat ironic statement, due to its positive construction), it seems as if society's accepted definition of masculinity forces men to battle constantly to subjugate others, be they women, people of other races, GLBT people, or whomever. And they're not expected just to assert themselves over those who society treats as 'less.' Men are expected, too, (and I think this is the part I didn't previously understand) to assert themselves over one another. Even straight, white, middle-class men, who have every single advantage that biology can give, are not safe from the effects of a society which legitimizes and normalizes the treatment of others as non-human in an attempt for one to prove his superiority.

Yes, the fans did cheer when the male wrestlers dehumanized the women; they cheered when the 'straight' wrestlers dehumanized the 'queer' wrestlers. They also cheered when the straight, white male wrestlers dehumanized other straight, white male wrestlers... so what gives? Hell. Any way you look at it, it's all messed up.

Ariel Dansky said...

Like many of us, I was shocked and disgusted by the images I saw in Wrestling with Manhood. At times, I could not even look at the screen. The images were clearly an embodiment of patriarchal ideas and problematic gender stereotypes that perpetuate racism, homophobia, and violence against women.
The most striking aspect of the movie for me, however, was the fact that the spektacle was enjoyed by families and teenage boys alike. Men, women, and children watched the crude performance for its "entertaining" quality and were not able to realize its problematic implications.
However, perhaps we are among the lucky few who would watch images like these and cringe. Perhaps the average individual in our society is so used to a social system that makes violence against women and hatred of gay people ok that zie may not even see anything wrong with this form of entertainment.
Overall, wrestling is centered around perpetuating one kind of masculinity: strong, heterosexual, vulgar, and violent. In addition, it offers other characters for the audience to see as the "bad guy": gay characters, and in some scenes, female characters. This demonization of effeminate individuals only serves to reinforce this problematic, one-dimensional version of masculinity.

What is even more unsettling is the extent to which the dangerous stunts are mimicked by teenage boys in their homes. This phenomenon is not only dangerous from a physical aspect, but it also is a testament to the extent to which the type of masculinity encouraged is one which condones physical violence.

Ultimately, wrestling is a profitable form of entertainment because, for whatever reason, people flock to it in droves. If no one wanted to see acts of violence against women, homosexuals, and other men, wrestling would not exist. Perhaps it is solely the shock value that draws people in. In the case of men, perhaps it gives them a sickening sort of male role model to look up to, one which embodies the type of man they wish they could be (as one young man said in the video, one who "stands up to the man" and "shows them who's boss").

Although we cannot eradicate this form of entertainment, it is apparent that there is a clear need for positive male role models in order to offer young men an alternative to the problematic representation of masculinity that one sees in wrestling. Since fathers are not always present in the lives of their children, boys do not always have these male role models to look up to. However, through such programs as the Brother to Brother program, boys are able to have positive male role models that they so vitally need, role models that represent a proactive, respectful, and nonviolence version of masculinity. Hopefully, these programs will become more accessible to boys so that they may have access to these alternative forms of masculinity.

Ashley Halpin said...

Well, I was one of those kids that the wrestling moves were imitated on. Being the youngest child by 4 years, my brothers had a fabulous time practicing those wrestling moves on me and yes, on one occasion I lost a tooth. I now watch my 30yr old brother, who let me just say now is no father of the year, let my 4yr old niece watch wrestling. Her favorite wrestler is Sabu, if anyone cares. Not surprisingly, Sabu is my brothers hero. No seriously, he really is his hero and my brother dreams of being his manager. He wanted my mother to pay for a flight to NJ so he could follow Sabu around to be his manager for the day.

After watching this movie, I know that my screwed up family is not alone (well, maybe we’re still bizarre.) Unfortunately, this is not comforting in the least. Mostly, I have been trying to figure out what was so disturbing about wrestling and what makes it different from gratuitous violence against women in film. Both are disturbing, but what really makes WWE wrestling and the like so profoundly disturbing for me is the amount of audience participation. It is the encouragement of the fans to humiliate women and the fact that while they “know” this is not real, there is a form of reality here that is not in movies. In movies, there are actors and we know they are actors and that they are following a story. The same could be said for wrestling, but in wrestling the cheering and encouragement is essential to the performance. In films, it is not. I think the same goes for the TV show discussed in “How Two Aspiring Pornographers Made Me into the Ultimate F Word.” While they did not have a live audience, the fact that they are real men giving commentary and who knows whether they truly feel this way or not. Either way, they are directly spewing their misogynistic dialogue directly to viewers and this adds a certain reality that movies just do not have. As stated by the author, Hank Shaw, “It was the commentary that invited guys to have lots of sex with lots of women and girls without worrying about annoying details like their age, or inclination or consent.” Again, it is this audience participation and reality that makes this unbearable. One can argue about how this is entertainment and this is a “men’s soap opera” but it would be hard to deny the reality of the situation.

If all we see is gratuitous violence—in films, music, video games, magazines, television—it is no surprise that our society is desensitized. In addition to this, the reality of these two types of shows (wrestling and Life Without Shame) makes it seem like this type of violence is not only acceptable, but necessary at times. The fans of wrestling said it themselves when they, like a broken record, kept repeating that a woman deserved to be beaten and humiliated. Obviously, no one ever deserves to be abused, but it is this type of “entertainment” that reinforces these ideas. In fact, I will say that it is even more dangerous when packaged as entertainment. How can someone see the severity of the situation when they’re conditioned to see it as humorous?

Claraine said...

I also watched “wrestling with manhood” for the first time a few years ago in sex, gender, and culture. Personally, watching the film now after I have experience a lot of growth and a better understanding of masculinity and gender studies in general proved to be a good way for me to reflect on how I view male identified persons. My first impression of this film was that wrestling was a macho trashy show that was comparable to Jerry Springer. I think the WWE is also a reflection of one specific type of masculinity. This show highlights the tendencies of a typical bully. Someone who enjoys making other people feel insignificant and small for their own satisfaction. What I find sad is that some think this is entertainment (but that’s just my personal opinion). The violence, verbal assaults and dehumanization of women that is displayed throughout the show might be entertaining to some, but the question I ask is, why are these wrestlers being glorified and cheered on for such behavior? Several moments in the film, fans made the comment that wrestling is the man’s version of a soap opera but in a soap opera we know that the events are not real and that no one is being harmed. A good wrestler prides themselves on authenticity and making the violence look as real as possible without seriously injuring one another. Isn’t there some other way we could use such talented individuals who train so hard and have so much trust in each other that they put their lives on the line just to entertain an audience? We can see the negative effects of the WWE when individuals try to imitate these wrestlers and end up hurting themselves and others in the process. I remember when the character The Rock was popular in WWE; I was in the seventh grade and many of my friends and classmates would do daily impressions of The Rock. Are we telling little boys that this is what a real man does, but masking that by saying its only entertainment? To relate this to the readings, Atherton-Zeman’s article, Men’s Manifesto, sends such a positive message to all of us. His revised definition of manhood is an ideal that I hope will someday be reached. My favorite line from that excerpt is “We will refuse to accept it if others say this isn’t the way to be a man. This is our way to be men, and we will not be denied our self-defined manhood (p.259).” It is important to support a healthy image of what a man can be and that he doesn’t have to constantly fight for the right to call himself a man.

Lauren said...

I have distinct memories of being 8 years old, sitting in the nosebleed section of a packed auditorium in downtown Buffalo, New York, foam finger on hand, shouting "Get him!" or "Sweet chin music!" It's clear that my family had no issues with professional wrestling.

Having many brothers in a stereotypically male-dominated family influenced my interests at a young age. When I entered my first women's studies class a little over a year ago, I had to become acquainted with the fact that I was quite a misogynistic woman up until that point. Watching "Wrestling with Manhood" helped me to better understand who I was and how I once considered things around me, and how far I have come do the education I've received in the last few semesters.

Basically, the documentary disgusted me. I never realized, as a youth, just how heteronormative, homophobic, and generally degrading the show/industry is. The intriguing part was that the show seemed to rest on the ideal that people knew it was fake, that it was "entertainment." However it is particularly interesting to note just how often the WWE attempts to blur the lines. Making the real-life CEO an active character who plays the CEO tends to blur the line. The fact that his behavior is sexist, abusive, and degrading (making women get on their hands and knees and bark, ordering a woman to be covered in "vomit", forcing a woman to take all of her clothes off) may be somewhat understood to be an act, but it is still representative. It reminds me of the adage about jokes being rooted in truths, people say things to gauge the reactions of others to their opinion -- you find it especially in racist and homophobic humor (especially around the word "fag" and "gay" used in a derogatory fashion). So, to me, regardless of the owner of WWE's insistence that it's just entertainment, there are kernels of truth within all of it.

Sure, Chuck and Barry may be playing homosexual or "effeminate" men for the storylines, but the homophobia in the audience is very real. Sure, the CEO may not really be angry and abusive in real life to his own wife, but he is still able to broadcast to millions of young impressionable men learning about masculinity, images of himself screaming at a woman to strip down in front of a crowd of screaming animalistic people.

People need to be more responsible, ultimately, with what is being showcased. To say that they're just sating a need that exists does not work. They are creating the market, the market is not creating them. Just look to mainstream music (and the predisposition to take countercultural artists or people on the margin) and its ability to normalize everything. This is simply the same case with WWE. The issue is making the people as a whole realize they need, deserve, and can have something better.

art. said...

I, like cristoina, first saw this film in my sex gender and culture class. It was a little easier to watch this time around, but definately unsetteling. The part of the movie that stuck with me the most, was that it touched on mental intimidation as a legitimate form of male violence. I remember a few weeks ago the blog prompt talked about how what is characterized as male violence was strictly physical and female violence is more vocal. I couldn't really put my finger on why I thought this was problematic, but this aspect of the movie fleshed it out for me. Surely the mental intimidation is linked to actual physical violence, but mental violence is still very powerful and still very masculine.

Kevin Alvarez said...

Oddly enough I watched wrestling through most of my high school years mainly due to the fact that my now ex-girlfriend LOVED the stuff. As I watched it when I was younger I understood how ridiculous it was, and how it degraded basically everyone involved, except for the biggest and strongest. Yet, I still let her watch it, I still watched it, and while I did not know then what I know now I feel as if something should have been said.

I always hear the defense of humor when it comes to just about everything in my life: gay jokes, rape jokes, violent jokes, and especially when it comes to the things that people enjoy and refuse to criticize. The discussion on wrestling is one very akin to the debate over misogynistic music. By this I am talking about the voting as consumer effect. While all the men who watch wrestling may not believe that it is ok to hurt other men for no reason, beat women and objectify them when they chant "pussy" at "weak" wrestlers or chant that the women should strip their clothes off (all in good fun, of course) they are voting for a form of entertainment that is contrary to the beliefs they claim to have.

I really enjoyed the Men's Manifesto piece because I feel that to really get men to become allies in the feminist struggle is to make them understand how patriarchy affects all aspects of life, as this piece does. Even men who typically benefit from patriarchy are subject to it. We can't see wrestling as some sort of niche that most men wouldn't typically be a part of. We don't typically see such extravagantly violent and sexist imagery in other forms of media but the underpinnings of patriarchy are always there.

I cannot claim to be "patriarchy-free" in my life because I am still grappling with my own privilege and my own tendencies but we must be mindful of the way we "vote" with our dollars, our time, and the recreations we choose.

Richarddd said...

I really didn't know what to expect prior to watching "Wrestling With Manhood" and I certainly didn't expect this film to have as much of an impact on me as it did. I did not grow up watching WWE/WWF, but I remember the whole "suck it" thing of course, and I remember people being obsessed with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. I think I was kind of opposed to the whole spectacle of wrestling, but I do remember male friends of mine and pretending I was into wrestling video games so that I could relate.

I was deeply surprised by what was displayed in the film. There were moments where I had great difficulty watching the screen, and was deeply emotionally distraught. While it is possible that some of the scenes that were displayed might not have caused the same audience reactions if they were displayed in their original context (since the original context creates an arena which OKs the objectification of women, praise for homophobia, and hyper-masculinity and violence), I'm glad the film broke down WWE in the way it did, by specifically listing and discussing various social issues evident in WWE programming. I'm sure what we saw was only a fraction of as terrible as that programming can get, since that is the goal of that programming: to be as risqué and awful as is possible on network television. Any initiative that has that goal, to be perpetually "more intense" but at the expense of really all of us in society, is frankly just disgusting to me.

Perhaps the main thing I have taken from this course so far is the importance of viewing social interaction and dynamics through the lens of gender dynamics, both natural and socially constructed. Now, I find myself thinking about every social problem possible from a perspective of gender, and how these roles that are created cause so much harm. Men and women are different, and it's important to recognize the unique attributes each gender brings to the world, but I think so much is sensationalized. We are not that different. We are different in a society which perpetuates horrific attitudes, attributes, and behavioral norms and labels for persons of whatever gender in our society.

Ben Atherton-Zeman's "Men's Manifesto" article deals with the issue of youth violence, which he is quick to point out is just male violence. This style of violence is certainly evident in WWE programming, which is just another form of the countless which educate everyone in society that it's ok for men to be in charge and abuse others physically, emotionally, and sexually. In response to the prompt's asking us to consider entertainment created for privileged vs. oppressed communities, it is only easy to point out that the people behind the WWE programming are not only men, but highly privileged men. In a stratified society which places importance on the pyramid of privilege, with the most importing being on top and the least important on the bottom, it is very obvious that programs like WWE are purposely developed at the expense of the least advantaged.

Kelly T said...

I didn’t expect myself to be as startled about “Wrestling with Manhood” as I was. Typically I can watch a shocking documentary and be okay with it in the end, but this time it had me thinking for a while and disgusted for a while longer. When I was younger I was never surrounded by the wrestling scene until I made some new guy friends in high school who were all into the backyard wrestling stuff. They would send me videos of their “matches” and ask me what I thought. My response was always the same, “Why the hell are you doing this?” or “You could get seriously injured!” But they never listened and at the time I thought it was a lost cause. When I saw in the film how young men and boys imitate what they see in the WWE and how often they do get hurt I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I should have spoken up, I should have made them answer WHY they did these things and what they got out of beating each other up. I also realized upon thinking about the guys that I knew who were involved in the “backyard wrestling” that they were from more blue collar families and were even in the classes that were not classified as “advanced” in my high school. It never occurred to me just how much class plays into the wrestling type of violence. It seemed as though my other guy friends who were in the “advanced” courses were wrestling on mats in a gym while the other guys were duking it out in backyards throwing each other on tables and off of roofs. So why is it that these two classes feel that they can express their violent tendencies in different ways? There was no monetary barrier when participating in a school structured wrestling event, so why couldn’t the backyard guys go get out their aggression on a mat? Maybe the different types of wrestling are viewed differently on a level of which is more masculine, which we know in our society means power. Maybe those guys from the “lower” class needed to feel more empowered and this was their way of doing so. This was their way of showing those other guys that although they don’t “belong” to the same group that they’re just as tough, they’re just as manly if not manlier. After all it is engrained in our society’s minds that men need to prove their masculinity in forms of power, violence and stoic characteristics.

I think that if we handed out (not just to those who identify as men) but everyone a copy of the “Men’s Manifesto” that maybe we would be able to start creating change. After all, it’s not masculinity that’s the problem in our society… it’s the definition of masculinity and how we keep reinforcing that definition. If we could change everyone’s thinking about what it means to be masculine and how to not portray masculinity through negative characteristics then maybe things would be different. There wouldn’t be as much violence because there wouldn’t be a need to prove ones self as being more powerful or stronger then another human being. If people who identify as men could define what it means to be a man then things would be different. If everyone thought like Zeman when he says “This is our way to be men, and we will not be denied our self-defined manhood” then maybe, just maybe our world would be a little better.

Evan Wyss said...

I have seen very small clips of the WWE while flipping through the channels before, but never stayed long enough to really see what was going on. I never felt the slightest inclination to watch wrestling on TV. I guess it makes sense because I am not entertained by violence, real or fake.

Anyway, when I was watching this I really was nothing short of shocked about how the womyn were treated. I am used to seeing gay people humiliated. I also am used to seeing womyn being reduced to objects on television, but I really have never seen violence against them so glamorized in entertainment in my life. This was actually really depressing to me.

Other than the obvious reaction to how the abused actors felt as well as the people who sympathized in real life at home with the victims, I started to look into the heads of the hypermasculine wrestlers themselves. This also saddened me. These are people that are resorting to the most basic and cheap way to reaffirm their manhood against their insecurities. There is no way that they live a fulfilling life when they have to abuse others in order to get through their day. As the commentator in the video said, they're air of rebellion is certainly a false one. They truly are living out the dark side of the 1950's in flamboyant wrestling costumes.

The wrestlers themselves have been psychologically terrorized their whole lives into believing false ideals of masculinity. They probably realize on a daily basis that they can't live up to what they are supposed to, because no one can, they get desperate and end up abusing others; whether in real life or by "acting".

Debonair said...

I almost could not react to the film because I felt that it was so violent. It is very rare that I watch violent "entertainment". With that said, the was a time where I watched wrestling once or twice and from the film that we watched it was completely different. I could mostly relate to the part of the film that showed the wrestling action figures from the past up till now, which showed how the body type has change. I think that our culture is constantly changing into one that is trying to push the edge and see how much we can get away with. In the article in MSO, Breaking the Silence One Mile at a Time the author explains that the word rape should not be used out of context (which I totally agree with) and explains that language should be the first place to start at when trying to stop violence against women. This should be a tool used in media especially wrestling. The language was very violent and that is something that is also seen in blue collar workers. Language and class are very much related and wrestling is definitely geared toward the working class which supports the idea that the language used is proper to use, it is basically supporting a never ending cycle of violence.