Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 1: Real men are aggressive and violent

Below, some notes about gender in wrestling, from “Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE” by Danielle M. Soulliere


Message 1: Real men are aggressive and violent

One message that was clearly revealed through the programs was that real men are physically aggressive and violent. There were several examples in which male performers asserted aggression and violence as a purely masculine trait. For example, when the Undertaker confronts Ric Flair about his aggressive attack on him the previous evening, Flair explains it as a masculine response (RAW 02-18-02):

Taker: You hit me in the head with that pipe last night.

Flair: That was me just being a man.

Similarly, after being called out by Triple H to compete in a match against him at Summerslam, Shawn Michaels responds with a message reminiscent of a Kenny Rogers’ song: “Sometimes you have to fight to be a man.” (RAW 08-05-02). Clearly, the message is that physical aggression defines masculinity, defines what being a man is all about.

Moreover, on an episode of Smackdown (01-03-02), Test hits on female performer Torrie Wilson. When she seems uninterested and tells him that she already has a boyfriend, Test does not appear to be too pleased. He tells Torrie: “Why don’t you tell your boyfriend, Tajiri, to meet me in the ring later, and I’ll show you what a real man’s all about.” Test’s message is simple: Being a man means being physically aggressive, and he intends to defeat Tajiri in competition to prove to Torrie that he’s a “real man.”

These examples effectively illustrate the message that being a man entails being aggressive and violent. In each case, physical aggression is emphasized as a masculine trait.

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