Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 5: Men are not whiners

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

Message 5: Men are not whiners

As the classic adage “real men don’t cry” suggests, men are expected to exercise emotional restraint, to keep their emotions in check, and to avoid displaying any public show of certain emotions. In short, men are not whiners or cry babies.

There were abundant examples of this masculinity message throughout the WWE programs. On an episode of Smackdown (10-11-01), for example, Kurt Angle throws a temper tantrum after losing a match. Commentator Tazz declares: “You talk about your sore losers here. Crybaby! I’m begging Angle to take it like a man!” Here, Tazz suggests that to be a man means to exercise emotional restraint. Men are not supposed to complain or whine about losing.

In a similar example, announcer Michael Cole comments that Christian, a young male performer, has “got to stop whining about things” and “get in the ring and bust butt” (SD 02-21-02). The message here is two-fold: Not only are men not whiners, but they are expected to be physical rather than emotional.

Moreover, emotional restraint as masculine was empha- sized when The Rock shows that he is above getting all worked up over Hogan’s deliberate verbal jabs. The Rock agrees to pose with Hogan, and tells him, “The Rock (is) being a man. A picture for your son. No problem.” (No Way Out). The Rock’s message, through his actions and words, is that keeping one’s emotions in check is the manly thing to do.

Not only are men not whiners but they are expected to accept defeat gracefully. Real men are not sore losers. This is best illustrated by an example that pits the masculine response against the feminine response. After losing to their

father in a Winner-Takes-All match, Shane and Stephanie McMahon respond differently (RAW 11-19-01). Shane readily accepts defeat: “You won and I lost. I lost to the better man.” Shane simply leaves the ring, and announcer JR remarks: “Shane’s taking it like a man. He lost, he’s leaving.” In contrast to her brother, Stephanie is emotion- ally dramatic. She cries, blames her brother for everything, and asks for her father’s forgiveness. She is literally carried, kicking and screaming, out of the arena. Here, masculinity is constructed in opposition to femininity. The message revealed through the different responses is that men accept defeat gracefully and bow out, whereas women whine, complain, apologize, and blame others. As JR aptly captures with his remark, men do not give in to emotions but accept things and move on.

It should be noted that despite expectations of emotional restraint, there were emotions deemed acceptable for men to display, primarily the active emotions of anger and frustration. Male performers were frequently described by the announcers as “angry,” “livid,” “seething,” “furious,” “irate,” “mad,” “enraged,” and “hot,” as well as “frustrated.” Also, male performers frequently expressed emotions of anger and frustration during the 2-h shows.

There were several poignant suggestions that the emotions of anger and frustration “naturally” lead to aggression and violence, the primary hegemonic masculine traits. For example, after Triple H assaults Christian backstage, announcer Michael Cole points out the “anger and frustration in the eyes of Triple H” (SD 01-24-02), and suggests that these emotions are the root of Triple H’s aggression. Likewise, commentator Tazz remarks that Austin is “so mad” that “he’s going to hurt somebody” (SD 09-04-01), again a suggestion that anger and aggres- sion go hand in hand. Moreover, the suggestion that aggression is a natural outcome of anger and frustration is exemplified by Cole’s remark that “the Dudley Boyz have been frustrated and ticked off since losing the Tag Team titles to Spike and Tazz” (SD 01-17-02) as a way of explaining Bubba Ray and D-Von’s violent attack on the two in the arena parking lot.

Although men should exercise restraint with respect to emotional displays that are considered more conventionally feminine (e.g., crying, hysteria, whining, complaining), they are encouraged to express emotions of anger and frustration, which complement the masculine trait of aggression and violence.

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