Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where Young Men and Boys Learn Homophobia: Wrestlemania Hype

A little over a week ago on NPR's "Fresh Air," Terry Gross hosted Dan Savage and his husband (in Canada)/boyfriend (in the U.S.) to discuss the "It Gets Better" movement, in which gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender adults and heterosexual allies may post videos for young people of stigmatized sexualities who are struggling with bullying.

Click here to listen to the podcast:

Even President Obama made a video for the project:

It is a fantastic interview, covering everything from homophobia to family dynamics, and coping with being a minoriy on multiple levels (i.e., sexuality, gender, race, class).

At about 19:00 into the interview, Gross asks a question that she says "might be incredibly naieve": "Why do you think so many teenagers are still so homophobic considering how many people are out now, how many celebrities are out now. People in popular culture are out now. I mean, it's just so much more commonplace than it was when you were growing up."

Savage offers an illuminating response, discussing how in some ways celebrities' openness regarding their sexuality has made it worse for LGBT teens, as it is more difficult for them to "fly under the radar" in the case that it is unsafe to come out. However, the conversation went on a tangent, and Gross's question was not actually addressed.

So where is homophobia still cultivated in our society? Hegemonic masculinity is about males stepping on women and other males in order to move up the system's social order. Stepping on others in a hegemonic masculine system means putting down all that is considered feminine, which currently includes males who do not fit into the rigid heterosexual standard.

So where do boys grow up learning to be homophobic?
Well, tomorrow is the World Wrestling Entertainment's annual hallmark show, "Wrestlemania." Here's part of what was used to build the hype - classic hegemonic masculinity. In other words, here we have blatant discrimination used to hype an extremely popular cultural product with a very male-heavy audience. The use of humor, role modeling, and the extensive power the WWE has in the entertainment business normalizes these discriminatory values. As a society, we are less apt to think more carefully (or even at all) about homophobia and question its existence. Of course Jackson Katz has done tons of excellent work critquing WWE's sexist and homophobic history.

For a more contemporary example, just listen to the crowd cheer wildly after each homophobic joke made by the WWE's current star, John Cena. Male socialization at its finest (sarcasm):

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