Rethinking Hypermasculinity

26 Nov

A bunch of us J-school buddies were talking sports in relation to the way they are perceived by men and women differently. Ultimate fighting was mentioned regarding it’s role as a symbol for hypermasculinity but I saw it as being somewhat homoerotic. Men wrapped around each other, half naked, crotches in face? I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

The sports considered to be the most ‘manly’ (football, hockey, rugby…) have the same sentiment. Greased up alpha males playing a high contact game, yet overcompensatingly hetero.

In ghettoizing these sports as strictly heterosexual, people who fall outside of this definition are left at the wayside or are stuck in the closet.

And now, a breath of fresh air.

An article published by the Star features Brendan Burke, a 20 year old student at the University of Miami who works for the school’s hockey team and happens to be openly gay. He also happens to be the s0n of Brian Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager. Papa Burke is as loving and accepting of his son’s orientation as any parent should be.

Although Burke may not be a star athlete just yet (or ever?), the influence of his father may bring forth a new sense of liberalism within the realm of high-contact sports.

“If my acceptance can turn into more acceptance on the part of other people, that’s great,” Burke said.

Right now, as the Star reports, “there are no openly gay individuals working in hockey operations in any of the major pro or amateur leagues.”

Perhaps it’s time for a change.

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5 Responses to “Rethinking Hypermasculinity”

  1. Emmanuel November 26, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    What about women who play high contact, “manly” sports? I think describing these games as strictly the domain of alpha males denigrates women to stereotypical roles: gentle flakes who are incapable of showing aggression.
    Further, are “alpha females” who participate in mixed martial arts (aka ultimate fighting) also exhibiting homoerotic tendencies?

    • romeh November 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

      What I’m trying to say is that there is a stigma associated with high contact sports and they shouldn’t be considered hypermasculine because they deny people who fall outside of that scope (i.e. women) an equal opportunity to participate in them without scrutiny.

      My focus was not on women in the post but you bring up a valid point since female athletes especially in the sports mentioned are not regarded on the same level as men playing the same sports (i.e. look at sports coverage).

      In terms of Ultimate Fighting, I’m not saying the sport consists of athletes hiding their homosexuality because I don’t consider it so at all, I just see parallels between the sport and homoeroticism in the nature of the contact between two men. It is my personal emotional reaction to the sport. I just find it interesting that many men who are opposed to same-sex unions are watching sports that involve high contact between males yet in one situation it’s okay for it to take place, and in the other it’s not.

      Also, I think if females compete in Ultimate Fighting championships using the same level of contact that males do, I definitely see homoerotic elements in their movement.

  2. Kyle November 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    In regards to you discussion about homoeroticism (is this a word?) in Ultimate Fighting, I think there are a number of flaws in your argument.

    Who are these men who oppose gay marriage and then get a boner for UFC? Do you really know any? I don’t, and I know a lot of UFC fans. Obviously you can find parallels between two half-naked men rolling on top of each and homoerotic behaviour. Just like I perceive overt heteroeroticism (as long as we’re making up words) in pairs figure skating – what with the man putting his hands all over the woman’s fun parts and whatnot – but this is a very immature way to look at sports and sexuality.

    A close friend of mine has an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) record of 3-1-0, and is very comfortable joking about the homosexual nature of professional fighting. Once he joked that fighting might be how he deals with his repressed homosexual urges. But it’s just jokes.

    If you’re going to draw parallels between homoeroticism (there’s that word again) and fighting and sports in general, why stop there? Sometimes men get massages from other men, should we start making homo-comparisons? How about when a man gets his hair cut by another man? This can be a pretty intimate situations – relationships and trust are involved, not to mention the touching. And one time my doctor put his hands on my balls, and he’s a pretty masculine dude, was that gay?

    Also, is it not possible for a man to be an alpha male and a homosexual? Why do you make it sound like alpha males and homosexuals are mutually exclusive?

    Anyway, good post Romes, it obviously started an interesting discussion.

    • romeh November 26, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

      Hey, it’s just my opinion. As you said, your friend who is involved in MMA sees the association between his sport and homosexuality. It’s just a connection I personally made, with or without merit.

      Of course saying that most men who watch UFC or any high contact sports are homophobic is a huge generalization and I would never make that claim, but men who have this ideology do exist, maybe not in our social circles, but elsewhere. I wouldn’t associate myself with people who are homophobic anyways.

      And of course alpha males can be homosexual, it’s not mutually exclusive, it’s just a traditional (and incorrect) way of perceiving man. My goal, through this post / through the debate that’s going on right now, is to relinquish this stereotype and as much as you both are disagreeing with me, we are very much on the same page if you read into all of this a little more.

      My initial problem, that I think you’re both losing sight of, is not whether or not UFC is essentially homoerotic, because I know it isn’t, it just reminds me of homoerotic things, my problem is in the lack of representation by men of other orientations other than heterosexual in these kinds of sports. How welcome are they on a football team? On a hockey team? In the article about the Burkes, Brendan talks about quitting hockey because of the raging homophobia on his team. You can’t deny the existence of homophobia in high contact sports and amongst fans.

  3. romeh November 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    p.s. thank you guys for actually participating in this debate. I wanted this blog to be a community of thinkers, not just me stating my opinion and expecting people to agree with it. Of course I will attempt to stand my ground but I’m glad there’s a conversation happening. High fives all around!

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