You ever catch yourself reminiscing over younger days about how life was a lot easier when you had a lot less responsibilities and people told you what to do rather than expected you to figure it out on your own? Those days when you were in school and your whole world revolved around a brick, or other material, building and the kids that were there with you. Then you start seeing faces of kids you knew then, all the memories of them, and then there’s always the kids you remember being different from everyone else. Or maybe at your school everyone was exactly the same and all was perfect! But for the rest of us, something like this was not unheard of at our school.
I want to sit here and question to myself why young boys and men are so aggressive towards each other, but I can’t honestly ask myself that because I’m seeing the answer everywhere I look! It’s all over the media today. We are constantly exposed to this “real man” ideology that says we are supposed to be strong, tough, independent and respected to be considered a real man. This is a real issue because media, especially today, “… provide materials out of which we forge our very identities; our sense of self hood; our notion of what it means to be male or female; our sense of class, of ethnicity and race, of nationality, of sexuality; and of ‘us’ and ‘them'” (9 Kellner).
While people critically analyze and accuse violence in movies, games and music for adolescent male violence, many people over look sports as being a contributing factor. The character portrayal in these violent medias all tend to share the 4 characteristics that are stated to making someone a “real man”, but last time I checked so do many male athletes. Let’s take a look at how each of the 4 characteristics are individually expressed in sports.
I remember when I was young, kids would say things like “you hit like a girl,” “you throw like a girl,” “you kick like a girl” as a real insult to another boy’s athletic ability. The true test though was not just how good was their athleticism but how would they physically express their reaction to the insult. ‘Real men don’t cry,’ instead they can take on all the harsh treatment of the world, stand up tall and work even harder. At least that’s what coaches seem to be preaching. Outside of verbal insults used as a form of twisted motivation, it’s not unheard of for coaches to use other extreme/abusive methods for making athletes ‘tougher’. But if this is a good tactic, than why are there so many coaches losing their jobs? By exposing athletes to different forms of abuse, they become more emotionally suppressed and aggressive. Sure this makes them more competitive and increases your odds of winning… but at what cost? Just some psychological trauma! Meh, they’re tough men they’ll get over it…
So why be tough? Cause it’ll make you able to do more and more importantly, it’ll get you respect! Respect is earned with aggressive achievements in the world of sports. Whether that be a successful defensive player that can really stop their opponents, an aggressive offensive player that can beat the defense, or a spokesman/talk show host that is blatant with expressing their opinion. Take the talk show host Jim Rome, he has not only changed how a lot of sports talk shows format their show but has built his reputation and respect off the degradation of others. In one of his airings he talked about a hearing in which Patrick Ewing, and other athletes, were reported having sexual relations with dancers at a club. Rome’s comments on the dancers ranged from things like “one of those hookers got on the stand” to “This ‘tramp’ also testified” (174 Nylund). His fans called in to agree/praise his comments and add on ones of their own.
Let us not forget; however, also to be tough on the field you have to be strong! Being built and having strength is over emphasized in today’s culture geared towards men and reinforced with the increasing demands of young women; also influenced by media. As for the world of sports, this demand for being fit but also highly competitive has led many athletes to risking their health for a temporary increase in performance with the use of steroids. What’s worse is as this has become more and more public, adolescent athletes are exposed even more to the temptations ad’s provide of using steroids without proper education on the side effects. Outside of just the physical side effects, like reduced size in genitalia and acne, there are emotional side effects; like increased aggression and then depression from the mood swings caused by withdrawal.
The final the quality to being a real man is independence. If there’s anything inquired upon more often than the previous 3 qualities in media about pro-sport athletes, it’s their salaries. What better way to be independent than making millions per year off a contract with a team playing a sport one game per week, on average, for a select amount of weeks in a year. Talk about all that moneyz!!
So through abusive motivation, aggressive dominance, drug induced physique, and over paid incomes you can now be a ‘real man’. The worst part of these 4 attributes associated with athletes is that they are constantly being projected to our youth. In Jackson Katz’s Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity, Katz expresses how the media constantly barrages adolescents with images and videos of how masculinity is acquired in sports and being in the military. Whether it be in TV commercials, magazine ads, or even movie commercials; this constant exposure is only reinforcing this idea that only applies to certain young men. That is young, middle class, white males. “…advertisers who wanted to demonstrate the unquestioned manliness of their products could do so by using one of the two key subsets in the symbolic image system of violent masculinity: the military and sports.” (226 Katz). Speaking of military and sports.. now just what kind of connection could there be between them to make them both effective for marketing ‘manliness’… Takes a real genius to figure this one out!
So it’s no real wonder why kids who aren’t thought of as being tough, ‘sissies’, strong, ‘weaklings’, respected, ‘awkward’ or ‘estranged’, or independent, lower class, are picked on. This ever consistent image that is being fed to kids shows that in this ‘dog eat dog’ world, you have to be these 4 things to overcome all opposition and to get what you want. By doing so you’ll be a ‘real man’, and for those who don’t have these 4 qualities… well, they’re inferior.
If you’re still not convinced that sports media influences and shapes the attitudes of adolescents into one one that exemplifies aggressiveness, then just have a look at this kid and you’ll get the point!
Cute kid, right?? 😉
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