School for Social Work
Wrestling-Psychological aspects, Sports spectators-Psychology, Men-Psychology, Gender identity, Masculinity, Professional wrestling, Gender identity development
This theoretical study explores professional wrestling as a performance of masculinity. After briefly outlining what American professional wrestling is, and why its study is highly relevant to the field of social work, this study considers how professional wrestling may meet needs of its male fans related to their experiences of gender identity development. This study draws on Sharon Mazer's work of conceptualizing professional wrestling as a performance of masculinity. It draws on a body of feminist, postmodern, psychoanalytic theory which critiques the notion of gender as a binary, essential, and biologically determined category, and asserts that each person's development of a stable, binary gender identity necessarily requires an experience of loss, in which the person must disavow culturally prohibited desires and identifications. This thesis argues that professional wrestling can be understood as addressing the tension experienced by its male fans between meeting the cultural imperative to maintain a stable gender identity, and needing to cope with and compensate for the losses that this imperative has demanded. This thesis will argue that professional wrestling may afford its male fans opportunities to access disavowed desires and identifications (in such a way that they need not admit to these forbidden desires and identifications) while, at the same time, reassuring them of the stability of their male identity. Finally, this thesis will consider how this understanding of professional wrestling might inform clinical work with male professional wrestling fans and others, and will suggest avenues for exploration of the issues discussed.
Millman, Daniel Sarnat, "Free to act any way he wanted : male gender identity and professional wrestling" (2009). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.