Monday, March 5, 2007

An Unlikely Fit

I found the piece by Sharon Mazer to be very interesting. It gave the perspective of a person who neither liked or disliked wrestling. She was mainly interested in wrestling as a performance rather than just wrestling. She wasn't interested in proving wrestling to be fake but how wrestling appeared to be real.

Not only was Mazer foreign to wrestling, but she was a woman in a man's world. Mazer points out that there was another woman, Sky Magic, present at the gym. The difference with Mazer and Sky Magic was that Sky Magic was a bodybulider who actually went out and wrestled with the men. She was one of the guys. Mazer, on the other hand, was "short, round, and female". Although Sky Magic accepted her as one of the girls, Mazer could never really become one of the guys. I think that it is hard to imagine the male wrestlers accepting female wrestlers, so it seemed impossible for them to accept a female journalist. The only reason, in my opinion, that they accepted Mazer was to get their name known and have some publicity.

Mazer knew that she was out of her element while she was with the wrestlers. She knew her place as an invisible spectator and she knew not to speak out of turn. When Vito tells Mazer to take naked pictures of them, Mazer knows exactly what he is trying to do. I agree with Mazer's analysis that it was a kind of inititation and that she was "getting her face pushed to the mat". Mazer did not backdown to Vito and knows that she will get the last word when she writes her essay.

Even though Mazer might've seemed like an unikely fit in the gym, Mazer never stopped in her quest to study wrestling. At the end of the article when she is asked for her opinion on a woman wrestler, Mazer knows that she has been truly accepted by the wrestlers.


Sam Ford said...

Glad that you got something of value out of the Mazer piece, Ismael. Sharon is a very intelligent scholar and will be joining us later this semester. We will be reading another of her pieces on wrestling and this work she did with these wrestlers training and her studies of fans, etc. She will also be speaking at MIT later this semester. I will give you more information to follow.

I think her initiation and her study of the wrestlers training provide quite a bit of insight into how identity-building and community-formation takes place for the wrestlers themselves and also highlights how much of a performance her own writing is, as much as theirs. Her points are interesting to keep in mind in comparison to our conversation about Jim Freedman's book.

Carolina said...

I really enjoyed the Mazer article, especially how at first she didn't specify that she was a woman. I think it wasn't until the second page in that she made note of the fact that she was female, which made the article even more intriguing. Being female myself, I know that sometimes it seems strange that I would even be a fan of pro wrestling at all, so I could only imagine what it must've felt like for her to be what she termed a spectator up close and personal with pro wrestlers. I can understand too why a particular wrestler, I believe he went by Vito, started taunting her while she was at ringside. Well, at first I couldn't understand why, but then she explained how she had made a comment that had "challenged" his manhood. I do agree with this to a point... based on what she did say, well, I think she could have said it with more tact and I probably would have been offended too if someone who knew nothing about what I did for a living made what could easily be perceived as a mocking comment. But all in all, I really enjoyed the article because it offered a female perspective, and I'm looking forward to reading more articles by Mazer in the future.

katejames said...

I was very interested as well in Mazer's discussion of her place as female viewer in the gym. Her role as female flaneur is indeed a charged one. It made me blush a bit when she describes what it means for a female to be a fan of wrestling-- the inevitable sexual tension/ dynamic of watching scantily-clad men perform physical acts.
But just as interesting as her perspective as a woman, I thought, was her framing of her role as ethnographer. What is it for someone who is neither a fan or performer to address the wrestling world? I guess I was suprised at first at Mazer's enormous personal presence in this academic article. But, mazer cites Benjamin: "Like translation, ethnography is also a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages-- of cultures and societies" (281) So, ultimately, it is key to the value of her observations that she be positioned as a character/ performer in the wrestling world/ gym-- even if she is very clearly in the role of 'outsider.'
Anyway, I thought this performative element of the ethnographer was especially important when juxtaposed with the performance of the wrestlers and the audience-- everyone is performing in very specific and consistent ways, and the comingling and feedback cycles of the various performances seems really important.

narwood said...

As fitting and intriquing as the Mazer's performance analysis of gender is, those are her fields of study. Which in a way bothers me because she so eloquently self-analyzes herself in her situation as physically foreign but intellectually in-the-know. What does her approach blind her to, and does the effusion of large words and wittiness make it too easy to be seduced by the author's narrative?

These aren't pointed questions, we ask them of any ethnography, and like any good ethnographer Mazer questions them herself. But also has to put them aside in order to get on with her work. Honestly, my main concern is that she *is* over-reading some of her observations, though granted, we just read the (naturally) self-reflective intro.

Sam Ford said...

Great points about Sharon Mazer's work. We'll be reading another piece from her later in the semester, and I encourage you to prepare to talk to her about it while she's here later this term as well.