Friday, August 28, 2009

don't say the M word

well, of course, i am aware that my position as a filmmaker is rather macho, and that every lucha is laden with gendered discourses. and yes, i've long been fascinated by gender and especially by masculinity -- in practice way before in theory.

all that said, i've become convinced that if one starts talking about masculinity in academic terms -- perhaps even the second one says the M word when trying to describe it -- everything goes flat. limp. the subject transforms from a complex human being into some kind of symbol, useful for anthropologists (especially hetero- white males) who have a guilty conscience for having all the upper hands, categorically speaking.

phew. okay, so there's a little rant after having been one of those creatures* for the past several years.

(by the way, i write this five years after taking a class at Stanford called Masculinities: Technologies of Gender, a class where we read a monograph criticizing a particular Masculinity each week. this class affected me profoundly. it stewed in me until i realized, very recently, that there is nothing inherently bad about masculinity, indeed there are many positive traits and social values that emerge from certain forms of masculinity, and i no longer have to disclaim my own.)

so from here on i'm going to avoid using the word Masculinity in trying to describe what i'm learning from my immersion in the world of Lucha Libre. this is not at all an abnegation of interest in the subject, or of its importance. i would say that the tangle of behaviors, jokes, gestures, and ways of being that in some way form masculinities are absolutely central to my fascination with Lucha Libre. rather, this is a statement about process: by avoiding analytical description of the "Masculinities" i encounter in and around the wrestling ring, i have to fall back on observation and description. i must withhold judgement, especially the kind I've previously been so likely to lapse into -- which i'll now glibly call American academic liberalism.

this is crucial -- absolutely necessary -- because as soon as i begin to judge, categorize, deem good or bad any of the characteristics of my dear luchador collaborators, my approach to this project swerves away from its clarity of vision. it threatens to become steered by concepts -- and worse, by concepts which carry all kinds of judgements, which automatically become political rhetoric. and for me, political rhetoric is the worst thing my work might become: it traffics in stereotypes, in sound bites, in pre-judged, categorized simplification. it does the thinking for the viewers, rather than creating a world with complex characters and situations, with full emotions, that viewers can feel, wonder at, and question for themselves.

so instead of analytic descriptions of "Masculinities," i will offer impressions and stories.

and all this reminds me of a story...

* the creature referred to here is an anthropologically-informed hetero- white male who isn't quite sure what to do with his own masculinity since gender is constructed and since masculinity is associated with violence, domination, power and privilege, all of which he disclaims in his own person.


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