Monday, 22 August 2005

Wrestling with Tenure

There is scholarship and then there is sociology; the latter is alike to the former in the same way that a collage pasted together by the mentally retarded is akin to fine art. Perhaps the only thing to be said for sociology is that it keeps its professors away from the more important occupations in society, such as medicine, where they might with wonted contrariness prescribe the disease and symptomise the cure.
.....That it is not now a serious intellectual discipline is illustrated by the following excerpt from a study by Danielle Soulliere, published in the Electronic Journal of Sociology:

The aim of this study was to investigate the themes of masculinity revealed in television professional wrestling programs and to explore the way in which these themes of masculinity were constructed by these programs.

In total, 118 episodes of WWE programming were recorded and analysed for themes of masculinity.


During the initial viewings, it became apparent to the researcher that the announcers, audience and performers were intimately involved in the construction of masculinity. . . . [Moreover] . . . the following major themes were revealed to be significant markers of masculinity and are consistent with the dominant hegemonic masculinity prevalent in North American society: aggression and violence, emotional restraint, dominance, achievement and success, competition, toughness, risk-taking, courage, and heterosexuality. These themes effectively define what it means to be a man in professional wrestling as well as the larger society.

(Danielle Soulliere, "Masculinity on Display in the Squared Circle: Constructing Masculinity in Professional Wrestling", Electronic Journal of Sociology (2005))

Now, for the sake of brevity, I have left out some of the finer details of the method, such as the swallowing whole of the theory of social constructivism; and for the sake of sanity, I have not included all the fatuous results. It is enough to say that, after umpteen-hours watching – sorry, investigating, exploring and analysing – the blusterous exertions of spandex-clad baboons, Ms Soulliere has concluded, firstly, that wrestlers behave like blusterous baboons in spandex, and secondly, that this behaviour is socially constructed.
.....The whole tedious affair could have been boiled down to the following non-argument:

I, and some of the writers I cite, think that masculinity has certain characteristics and is socially constructed.
I have watched many hours of professional wrestlers displaying these same characteristics, which I think are socially constructed.
I think masculinity is constituted of these characteristics and is socially constructed.

That which is banal in this study is already known: that society affects men and men affect society. And that which is absurd is yet to be shown: that society constructs masculinity in toto. If I might venture an opinion, I would say it all sounds like a well-paid, socially flippant waste of time.


Sam said...

Where would blogging rank on your list of Useful Things To Do With One's Time?

Deogolwulf said...

It depends entirely on what one does with it. Blogging need not be useful at all beyond entertainment. There is nothing to stop blogging being informative, however. Indeed, I suspect I could learn more from a well-chosen blog than from three years of studying sociology.

The whole point of research is to be informative,or edifying, or to increase our stock of knowledge. If it is not informative, or edifying, or does not increase our stock of knowledge, then it is useless; if it serves to confuse what we already know, then it is worse than useless. Spurious research certainly has no use as entertainment (except accidently, perhaps).

Serf said...

For me the biggest advantage of blogging has been that I have learn't a massive amount of new things. Thats probably not something anyone can say about this study.