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Chris Benoit – another victim of a gender role?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on June 28, 2007


Chris BenoitFAYETTEVILLE, Georgia (CNN) — The discovery of anabolic steroids in pro-wrestler Chris Benoit’s home has raised speculation that the performance-enhancing drugs may be linked to his death and the killings of his wife and young son.The 40-year-old champion strangled his wife, Nancy Benoit, and suffocated his 7-year-old son Daniel, authorities said, before he hanged himself on a portable weight machine inside his lavish home outside Atlanta. Police have said no motive has been determined. More…


Men are rewarded for being cool, calm and collected, strong, silent and superior. We build our image of what it means to be a man on those attributes. We cheer athletes for their successes and berate them for their failures, and when they no longer appeal to us with their IMAGE we leave them crushed beneath our feet.So is it any surprise if those same athletes will do just about anything to stay on top?I am not joining the choir singing the roid-rage song about Chris Benoit. I didn’t know him, so I couldn’t say. But IF, then who is at least partially responsible for his and half his family’s death? We are. For accepting a male gender role that put Chris and so many other male athletes in a catch 22 position. For demanding that male athletes be more than they are to satisfy our needs for spectacles.When the breaking point is reached – will we be there to support and encourage? No. That is one reason men so often loose the battle with their inner demons – they are taught to be the supporters not the supported – and somehow I doubt Chris Benoit was any different from other men. To me Chris Benoit is another tragic victim of an oppressive male gender role, that in the end didn’t just take Chris’ Life, but that of his wife and son.

Where will it stop?

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6 Responses to “Chris Benoit – another victim of a gender role?”

  1. Well, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding Benoit’s death, right now, but I agree with the point I think you’re making. Society has long taught that girls are supposed to be a certain way, while boys are not. I’m sure that if this was changed, there wouldn’t be as much aggression from men as there is; being able to release negative emotions is a crucial part of mental health – everyone knows this…

    I think that whoever decided that “big boys don’t cry” ought to have had their head examined…

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  2. Silly Old Bear said

    You are right, Wolf Singer – there is a lot of controversy and in no way is my article meant in disrespect of Chris Benoit. I decided to “run” with the roid rage thing because THAT in any case touches on the male gender role as a construct that demands more or less emotional “road-blocking” of its practioners. But I am equally convinced that the female gender role “be silent and simper” is just as emotionally constricting.

    My real point, I think, is that by accepting those gender roles as a requirement of people, especially people we look up to and admire, as I understand people did with Benoit, we are in all reality accomplices BEFORE the fact.

    It’s a little like the controversy of Celebreties and the paparazzis – we denounce paparazzis chasing the celebrities, like they did with f.i Princess Diana – but at the same time we BUY those damned magazines. The paparazzis are just giving us what we want – we are their employers, and accomplices.

    I think the inventor of gender roles should be drawn, hung, quartered and burnt at the stake.

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  3. I hear you, Shadow Bear – and something else occurred to me while I was reading your reply. It may be off topic, or it may actually have some subtle but still valid relevance to this issue: Why do gender roles dictate that men and women must look a certain way in order to be considered “acceptable” by society?

    Chris Benoit did anabolic steroids – this is a fact. But WHY did he take them? He took them because they made him big and strong – a physical manifestation of a long-practiced, unrealistic ideal that men are supposed to be strong… not just emotionally, but physically, as well. Does that make sense?

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  4. Silly Old Bear said

    It makes a lot of sense, Wolf Singer.

    Why do gender roles dictate that men and women must look a certain way in order to be considered “acceptable” by society?

    I don’t know – I have a theory, though.
    Back when the average life-expectancy was somewhere around 30-40 people were at their peak physically, in terms of being able to provide for the needs of the tribe, somewhere around 15-25. That was also when they were most sexually proficient and therefore eligible for reproduction. They had some kids and then they became Elders and died. End of Story.
    This collective memory still exists. In a Society where the life-expectancy is between 70-and 90, but the physical and sexual peak is still between 15 and 25 and one’s children mature around 15-18, ready to flee the nest. See where I am going with this? 25+18=43. 90-43=47. 47 years of life to fill with something worthwhile. Let’s say that we can add another 10 years of sexual activity, through attempting to look as if we are 15-25 – that means we can have another brood, or even a life that is not hampered by reproduction.
    Society has simply gotten stuck between two natural phases in life – and is eternally a teenager or young adult until we realize somewhere around 60, that being an Elder is not that bad and settle down.
    Next piece in my theory is built, again on an idea of the collective memory – the Hunter/Warrior and the Mother/Gatherer – those two Roles were needed in a Society where life needed both nurture and protection provided directly, and not indirectly.
    But as Society became more and more Technological the direct need disappeared, but the roles remained, partly out of our laziness, partly out of fear.
    There is no need for men to Hunters/Warriors anymore – but we have no idea what else to do, so we keep teaching our sons to be Hunters/Warriors, in a society where those values are no longer appreciated. Same thing with women’s roles.
    Am I making sense?

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  5. Shari said

    Both you and WolfSinger make perfect sense to me. It’s just so bad that we build up celebrities to a point, and then when they fall or fail us, instead of taking/accepting at partial responsibility for our part in it, we as a society find it easier to blame the “demons” they may or may not have been suffering from.

    Personally, I think this thing with Chris Benoit is a real wake-up call to society as a whole to re-evaluate not just our priorities, but figure out a way to help celebrities (either male or female) reach out and ask for help when they have a problem.

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  6. Silly Old Bear said

    You know Shari,

    I hope… but I don’t think so…I mean what did the world really learn from the death of princess Diana? Nothing, they just shifted their focus onto another celeb…

    You know I never really had any idols as a teen, and I still don’t. I tried. But for some reason I felt silly trying to idolize someone like that. Sure heroes are good, but they are just human.

    I don’t get it.

    [shaking head]

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