From Theory to Praxis: What Gender Studies Taught Me About Me

Zamir Ode

Throughout the semester, I was introduced to many sub-fields of gender studies. Many were interesting to me, like fat studies, marriage structure, and masculinity. But what really interested me was the connection between masculinity, body image, fat studies, and how much I could relate my own life to it, especially the athletics portion of it.
Ever since I was young, I was always encouraged to do sports and live a healthy life style. I started wrestling in high school, and that is when I truthfully started to care about my body image and muscularity. Now, as a sophomore in college who entered his 6th year in the sport of wrestling, all I think about is what I have eaten, what I will do for a work out, was my work out enough to burn off what I ate, what I can eat later, and how many times a day I need to work out. Using the research for my literature review, I read books from different fields like fat studies and psychology to better understand and explain how these are connected. It shocked me to how much this actually has to do with me. Reading the Adonis Complex, I realized that a lot of men, probably myself included, have a bad body image because they don’t feel as if they are “big enough”. These men get negative self images of themselves due to what is called “Muscular Dysmorphia”. This mental block these men have leads to either a life of obsessing about working out and dieting, or an eating disorder. I have learned in this class that eating disorders are not a “feminine” thing, and that the crisis of male eating disorders is a growing one. I will admit, in 6 years of wrestling I have participated in very unhealthy actions to do what I could to make weight, or get back to the thin and cut body I was used to during wrestling season. Wrestling has definitely taught me a lot of good lessons, but it also has made me do things I am not proud of.
I will use my new knowledge from gender studies to help give back to the wrestling community when I graduate school. Currently, I am an economics major and that really does not have anything to with the topics of fat studies, body image, and masculinity. However, I want to be a part time wrestling coach along with my job whatever it may be. But, I will use my position as an authority figure in children’s lives to teach them the importance of healthy weight loss, and a healthy body image. I feel like at a high school level, it is easier to be a successful wrestler without practicing the very unhealthy “yo-yo” effect with their weight, which involves repeated rapid weight loss and weight gain over a few months’ time. As a coach, I plan on engraining kids with these lessons to help them live healthier lives and further lower the high risk these wrestlers have at getting an eating disorder.
Gender studies 101 this semester really taught me a lot of interesting stuff, especially about myself. Realizing that these fields have really impacted my life for the past 6 years, I realized it is time for a change in myself, and time to make a change in the world. Even though wrestlers make up a very small percent of the population, I intend to use my new found knowledge from gender studies to help contribute to the sport that made me the young man I am today by educating the youth of the sport about the possible harms and how to avoid them.