Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Want to be a real man? Don't join a fight club

It's time to grow up, get a job, raise a family

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Why would a group of men surreptitiously gather and knock each other bloody? Is it fun? A way of proving masculinity? A demented sense of how men behaved when men were men and women were housewives?

Fight Club, the 1999 film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, celebrated the sweaty, torn-knuckled swagger of men enthusiastically regressing to primitive behaviour.

The characters would meet, strip off their shirts and shoes, and knock one other senseless.

The first rule of Fight Club, as fans know, is "you do not talk about Fight Club." The second rule of Fight Club is: "you do NOT talk about Fight Club."

The movie became a cult classic. Aficionados quote favourite lines with glee. The movie professed to explain why civilized men need to feel pain and taste blood before they are really men, the sort of swell guys who reject the suburban stereotype that's been forced upon them.

Here's an explanation from Fight Club:

"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived," says one character. "I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars.

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy (expletive) we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place... We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

Is this the credo that drove the pack of hooligans who transformed a University of Manitoba squash court into their own personal fight club? Is that how a gang of fools justified their notion of fun or identity?

From playground dustups to hockey brawls, from roughhousing with a brother to street brawls, boys and men are led to believe their fists will one day be called into action.

It's what men do, goes the common lore, and what they have done since the beginning of time.

Most women and, for that matter, most evolved men reject that line of thinking. Smacking someone in the mouth, as temporarily satisfying as the thought may be, is beyond the normal boundaries of society. We cope. We adjust. We -- excuse the expression -- man up.

So why did this group need to form? Is there a natural progression from cheering the fights at hockey games or watching Ultimate Fighting with no interest in the athletics?

Are the lives of these men so bland and unsatisfying they have to resort to organized violence for a thrill? Or are we seeing some sort of illicit reaction to a generation raised on violent entertainment, yet punished for acts of bullying?

Reporter Nick Martin interviewed a university professor who said men often seek out other guys for camaraderie and a sense of belonging. They might fish together, they might play cards or go to football games or play weekend basketball.

Or, in this case, they might punch each other silly.

The University of Manitoba is continuing its investigation of the fight club. Some people had their gym memberships temporarily suspended. The university will take steps to punish the transgressors.

But that's not going to answer the questions. Telling someone they can't stage consensual fights on a squash court doesn't address why they'd want to in the first place.

If this truly is about proving masculinity, about locking horns to determine who is a winner and who is a loser, maybe there's a better way. Maybe these guys could consider growing up, getting jobs, forming a loving relationship and nurturing a child.

It doesn't fit the rules of Fight Club, but it's what all the real men are doing these days.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2010 A6

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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