Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Love Mick Foley

This is Mick Foley:

He's a nice guy, and I don't put the sarcastic "TM" tag on that either. He's a genuine, lovable, teddy-bear of a man who lives a very public life.

This is also Mick Foley:

Let me run this by you: this pro-wrestler, "The Hardcore Legend", a product of a misogynistic, body-policing, hypermasculinity-enforcing industry is a feminist. And he's proud to call himself one.

As a former pro-wrestling fan of some twenty years, I left it behind with a huge sense of disillusionment. I saw people dying drug-related deathsgoing well before their time from suicide, murder and accident, and suffering career ending injuries (damn, that was depressing reminding myself of all that and more). The final straw for me was seeing a "nice guy" murder his wife and child, then commit suicide.

I had watched fantastic female performers never truly realize their fullest potential in a male dominated industry. Joshi puro and TNA's female division (check out Awesome Kong/Kharma) went some way to putting over women in a stronger light, but when you're the company with the megabucks, coverage and the ear of western pop culture, if you treat women with disdain, as freaks, and sexual props then you are informing that culture's opinion of women.

I also spent a long time with a lust-on for Shawn Michaels. Talented, handsome, cocky, and funny, he was always my "favourite" wrestler. Schwing:

Sure, I don't regret getting the chance to see him wrestle (At WM 19 in 2003, and Taboo Tuesday in 2005 (shut up Kirsty) where I TOUCHED HIS SCHWEATY SHOULDER). But then something happened. We both grew up. He found god, got married, had kids, and kept on being awesome in the ring until the last. I found feminism and atheism and went in the complete opposite direction.  Recently he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame (as I always knew he would) and I surprised myself with an overwhelming fit of The Mehs. It was like looking at an old ex-boyfriend and thinking "Well, I dodged a bullet with that one!"

But here's Mick Foley. I barely watch wrestling any more (I check in a handful of times a year), and yet more and more I find myself interested in Foley's post-wrestling career. Recently I started reading his third memoir "The Hardcore Diaries" (and I'm waiting on "Countdown to Lockdown" to arrive) and found myself sucked in once more by his humour, engaging style and flow - dude knows how to tell a story, and he has plenty of them. Not only is he an author, having written four autobiographies about his time in wrestling, fiction works and is a consistent blogger, but he's also an anti-rape and sexual abuse activist. He identifies his privilege, identifies as feministcelebrates women and calls out hate speech.

Even if you're not interested in pro-wrestling, Foley's writing is a great insight into a media machine, pop culture, its props of hypermasculinity and hypersexuality. He talks often about how much he loves his wife and kids, how he wants better for his daughter, how he recognizes his body type, looks, hair and dress style could be censured in our image obsessed culture, and the many physically and emotionally painful moments in his life.  He conducts his self-promotion through Twitter, blogs, interviews and appearances with an endearing humbleness.

It's sad that we have to celebrate when a man is great in these ways, but one can only hope that his unusual legacy will carry some emotional weight over into the next generation. He has shown that masculinity and expressing yourself physically (through his wrestling) and expressing yourself emotionally (through his writing and activism) do not have to be mutually exclusive. This is not redefining masculinity - it is taking it to it's fullest potential.

While all my other wrestling merchandise and t-shirts have been quietly tucked away at the back of a cupboard (perhaps I should think about putting it all up on Trade Me?), I'm happy to continue wearing my Mick Foley "Wanted Dead" t-shirt to show how proud I am of the teddy-bear who bucked the system and leads by example.  He speaks with honesty and emotion, and I love him for it. It goes to show that intellect, emotion, and worldly care are WAY more sexy. I'd have "Mrs Foley's baby boy" round for tea and crumpets any day, give him a great big hug for being so awesome, and we wouldn't talk about THAT match.


  1. I <3 him too. I really hope he affects people. I think he does, because it's pretty unusual and hopefully if some people initially listen for the novelty, they'll stay to learn the message. He's being an awesome role model.

    Some time us NZ feminist wrestling fans need to have a big wrestling-watching party.

  2. Great post Amanda. But I almost started crying going through the links. It's so sad. So, so sad.

    I love Mick more than anything. I just finished reading Countdown to Lockdown and it's awesome. There is a chapter of Chris and steroids. I appreciate that Mick counsels young kids getting into wrestling and warns them that it's an industry that kills its own. He breaks all stereotypes. He's fucking awesome.

    Do you think it's weird that so many NZ feminists love wrestling? The (few) female wrestling fans I know are all feminists. Vocal feminists. Odd?

  3. Word.

    I'm still very in love wrestling. I love writing about wrestling. I love watching wrestling. But the cognitive dissidence between what I love to watch and what I personallly believe sometimes makes me sad, uncomfortable, anxious. I don't like it when the relaxtion-entertainment I love offends me, but it does.

    But at times like that I just look at Mick Foley (and Vickie Guererro, too) and feel just that little bit more okay with the whole shebang. Then I go back to watching oiled men in tights grappling each other.

  4. There's a quote I came aross recently, can't remember where, that said something to the effect that recognizing problematic issues in entertainment you love/have loved shouldn't stop you from consuming/enjoying that entertainment, just so long as you can parse what's making you uncomfortable and talk about it with other people so the message gets out there.

    I'm not sure I can go back now HBK has retired, and I'm still very hung up on the Benoit issue being a watershed for me.

  5. I can never not-watch that Daily Show clip. Oh Mick. You so freaking badass. (Also, the hardcore match vs Edge = BEST MATCH OF ALL TIME.)