Let’s talk about fight club!

Chuck Pahlaniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club and the 1999 film adaptation by David Fincher offered pointed critiques of toxic masculinity, back before the term “toxic masculinity” had entered the zeitgeist.

The characters used violence to exorcise their own frustrated sense of manhood and lash out at a society that they feel has “emasculated” them.

That’s grim and gruesome. No wonder no one wanted to talk about fight club. Who would’ve wanted to hang out with those machismo-obsessed goons in the first place?

In this week’s issue of The Uniter, our arts and culture reporter Naaman Sturrup offers a look at communities in Winnipeg offering a decidedly cooler idea of a “fight club.” By speaking to folks from the city’s various combat sports scenes, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Isshin-Ryu karate and professional wrestling, Naaman showcases how Winnipeggers are using these sports to stay active and have fun in productive, non-violent ways.

Unlike the reactionary vision of a “fight club” presented in Fincher’s film, we explore the ways in which these scenes are striving to become more inclusive, more diverse and more welcoming.

Winnipeg’s various wrestling promotions have made pioneering efforts to make their shows safer spaces, and Winnipegger- turned-international wrestling superstar Kenny Omega has used his platform to centre queer stories in wrestling in a completely new way.

The world of 2020 looks a lot different than that of Fight Club. People seem to be a lot less sulky about IKEA and Starbucks. People are finding new, positive ways to engage with fighting for fun. Yet, somehow, Brad Pitt still rocks the shirtless look like no one else.

—Thomas Pashko

Published in Volume 74, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 23, 2020)

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