Hearsey Fellow Eaker Leads Lecture on Pain

Investigating the prevalence of pain in mainstream culture, Adam Eaker ’03 presented his Brace Center Hearsey Fellowship Project on gender relations, entitled “Claiming Pain,” on Tuesday evening in the Rose Room of Commons. Along with his faculty adviser, Instructor in English Jeff Domina, Eaker noted stark differences between the actions by which women and men endure pain. As a Lower in Mr. Domina’s English 200 class, Eaker studied pain in literature, and wanted to expand upon the topic for his fellowship. “[The fellowship] was a really great opportunity to learn more about pain in culture,” Eaker said. He added that working with modern media such as magazines and movies “provided an interesting new perspective” of a topic with which he had already done some work. Eaker began his presentation by asking the audience to brainstorm popular activities that caused people pain and to classify each activity as either feminine or masculine. Some feminine activities cited included waxing, eating disorders, and plastic surgery, while some masculine activities that the audience bought up were contact sports, concert mosh pits, and violent video games. Eaker pointed out to the audience that in most of the feminine activities, pain was a side effect that resulted in a greater purpose such as beauty, while with their masculine counterparts, the goal of the activities was the pain itself. Eaker also called attention to the fact that the female activities mentioned were performed privately, while the male activities took place in public and often in groups. Furthermore, the activities not associated specifically with one gender, such as competition in reality TV shows or body art, were consistent with feminine themes when performed by females and consistent with male themes when performed by males. For example, when women get tattoos, the body art usually appears less gaudy and more discreet than men’s tattoos, which tend to cover a larger and more prominent area. Eaker’s presentation concluded with the showing of a clip from “Jackass: the Movie.” “Jackass” first appeared as a popular television show on MTV, showing a series of individual stunts in which the male “stars” of the show attempt to entertain by inflicting pain upon themselves on film. In the clip shown during the presentation, the host, Johnny Knoxville, was beaten unconscious by a professional boxer in a department store as the camera crews focused on both the injuries Mr. Knoxville sustained and the reactions of those in the store. Eaker noted, “The show is much more about pursuing pain than inflicting pain,” a theory consistent with his idea of males’ enduring pain for pain’s sake. However, despite his thesis that males and females endure pains for different reasons, Eaker noted, “Lately, pain rituals that were previously exclusively masculine are becoming feminine [as well].” Eaker’s presentation represented one of a series of Brace Center Hearsey Fellows forums. Forums are held each Tuesday this term from 5:30 to 6:30 in the Rose Room in Commons.