What can the Zyzz community tell us about changing masculinities?
What can the Zyzz community tell us about changing masculinities? An online ethnography of a bodybuilder fandom
For the last year I have been conducting participant observation in the international online community of Zyzz fans. Zyzz (Aziz Shavershian) was an Australian recreational bodybuilder who became one of the world’s first online fitness celebrities. That is, he did not compete in bodybuilding competitions but rather got “shredded” (muscular and lean) in order to display himself shirtless online, at clubs and festivals, which resulted in a huge international following. Described as a performance and image enhancing drug user by his fans (who claim that he died at age 22 as a result of this use) Zyzz and his fans provide insights into the social lives of drugs. As a mostly naked, hairless young man who sexualises himself Zyzz provides a window on recent changes to young men’s body work and display. The ongoing responses to Zyzz’s death by his followers demonstrate how emotion is negotiated and masculinised online. In this presentation I bring this all together to demonstrate how becoming shredded, and thus “alpha”, is used to negotiate gendered power relations.
About the presenter
Mair Underwood is an anthropologist in the School of Social Science who specialises in bodies. In particular she explores how body modifications (such as tattoo or bodybuilding) are used to create, reflect and disrupt social boundaries such as those of gender and class.