Friday, March 5, 2010

Mandated Masculinity

Trust me to pick up on numerous references concerning masculinity in an article on figure skating, during the recent Winter Olympics, that appeared in the Saturday, February 27, 2010 issue of The Vancouver Sun.  Here are a few quotes that might be of interest:

"...There is abundant hard evidence that a campaign does exist [within the professional figure skating world], a campaign to ensure that both male and female skaters perform [according to] their genders....  And make no mistake about it, gender, unlike biological sex, is a performance--one performs as masculine or feminine through dress and deportment [all quotes are from "Here's the rule: Men are men and women are ladies," by Peter McKnight, p. A7]."

According to the rules of the International Skating Union (ISU), there are strict rules concerning what is suitable attire for both male and female skaters.  'As Occidental College sociologist Lisa Wade states, these clothing rules mean "that the performance of femininity and masculinity, as defined by the ISU, is required if one is to be a competitive figure skater...all skills aside."'

Male figure skaters don't have a good time of it, especially "...since they're participating in a stereotypically feminine endeavor.  This means that they must always and everywhere--on ice and off--reaffirm their masculinity."

"Off ice, male skaters are often portrayed engaging in manly pursuits, something exemplified by the constant emphasis on Elvis Stojko's martial arts prowess."

'On ice, male skaters' masculinity must also be constantly and unmistakably on display, through militaristic uniforms and war metaphors, and through eschewing "the curved arms, arched back and flowing quality associated with the ballerina" in favour of "straight or angular body lines and lifted emphasize solidity and muscularity of movement."'

Is that enough to give you a good idea of just how shamefully homophobic the figure skating world is?

First, as the inimitable Karen on the now defunct TV series "Will and Grace" once said, are the higher-ups of the skating organizations "headless," since they apparently can't see just how many gay male figure skaters there are and have been over the decades?  

And second, what difference does it make if male figure skaters are gay or not?  Who cares?  Are they concerned their sport will somehow be scorned or ridiculed if the ticket-buying public learns the male figure skaters they admire are gay?  Shouldn't the emphasis in sports--and in everything, including the U.S. military--be taken off sexual orientation altogether and placed firmly on skill and ability, where it belongs?


  1. I agree - focus on the skill and not the person's gender or sexual orientation. It's always something, isn't it? The world has lost sight of what's important and the media doesn't know what real news is.

  2. Actually, Wendy, in defense of the "Sun," the point of the article was that the International Skating Union, and similar bodies, need to take a closer look at expectations and requirements of both female, but especially, male figure skaters. To assess skaters based on whether their presentation and performance are feminine or masculine enough, as defined by the rules and regulations, seems ludicrous, and it was the hope of the article writer, Peter McKnight, to provoke thought on this and maybe even affect reform.
    I give McKnight a lot of credit or exposing this travesty, since he is male, and since he decided to stir the pot when he could have left it alone.
    Thanks for your comment.