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Figure Skating’s Mysterious Machismometer

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It might be more intelligent to cite some survey or conduct my own poll, but I think we all agree that figure skating is perceived as a girl’s sport. More women watch it than men. More girls aspire to be figure skaters than boys. And the female competition has a higher level of superiority and reverence in society. Men who figure skate, just like women who golf or play basketball, are detracting from the expected gender identity. This is what we all believe; whether this is a just conclusion is your own decision.

Tuesday night I watched the men’s figure skating short program. I mean, really watched it. Mostly I was on Twitter cooking up one-liners instead of analysis, but in the back of my conscience I was watching the sport with an honest eye. These flips and spins are incredibly difficult and require a well-toned body with muscles and might. Maybe it’s the twirling. Maybe it’s the actual word “twirling.” You don’t see spinning of this caliber all too often.

Johnny Weir / Getty ImagesWhich brings us to Johnny Weir. You can’t delve too far into figure skating without brushing up against one of his frilly garments. His persona became an enigmatic selling point in the media because of his unwillingness to define his sexuality. This is a question nobody’s asked Albert Pujols or LeBron James, but for Weir it’s always in the forefront of the journalist and fan’s mind, because, well, he is a male figure skater, and his attire just sires more questions than it answers. And Pujols only wields a pink stick on Mother’s Day.

This was all going through my head, and when Weir’s short program was done, I thought, “damn, he might medal.” Then his actual score arrived, putting him fifth overall (he finished sixth). But before that, the thought totally vanished when he skated off the ice carrying a heart-shaped pillow embroidered with the word “JOHNNY” in pink ribbon. He’s either doing this on purpose or he doesn’t give a shit.

But a latent curiosity about sexuality isn’t the reason — at least my reason — figure skating gets a full point deduction. My internal pigeonholing of sports always involved how they’re scored. If a judge holds up a card, and the number on that card directly affects the winner, suddenly the competition becomes mercurial. Baseball players don’t have to impress anyone except the guy keeping track of how many times a runner touched home plate. This shouldn’t emasculate the sport, but if football was based on winning the hearts and minds of an impartial oligarchy, you might see Brett Favre win 10 more Super Bowls on his own, and that would really be a shame. This contrst of judge scoring vs. adding machines makes me wonder how snowboarders who perform on the halfpipe fooled the machismometer. They’re going airborne, twisting, and getting judged for it. Oh, but it’s an extreme event associated with alternative rock music instead of alt-classic. And they don’t “twirl” in the air. It’s called a McTwist, which sounds incredibly fattening but could be a cheap and popular drive-thru dessert.

What is it, then? The dancing? Athletes will celebrate after touchdowns and maybe do some shimmying after the whistle. But in figure skating, the jitterbugging and artistry is required during the competition.

The Athlete Formerly Known As Chad Johnson brings attention unto himself intentionally as well. That’s why he’s Chad Ochocinco. It’s why Dennis Rodman took the Bob Ross palette to his hair and why Payne Stewart wore knickers when golfing. Attention is insular to the individual but universal to sports. And in figure skating, everyone competes one at a time, so undying attention is an inherent trait of the sport. They’re at the center of the rink, and everyone’s watching. Might as well dance.

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  • http://www.technorati.com Dawn

    Such a great article. Wish it was in OUR Olympic coverage.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Same team, same dream.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I thought somebody tossed that pillow on the ice, but I’m not sure. Hell of an athlete though. I love figure skating.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I’ll try to behave here, but I really really can’t get “Blades of Glory” out of my head when I watch mens figure skating!

    I’ll agree that these men are incredible athletes, but there’s something about the way they go about things, it’s like watching a girl throw a ball for the first time. I have daughters, so, lighten up, but when they first started throwing, they threw like girls! My oldest played softball, so she actually learned how to really fire a ball from home plate to 2nd base, but in the beginning, she couldn’t do it!
    It’s like these male figure skaters got lessons on how to walk and strut from the characters in the movie “Birdcage”!
    Is flambouyance part of the score in Men’s Figure Skating?
    I can’t think of the guys name, but he’s been announcing for a while, he was a great skater when I was younger. He used to do a back flip into a chair on the ice. The guy could skate like nobody’s business, but he was never as colorful as todays male skaters are…
    Personally, I think it’s the tight clothes, the hip shaking and the limp wristedness of it all that turns me off to male figure skating, probably the same reason I don’t watch gay porn…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    I can’t wait to see what kind of names I get called for what I just wrote too…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Andy,

    You are one of the few chauvinists that I really like!

    I am sorry about dropping all of my BC friends on facebook, but that is my family and I have such a big mouth here,that I didn’t want any lone-wolves to look for me! (not you, you old stinker)

    :]Nice to see you, read my new article, OK?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Am I a chauvinist? I mean, I want my girls to get equal pay for equal work. I want them to have all the rights that any man has…but I don’t think they should get to play from the red tees…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Andy,

    NO, I was teasing you.:{

    I think the world of you.

    :]

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    what are red tees?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Ladies tees on a golf course, usually a good amount of yards in front of the mens!

  • http://www.technorati.com Dawn

    Andy, you make a reasonable point. There is a lot of flashy, fruity behavior in men’s figure skating, same as you would find in ballet. But that’s because what they do is a performance, it’s art with athleticism.

    I find some of a bit off-putting, but I love Johnny Weir. He’s committed to his art, and you get points in my book for that.