Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

Trying to get some outside perspective

As I mentioned yesterday, I was trying to access some Canadian coverage of the men's figure skating final to see what they were saying in the moment. Well, I'm having trouble accessing the videos, and it finally occurred to me that they might not let people in foreign countries view their videos (apparently the NBC Olympic website doesn't either).

So I took a look at some of their text articles, and that was quite an interesting perspective. One article is titled Lysacek Fury at 'Bad Loser' Plushenko, which was unbelievable to me. The article was dated Friday, and nothing that I read or saw of him on Friday or since then sounded "furious" to me. I think this must be a culutural difference; I've always been willing to take the stereotype of Canadians as docile and accomodating with a grain of salt, but it seems that "fury" really does mean something different to Canadians than it means to Americans. I'm inclined to laugh about it now, but I wish whoever titled the article hadn't put "bad loser" in quotation marks, because that makes it sound like it was a direct quote from Lysacek; in the article, however, it's the author, Emmeline Moore, who called Plushenko a bad loser; none of the direct quotes from Lysacek included that phrase. That to me is sloppy journalism.

Speaking of fury, I'm shocked and dismayed to learn that Elvis Stojko is coming down on Plushenko's side. Stojko is a very accomplished Canadian skater--most notable, perhaps, for being the first man to land a quad jump in competition. I used to admire him for that, but no more, because apparently all he cares about is quad jumping. Honestly, I'm on the verge of tears after reading that.

Stojko's another one who misses the old system, and I can understand that because he competed under it for however many years. But the old system is gone, guys; it's gone and it's never coming back. The sport is progressing, which is what Plushenko said he wanted anyway, so stop whining and move on! The good thing about this is that, eventually, the "new system" won't be new anymore. Eventually there won't be any skaters in competition who ever skated under the old system, and while the old hands on the sidelines will probably wax nostalgic about the "good ol' days under the 6.0 scale" for many years to come, eventually the skaters themselves will stop whining about it because it's all they'll have ever known.

There's also the thread of homophobia and male chauvinism running through all this controversy. Figure skating is traditionally not viewed as being very masculine, what with its relation to dance and the sparkly costumes and whatnot. To be fair, I think that those who compete in the men's competition have to listen to a lot of unkind comments, moreso than the men who compete in pairs or ice dancing paired with women; apparently you can perform with a woman and still be masculine (as short track skater Apolo Ohno learned as a competitor for "Dancing with the Stars"). Homophobia, like any form of prejudice/discrimination, is always hurtful and damaging, whether it's based on real or perceived sexual orientation. I do sincerely commend all the men, including Stojko and Plushenko, who have persevered in the sport regardless of whatever abuse they may have endured from outsiders because of it. Because I'm willing to bet that for every Plushenko, Stojko, and Lysacek who choose to continue to train and compete, there are at least five little boys who have genuine talent and genuine love for the sport but who choose not to compete for fear of being harassed by others. And that's terribly sad; everyone should be able to follow their bliss without fear of being harassed or abused for it. However, by being hypersensitive about the perceived lack of masculinity in figure skating, by implying that more complicated jumps are inherently more masculine (and, by further implication, that anyone who doesn't perform them is less masculine) Stojko and Plushenko are just making matters worse by continuing to prop up the old stereotypes.

For Stojko and Plushenko (and probably others) the quad jump represents power and strength and masculinity; I could be wrong, but I don't think a women's competitor has ever landed a quad jump in competition. So I understand the masculinists' point of view, but it still enrages and sickens me, because that represents such a narrow view of what it means to be masculine (and, by implication, what it means to be feminine). Stojko speaks of masculinity and power as the hallmarks, the "meat and potatoes" of men's figure skating, and apparently to him, "power" is best represented by the quad jump. So apparently, the skill involved to do footwork and spins isn't masculine. So apparently, triple jumps aren't powerful, so a man who doesn't do quads is, by implication, less powerful and therefore less masculine. And if it follows that to be less masculine is automatically to be more feminine, then to be feminine is inherently to be weak. By which it follows that female figure skaters, by virtue of being female, are also inherently weak. That's such a sexist and narrow-minded attitude that it makes me want to scream.

I'm not sure if I'm getting my point across, but let me just say this: I, as an enthusiastic figure skating fan and heterosexual woman, find Evan Lysacek to be incredibly masculine and incredibly sexy. His strength, skill, precision and stamina on the ice all strike me as being very powerful, but equally powerful is his musicality, artistry, and emotional expressiveness. In figure skating, I'm less impressed by quad jumps then I am by precision and grade of execution; a well-executed triple is better than a sloppy quad any day (not to imply that Plushenko's quad was sloppy, because it wasn't) (actually, it kind of was). In life, I'm most impressed by someone who is secure enough in his own self-concept (including, but not limited to, masculine identity) to recognize his own limitations, and who does the best he can with what he has to work with rather than pushing the envelope at the risk of his own health. And there's nothing attractive about someone who's so insecure in his own self-concept that he has to take jabs at someone else's, who tries to bring himself up by tearing someone else down. That's bullying, and there's nothing masculine about that; that is pure childishness. There's nothing masculine and nothing admirable to me about a petty fight, whether it be fought with words or fists. To me, it takes a lot more strength to walk away from a spurious challenge, to refuse to engage in a petty fight, to refuse to be dragged down to a level of childishness. That shows character, and give me a man with strength of character over one with physical prowess any day.

And if, like Evan Lysacek, he has both strength of character and physical prowess, so much the better.
Tags: figure skating, idiocy, olympics
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