Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’
With the Olympics almost over, I have to admit that I have kind of become obsessed with Johnny Weir. I think he’s pretty awesome and not only because he says things like this: “I think masculinity and femininity is something that’s very old fashioned.” And not just because he does routines to Lady Gaga. But because he is also an amazing figure skater, which is often overlooked in news coverage of him.
So why wouldn’t I love the latest installment of Current TV’s “That’s Gay” which focuses on Johnny Weir. Please watch:
The answer: nothing.
On Sunday night I was anxiously awaiting the original dance of the Russian ice dancing pair Domnina and Shabalin. I had heard about their aboriginal routine before then and wanted to see how they were going to “tone it down” and how it was going to be received at the Olympics. I did not see their original performance, but I can tell you that their performance at the Olympics was full of cultural appropriation and offensive and lacked class.
These are what their original costumes looked like: At the Olympics, they lost the war paint on their face and the severely darker than their skin tone body suits. The designs on their body suits were still there just not as pronounced. But don’t worry, the loin cloths and fake foliage were still there.
The actual dance was a weird combination between skating moves and stereotypical “aboriginal dancing.” I have not seen real aboriginal dances as they are spiritual events that (at least my impression of them, I’m not that knowledgeable) are private and closed to outsiders. Their moves seemed to me to be what Westerners thinks aboriginal dancing is as opposed to what it really is. And did anyone else see him pull her by her hair not once but twice throughout the performance? Not cool.
You can watch a video of their performance here.
On top of being offensive and cultural appropriation, the dance itself was uncomfortable to watch and did not work with the music at all.
Also apparently, as the commentators pointed out numerous times, Domnina and Shabalin have met with the First Nations of Canada since they have been in Vancouver after the outcry of their first performance of this original dance. I don’t really understand the connection. The First Nations are indigenous peoples of Canada. Their dance is using aboriginal imagery…from Australia. I don’t really think that the First Nations can offer that much insight into a different culture on the other side of the world.
It was kind of amusing to listen to the commentators try to be nice when talking about the controversy surrounding this performance. But you could really tell that they thought that the performance with ridiculous and offensive.
So, why did the Russians think that this was an ok thing to do? I’m still not really sure, but the theme of the original dances was supposed to be folk/country dances. There was everything from cowboys, to “Hava Nagila,” to the can-can to Bindi. It was quite an interesting mix.
Why was the Russians’ dance much more offensive than the other “racial drag.” The Gawker uses the example of the Americans who did an Indian dance to compare with the aboriginal dance of the Russians. The Gawker’s reasons that the aboriginal dance was more offensive than the Americans’ Indian dance (performed by Davis and White) made a lot of sense:
* Davis and White didn’t look like total asses. In fact, they looked pretty good! According to NBC, Davis and White studied dance with an ex-Bollywooder who now runs a dance studio called BollyFit in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Costume materials came from “an authentic Indian clothing store.” Said Davis, “It was very important for us to do research and do the theme justice.”
* India, like America, is in the cultural export business, so imitation comes across as flattery instead of mockery. By contrast, Domnina and Shabalin chose a culture where dance is often tied to sacred rituals, and rarely shared with outsiders.
* No brown face. As Domnina and Shabalin discovered, donning a dark mahogany skin suit to camouflage one’s pale white skin is kind of a mood killer.
I can’t believe that the judges scored the Russians’ original dance so high. But I guess the new judging system is meant to be impartial (even though it isn’t) so they are judging based on technical performance and choice of music and costumes are not taken into account as much. But the dance just didn’t work for me, especially compared to the dances of the Americans Davis and White and Canadians. And the Russians’ went on the win bronze.
I love watching the Olympics, whether it is winter or summer (I do have to admit that I do prefer summer, but I love the winter ones too). I like watching all the different sports that aren’t always readily available to watch at other times…like curling, skiing, snowboarding halfpipe. I’m sure I could find ways to watch these, but it wouldn’t be as readily available to me as the Olympics are. Even though I love the Olympics, there are some problems with it…
The Olympics are promoted as global unity, which in some ways they are, but in other big ways, they aren’t. Especially with the Winter Olympics, the countries with the large delegations that win most of the medals are the U.S., Canada, European countries, and larger Asian countries (like China and Japan)…in short, the wealthier countries. Many winter Olympic sports require snow and mountains for training. Most countries around the world do not have these things. And many athletes that represent African or South American countries are often wealthy enough to attend school and train in either the U.S. or a European country. Athletes from poorer countries often also don’t really have a great chance or winning a medal. During the opening ceremonies, the announcers said something like 60 (I think, I could be wrong) of the 82 countries in attendance have never won a medal at the Winter Olympics. In the end, the Winter Olympics (and the summer to a smaller extent) end up just being a competition between the wealthier countries.
Only 5 (I think) African countries are in attendance at the Winter Olympics this year, and most of these countries are only represented by one athlete. The South American countries tend to have a larger delegation (around 10 athletes), but there still aren’t that many South American countries in attendance. I did find it interesting also, that many countries (such as Iran) have their first female athlete to compete in the winter Olympics this year.
As RosieRed23 points out, there is still some blatant discrimination against female athletes. Women’s ski jumping is still not recognized as an Olympic sport where as men’s ski jumping is a fairly popular (for me to watch) Olympic event. Why can men do this sport and not women? There are plenty of female ski jumpers. Almost every other (if not completely every other) Olympic event has male and female competitions.
During the opening ceremonies, the first nations of Canada and their mythology were highlighted. I thought this was a really interesting way to open the Olympics. But, @womanistmusings pointed out some of the hypocrisy of this in a tweet: “Well Canada now that you have showcased first nations ppl @ the olympics perhaps we can work on some equality now.” I don’t really know a lot about the politics of Canada and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada, but judging by this tweet, my guess is they are not treated with the greatest respect and political equality.
In the end, even though I enjoy watching the Olympics, I do think that there is some fake-ness in the way that they are presented.
Spare Candy: Remember women ski jumpers during the Olympics
The Feminist Agenda: The Cult of the Olympics