Fighting with the Sky

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:


Guess what!  I have a tumblr now! You should read it.  It’s for a combination of shorter posts, personal stuff, and things that don’t quite fit into the themes of this blog.

this ain’t livin’: Female Celebrities Behaving Oddly?  It Must Be Mental Illness!

You are, literally, not in control of your own body when you are a female celebrity. Hollywood is sometimes called a fishbowl, especially for women, and it’s a very apt comparison. No place is safe. There is no escape. Private phone calls, emails, conversations, all can potentially be used against you and all of them are.

Equality 101: As a survivor of sexual assault…

Then let’s factor in the amount of people who have close friends, partners, or family members who have been sexually assaulted– now you’re talking a good portion of the classroom. Then there are the rest of the students, with various levels of exposure to discussions of sexual assault, and multiple opinions thereof. As the teacher, the compelling question becomes: how can we 1)have a discussion about this without serving as a trigger for those who have been assaulted, 2) respect the personal relationships many students may have with survivors of SA and 3) talk about it in a way that is relevant to the subject of the class?

Womanist Musings: Monstrous Musings: Patriarchal Baddies and Smokey Goodness? Musings on the Monsters of Lost

While Lost is certainly an improvement on most television shows in terms of diversity (and certainly 200x better than Disney), it seems white male privilege still rules the island. The show gives the most narrative attention to LWMs – or lost white males – and people of color are often presented stereotypically (Republican Guard/torturer Sayid, over-controlling and “English-challenged” Jin, simpleton Latino dude Hurley, folksy wisdom Ruth, oppressed Sun, etc).

Bitch Blogs: Need another reason to love Johnny Weir?

In response to two Quebecois commentators who spoke derogatorily of Weir and said he should take a gender test, Weir responded by issuing an awesome statement that touched on identity, free speech, life in the public eye, and the changing acceptance of gender, saying “I think masculinity and femininity is something that’s very old fashioned.”

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.

Happy Bodies: Gender in the classroom

And yep it was Gender Day! The one day of the term where professors pay lip service to feminism and allow us to read female authors, and perhaps even women of color (if we’re lucky.) And while I never enjoy gender days, finding myslef inevitably getting worked up about the sexist, homophobic, transphobic sentiments usually expressed only latently in classrooms, this day was particularly rough.

Womanist Musings: Male Figure Skating Highlights Homophobia and Sexism in Canada

In an interview with Salon, three time world medal champion Elvis Stojko, made clear that the greatest danger to figure skating is the feminization of male skaters.

Global Comment: Vancouver Games & First Nations resistance

First Nation dancers welcomed the athletes and the world to the Vancouver Olympics, and thus the lie that Canada not only recognizes Native rights, but is proud of our Indigenous citizens, was upheld.

Gawker: More Adventures in Olympic Racial Drag

Whereas Russian duo Domnina and Shabalin drew outcry with their warpaint-slathered didgeridoo routine, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White are receiving multicultural accolades for a Bollywood routine that has Meryl sporting bindi and a modified sari. It’s a hit in India, and Indian-Americans are apparently down with it, too. How did their racial drag avoid Domnina and Shabalin’s pitfalls?

Hopefully more on this later this week….

FWD/Forward: Why I Am Not Riled About Every Instance of Crip Drag

This argument comes up in response to critiques of disability in pop culture. It’s often accompanied with the assumption that the writer doesn’t think that it’s ok to portray disability in pop culture ever, or that the writer thinks that only disabled actors should be in disabled roles. This line of thinking, which focuses on which representations of disability people happen to be critiquing at a given time, ignores the structural nature of the critique. It is also accompanied by the implication that it is necessary to do everything at once when it comes to critiquing pop culture.

FWD/Forward: The Island That Heals: Lost, John Locke, and Disability

We were introduced to Locke in the pilot as the man in the wheelchair who walks again as soon as he lands on the Island. This becomes a recurring theme in the series; the Island heals people who are meant to be there, evidently, so John is rewarded for reaching the Island by being cured. At several points in the series, Locke experiences a recurrence of his injury, almost as a warning, before recovering the ability to walk again without any explanation.

The Sexist: Sexist Beatdown: The LOST Women of LOST Edition

In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown and I reconvene to solve the enduring mystery of ABC’s LOST: Why have all the compelling female characters been systematically eliminated from the plot, while Jack is allowed to live on as Dr. McFixALot, a character who exists only to fail unspectacularly at everything and shoot enduring looks at Kate?

Viva la Feminista: Women Olympians Face Unique Challenges

The only Winter Olympics event in which women cannot compete is ski jumping. Why? Apparently it’s because women are “too fragile,” along with an outdated system of rules that allow the International Olympic Committee to keep “American Lindsey Van, who holds the world record for the single longest jump by anyone, male or female” from competing for a gold medal. When the IOC tries to explain that women can’t compete because there aren’t enough women jumping, the conversation circles around to, How can we increase interest and participation if women’s ski jumping isn’t allowed at the Olympics?

Bitch Blogs: Reproductive Writes: The Rebranding of Birth Control

Billboards proclaiming Black Children Are An Endangered Species have appeared across the city of Atlanta in the last couple of weeks. The poster was created by activist groups Georgia Right To Life and the Radiance Foundation. They claim that black women have three times the number of abortions in comparison to white women in the state and that this is indicative of a eugenics-based conspiracy to deplete the African American population. A conspiracy, they argue, that goes right back to the agitator for birth control, Margaret Sanger, who, they say, would have been happy to hear that 40% of African American women’s pregnancies are aborted.

Sociological Images: Guest Post: An Indigenous Olympics?

Some people who encounter this Olympics branding are bound to come away with the impression that natives (that is, individuals with a significant enough amount of native ancestry or culture) are respected, empowered, and well-integrated here in Canada. In other words, some viewers will view this marketing as a sign of harmonious bonds between natives and mainstream Canadian society.

Feministe: Dear USians on the Internet,

The United States is not the world. It’s not even the centre of the universe.

I have to admit that I am guilty of some of the stuff that Chally talks about in this post because the US culture is the culture that I know the best.  But I am trying to work on this, and I think that’s all that Chally is asking us to examine in this post, even though she’s getting majorly attacked in the comments.

Salon: Broadsheet: Kevin Smith: The face of flying while fat

Which is why part of me is glad the Kevin Smith debacle happened — though I’m terribly sorry he had to go through it — because it put a recognizable face on the experience of flying while fat. See, those of us who are and/or love people to whom airlines’ “person of size policies” apply don’t automatically envision the discomfort of getting stuck next to a fatty; we envision the physical and emotional pain of being the fatty crammed between two potentially hostile strangers, at the mercy of flight attendants who might decide we’re fine on one flight and a “safety risk” on the next.

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.

Further Reading:

Spare Candy: Remember women ski jumpers during the Olympics

The Feminist Agenda: The Cult of the Olympics

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