What does it mean to be a man? Does it mean not crying? Being the family breadwinner? Using power tools? Watching the football game with beer in hand?
Despite select advancements in gender equality and the fact that it is 2010 –- a time when we probably should have already progressed passed this, these are still the images of manhood that are overwhelmingly marketed to us.
Professional sports are an area where this narrow idea of manliness is highly exaggerated. Many Super Bowl commercials this year focused on ignoring nagging wives, choosing beer over love, and never ever showing emotion.
Perhaps this is expected in football, but recently the manhood debate has overtaken men’s figure skating as well. The figure skating power structure has been pinning all of its hopes on American Evan Lysacek to change the sport’s image and create a more mainstream appeal (i.e. straight appeal). Because Lysacek focuses more on the athletic jumps side of the sport than the bedazzled beautiful elegant side, he is somehow considered more of a man, than say fellow American skater Johnny Weir.
Weir scares the figure skating leadership. He wears extravagant outfits, he skates to Lady Gaga and he is completely and unapologetically himself. He isn’t technically “out,” but he isn’t exactly “in” either. There are few people in the public eye with more of a gay sensibility than Johnny Weir.
The stark differences between Evan and Johnny have created a black and white narrative in which the two are competing for the future of the sport. Or as Weir so eloquently put it, “They’ve sort of pitted me and Evan against each other like Britney and Christina,” says Weir. “I’m Christina, of course.”
Yes Johnny, you will always be Christina in my book, but as far as skating, the great butch hope won this round –- Lysacek rescued the masculine spirit of figure skating with his shiny new gold medal. Or at least, that is the story the figure skating world will try to put out there.
The real story is that Weir worked hard, he was always true to himself and he proved that you don’t have to fit into a predetermined box to be a man. I am of the opinion that it didn’t matter what Johnny did on the ice this week, those judges were not going to let him or his fabulous crown of roses onto the podium.
The powers-that-be in the figure skating world got what they wanted, but to them and to others, I offer a warning: If you continue placating to the mainstream, your world of Evan Lysacek, Kris Allen and Taylor Swift will deeply miss the creative contributions of the Johnny Weir, Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga world that you continue to shun.
I am a man and I’m on Team Weir!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons