25.2.10

Secular Thursday

I admit it - I tried to ignore it at first.

Like any good liberal, I can see bias in the media in a heartbeat. Misogyny, racism, homophobia, you bring it, I'll spot it - even in cases where perhaps I'm jumping the gun. Even when maybe it wasn't intended. So I told myself I was being overly sensitive.

But when they kept harping on the tassel during the other figure skating events, I decided it wasn't just me.

If you've been following the Olympics, the reference to the tassel probably tells you what I'm discussing. For those that haven't, one of members of the men's US figure skating team, Johnny Weir, had a hot pink tassel on his costume for the short program.

So, naturally, that's what everyone was talking about.

Not his clean skate of the short and long programs. But his costume choices. Johnny Weir, you see, is confident in himself. He stands out. And he's not hyper-masculine. He's done interviews with gay publications. He downplays his own sexual orientation - "...it's not part of my sport and it's private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice." - but the fact that he has to answer this question says something about how he is perceived.

In short, people think Johnny Weir just might be queer, and in today's society, that bothers far too many people.


I got tired of hearing the tassel mentioned with the faint hint of a sneer behind the words. It was mentioned when it didn't need to be mentioned, and I expressed my frustration to some friends. And I labeled it.

Unbeknownst to me, the American coverage was benign in comparison to that in some other countries. Johnny kept it classy, though, and mostly stayed above the fray. His comment about not shaving to show he was indeed a man hit just the right note, in my opinion. I don't really want to repeat some of what has been said. Google will steer you in the correct direction; a summary can also be found here.

Why, though, this institutionalized homophobia? I want to make it emphatically clear that I'm talking about cultural or societal homophobia - secular homophobia.

The best explanation I can come up with is the following, presented in a fairly simple form. Masculinity defines itself in terms of what it is not. Masculine is not feminine. Masculine is not gay. Because it is defined in terms of what it is not, instead of what it actually is, masculinity is far too easily threatened. When the definition is based on shaky ground, anything can threaten it.

Like a man who has any qualities traditionally considered female.

Like a man who might want another man sexually.

Like a man who has the confidence to be himself, rather than fall into lockstep with the expected hypermasculine pose.

I... don't have a good conclusion for this. I don't have any suggestions, or solutions. I just think that attacking a person is wrong. Hate is wrong.

Rock the tassel, Johnny.

5 comments:

adjunctmom said...

Okay, I have to admit that I didn't like his costume, but then I didn't like the snakes on Lyseck's costume, and wasn't fond of Agosto's costume choices either. I think that's more, though, about the fact that they all looked somewhat silly rather than anything else.

However, I was appalled by the comments being made about Weir. I was FURIOUS with my own insurance company/bank/general life runner because they tweeted something utterly inappropriate about men's figure skating, and I blasted them both via Twitter and the company website. I got apologies out the ears. But they were missing the larger point.

Make fun of his costume because it looked ridiculous, fine; make fun of his costume because you think he might be gay and this "proves" it, not cool.

Daisy said...

Making nasty remarks about a person is rude. I think we all learned that in Kindergarten.

Erica George said...

I wonder if it's knowing what a homophobic reaction he can get just from being flamboyant in a pretty flamboyant-already sport is part of why he's not overtly out. A FB friend-of-friend said she'd seen him in a documentary where he was featured side by side with a live-in presumed-boyfriend, and apart from that he's clearly not in any closets. I just wonder if he'd rather get to be more out than he is, but doesn't want to have to deal with more distraction from his actual work. Poor kiddo.

dbmamaz said...

This makes me think of an article a freind of mine just posted on fb - that if you try not to talk about race, you are more likely to raise a racist. I guess we should assume its the same about homosexuality. My kids came home from school assuming it was bad/wrong. We'll see what happens with the youngest, who only went to kindergarten and hopefully wont ever go back . . .

Bobbi said...

I loved Weir's skate. He was fabulous!

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