Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity, and the Limits of Sport by Mary Louise Adams

If you were to ask a random person to name the sports that they thought were the most masculine, it is unlikely that figure skating would be one of the sports that they name. In fact, figure skating would probably end up near the bottom of the list. In contrast, when figure skating was first being developed, it was an activity that was only done by gentlemen and was used as a marker of how wealthy and powerful a man was. That changed in the 20th century and figure skating quickly became associated with not only femininity, but with young women (and girls). In the mid-90s there was a movement where a number of male skaters tried to separate themselves from the popular view of the sport and instead branded themselves as 'masculine' skaters. It was that period that prompted Mary Louise Adams to write this book on the historic origins of figure skating and how ideas of masculinity have always been intertwined with this sport.

That period in the 90s was also when I first became a big skating fan, so the skaters that she wrote about (Elvis Stojko, Alexei Urmanov, Kurt Browning, Viktor Petrenko) were ones that I was familiar with. It was interesting for me to go back and look at other books on skating with an eye towards gender roles and masculinity; Christine Brennan's writing on Michael Weiss in Inside Edge, for example, talks a lot about sex and sexuality. I also started thinking about how masculinity is portrayed on the ice today and what those ideas say about the concept of masculinity. The book was quite readable for a fan of skating and very well organized. It clearly stated what it was going to cover, so even though I wish there had been topics around pairs and ice dancing, it is not a fault of the book that it wasn't there - it just means that I want someone to write another book on those aspects! This is a can't-miss for fans of figure skating and gender studies.

Click here for more information on Dr. Mary Louise Adams.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Inside Edge by Christine Brennan
Figure Skating: A History by James R. Hines
Culture on Ice: Figure Skating and Cultural Meaning by Ellyn Kestnbaum
Women on Ice: Feminist Responses to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Scandal edited by Cynthia Baughman

No comments:

Post a Comment