July 30, 2012

Gender, the Olympics, and my own shameful sexism

So, I'm weirdly obsessed with the Olympics this year. I've never watched so much of it before (or so much of what NBC deigns to show me, but that is another story), and a few things have struck me so far.

1) Some Olympic sports are weird. I mean, synchronized diving? Why is that a thing?

Besides the fact that it's awesome, of course.

2) Gender differences in sports are weird. Why isn't there women's Greco-Roman wrestling? Or men's synchronized swimming? Why do male gymnasts use one high bar and females use uneven bars? And for that matter, why are there separate men's and women's events in sports like shooting, archery, sailing, and dressage? Seriously, if someone can explain to me some physiological difference in the way men and women fire rifles, I'm willing to listen. But I'm willing to bet Kimberly Rhode's 99 out of 100 is as good as any man can do.

3) And yet . . . when I look at some of the events, this strange feeling comes over me. It first happened while watching men's gymnastics. Those guys look pretty amazing on the high bar and the rings, and I guess the pommel horse can stay, though I think it's kinda silly. But then the floor routine came on. And to my shame, it made me uncomfortable. As I watched a man tumble and jump and flip, I was impressed by his athleticism. But I was also squirming at the sight of his pointed toes.

I've been trying to unpack that reaction, and the closer I look the more upset it makes me. In thinking about other men in tights, I realized that I have no problem with male ballet dancers, even when they point their toes. I realized that if there was a combined floor event with male and female gymnasts together, none of it would bother me.

I cannot come up with a reason for my aversion to men's floor routine that isn't pure sexism.

Well . . . except for this. What it reminds me of more than anything is "posing like a woman," pictures of men imitating female poses on book covers and the like. So maybe I'm reaching here. But perhaps the reaction I (and, I'm guessing, others) have to men's floor routine is the normal one. Perhaps it's my acceptance of the same silly moves when women are performing them that should be examined.

You tell me. Why does this:


look weirder than this:


or even this:


?

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