Monday, May 4, 2009

Johnny Weir: You Gotta Love Him (At Least I Do)

On February 5 I discussed Skate Canada’s attempt to “rebrand” men’s figure skating as macho and dangerous with their “Tough” campaign. Though they claim it isn’t, this is all about disassociating men’s figure skating from its gay image. It’s like women’s sports that push the pretty and sexy girls into the spotlight as their “marquee” players in an ill-fated attempt to downplay the presence of lesbians. It’s insulting and futile. We are here. We are queer. Get over it.

Anyway, here is an ABC News video about the Skate Canada campaign featuring Elvis Stojko, Mr. Butch Macho himself, speaking on their behalf. Never mind that sequins and colorful costumes are not associated with a gay gene and neither are butchy moves on the ice linked to a straight gene. It ‘s all drag, really, just like Quentin Crisp says.

Now, back to Johnny Weir… He who has refused to say whether or not he is gay, but whose skating style is everything Skate Canada is trying to make us forget. This next video clip is Johnny Weir thumbing his nose at Skate Canada. Maybe he isn’t doing it on purpose, but his performance is everything the gender police at Skate Canada fear: He wears tights, he has on flamboyant make up, his moves are sexy, but not in a macho way,including an exaggerated limp-wristed kiss blown to the audience. The music is Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, which is so gay, I could not help dancing in my office chair as I watched the clip. And guess what? The crowd loves it. He could have used “I Am What I Am” for his music. That was his message.

We just had Northampton Pride this weekend so maybe I am just feeling the love in an extra special way today, but you what? I love Johnny Weir. I love his sequins and tights and coquettish moves. I love it that Johnny is going to be Johnny and he doesn’t have to butch it up for me to appreciate his toughness. Check this out and enjoy. Happy Pride!

Hat Tip to Outsports where I first saw the Johnny Weir video .


ken said...

Oh my goodness! So many things to say! One, I love Johnny Weir, too. And even though Poker Face is just an exhibition piece, I think his competition routines still reflect his commitment to artistry and doing things the way he wants.
Two, I have always read Elvis Stojko as gay, just butch. Perhaps I am wrong.
And three, that ABC News special is just perverse. Make it more masculine by stressing the danger and then showing a man dropping his female partner on the ice? Are they going to stage injuries and on-ice disasters now?
Zeigler is right. It's not hockey--it never was, it shouldn't try to be. If we wanted every sport to be the same, well we'd just have one sport, right? I think it's great that figure skating exists for athletes to express themselves in a myriad of ways and for the audience to enjoy the different performances. And besides I don't really think there is that much of an image problem when figure skating ranks right up there as one of the most-watched Olympic Sports.
Really, I expected better of Canada.

calugg said...

Oh Jeepers. You'd think Skate Canada would learn.

Here's some insider gossip. Years ago, Skate Canada used to be the xy enforcers for the women's team, since this was the era where you had to PROVE you were a 'real' woman (have the typical chromosomal pattern for "female"). And Skate Canada rigidly enforced this until.....

their entire team "flunked" the genetic test. Then, the genetic test was quietly eliminated.

Unfortuantely, Skate Canada's efforts to make men's ice skating more butch is doomed to fail. It goes against norms of the sport (strength + elegance). Men's figure skating isn't hockey, nor should it be.

And best of all, millions of young men get to learn there are all sorts of ways to be "male."

Anonymous said...

I know Johnny. He's exactly how he appears. Does he really have to comment on his sexuality?

E Leb said...

Such a great piece by Johnny Weir!

Did you notice his bows at the end? He put his fingertips on his head, making a big 'M' - then I noticed the big 'Y' that precedes the 'M' and, in my head, finished the motions of 'C' and 'A' with a big smile on my face. Maybe I'm stretching it, maybe not. I loved it all the same.

Thanks for the post, Pat!

Pat Griffin said...

Thanks for your comments all. Ken, you are right, the face plant by the women didn't exactly make the point that figure skating is dangerous for men, did it?

ca lugg - This is new info for me, but I'm not a regular figure skating fan.

Anonymous, I agree with you that no one should be more out than they choose to be. I think Johnny is doing just fine tweaking the skating establishment just as he is.

EL, I have to go back and look at the video again. I completely missed the YMCA!!!

calugg said...

On the flunking of the gender test: I heard it second hand from a long-serving Skate Canada person. S/he mentioned that it was all very hush-hush since Skate Canada did NOT want Canadians to know that their entire women's skating team was gender atypical (at least chromozonally).

I wish were surprised that years later Skate Canada is trying to get the men's squad to be more butch. The internalized sexism and homophobia are just incredible.

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