Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cyborgs on Ice!

I have a long list of grievances about figure skating. A long list that, if I had little else to do during my workday, would lend itself to an extended extended extended post (and you'd love it, too, ONTRI!). But I'll do only a "short program" today, as I mean to discuss a most strongly-held pet peeve: the flesh-colored tights that the women are increasingly wearing over their skates.

First, a disclaimer: I raise this issue not as some sexist couch jockey who is determined to objectify female athletes by critiquing their wardrobe and equipment selections. I really don't care what Lindsay Vonn or Dara Torres wear when they compete; if they think a burqa will make them faster, they should go for it. Just bring home medals to the U.S. of A.

But figure skating's different, of course. Figure skating is a sport predicated entirely on aesthetics: [sadly,] it's all about how you look. So I have to ask the question: what in the name of Dick Button is remotely appealing about flesh-colored tights over skates? For starters, it's not at all convincing. You're not hiding anything, ladies. That's current points leader Kim Yu Na in the photos above (credit: New York Times). Check out that first picture: either Kim has some kind of grotesque protruding bone spur, she's acquired by mutation or surgery an additional joint midway between her knee and ankle, or that unsightly bulge is the poorly-concealed top of her skate. Who is she kidding? WHO?

And of course there are the skate blades. You can "flesh up" the boot, but not the blades. So even if we bought into the fiction that is apparently intended here — that the skates have been fully integrated into Kim's body, that "they are a part of her" — we have to accept that Kim has metal skate blades either screwed into or growing out of the soles of her feet. The very suggestion is, to me, horrifying. If this sport means to tap into our several souls' common craving to witness beauty — if its appeal is to that part of us that deeply appreciates the human form, its capacity for grace and will to perfection — why are we turning our female skaters into cyborgs? This isn't figure skating. It's disfigure skating.

The only possible justification I can muster for this offensive trend is that blending the skate boots into the legs might allow skaters to bluff mistakes past the judges. I write this knowing very little about figure skating, but I throw it out as a possibility. And then I throw the possibility out, too, as it seems to me that judges should be able to see through that sort of crap anyway, and if I were a judge I wouldn't particularly take to a skater who resorted to this sort of trick.

For years now people have been using ice skates to ice skate. It's sort of a requirement of ice skating that I think all of us in the crowd accept. In the spirit of our common humanity — and in recognition of how ice skating works — show us your skates, ladies. Please. There's no downside to it, and you'll be substantially less freakish and terrifying. And Mithridates says he'll give you beads.


sagar said...

I agree with your overall message, and I'm sure I share your many of your sentiments about figure skating. I was contemplating this same question when I watched last night which is probably the first time in the last three winter olympics I tuned in for this event. I'm not sure when the trend started, but I recall that in the 80's and 90's when I use to watch they had no problems showing their skates (I'm sure I can find pics somewhere to confirm this). But that got me thinking one benefit of this current costume is that maybe it prevents the Tonya Harding (or was it Kerrigan) skating over to the judges to cry about her broken laces?

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