In case you were wondering: Pairs skating is bluntly heteronormative

In case you were wondering: Pairs skating is bluntly heteronormative

[Ed. – Confession: I consider that a feature, not a bug.]

The rules of the International Skating Union, the sport’s governing body, are bluntly heteronormative. Rule 302, which governs pair skating, declares, “The composition of a pair must be one Lady and one Man.” Rule 303, which controls ice dance, says, “The
composition of an Ice Dance Couple must be one Lady and one Man.”

The restrictions don’t stop there. Regulations about the types of lifts and throws permitted in the pairs events are extraordinarily exacting, not only regarding things like hand positions and how long lifts must be held, but also about who does the lifting, holding, and throwing. (The “Man” must lift, hold, and throw the “Lady.”) Skating’s policing of gender expression extends even to the clothes the athletes wear on the ice. As a recent Newsweek story pointed out, “Men in ice dance cannot wear sleeveless costumes; women must wear skirts, and while the skirts can have slits, ‘ladies dress must not give the effect of excessive nudity.’ ” …

If the Olympics leave you with an urge to see same-sex pairs on the ice, make plans to visit Cleveland and Akron this August. Although ISU-governed events insist on male/female pairings, same-sex couples compete in the quadrennial Gay Games. (As befits the Gay Games’ spirit of inclusion, the figure skating program includes three categories for mixed pairs as well as single and pairs events for women and men.) The path to Gay Games glory isn’t always smooth, however. In 1994, when professional skaters Jean-Pierre Martin and Mark Hird, who were not a romantic couple, tried to practice for the LGBTQ event at a rink in their home town of Montreal, other users complained to the owner about the pair skating together; some even claimed (incorrectly, according to Martin) that they had been kissing. As Marjorie Garber observed in a chapter in the anthology Women on Ice: Feminist Responses to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle, “the rink owner had no other way to understand the phenomenon of these men skating together than as a romance.”

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