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Thread: Considerations of Gender and Sex in Figure Skating

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014

    Considerations of Gender and Sex in Figure Skating

    On a relatively frequent basis, sexual orientation (i.e., one's romantic/sexual/etc. attraction to others) and gender presentation (i.e., how one presents one's gender - ranging from feminine through androgynous to masculine) are discussed with regard to figure skaters, particularly men and boys. However, the constructs of gender (identity) and sex are rarely discussed with regard to figure skating, presumably since the imposed gender binary is taken as the status quo - separate men's and women's singles events, and men and women skating together in pairs and dance events. So, I wanted to start a discussion on the topic of gender and sex to see what other members thought about these topics.

    These constructs are typically defined as follows:
    -Gender identity: One's internal sense of being a man, woman, or any genderqueer variant, such as pangender, agender, etc.
    -Sex: One's biological make-up, involving attributes such as hormones, chromosomes, and secondary sex characteristics - seen as a spectrum ranging from female through intersex to male

    Here is a helpful model (gingerbread person) if you are unaware of these terms, or would like to read further:

    I recognize that we live in a world that in many ways is still very binaried in all of these aspects, and this is reflected in figure skating, which seems slow to progress away from traditional gender roles and modes of gender presentation (See costume rules as a prime example). However, I had some pragmatic questions to which I did not know the answers:

    1) Does the ISU have any sort of rules regarding non-binaried (either by sex or gender identity) individuals? Obviously, it wouldn't matter at a recreational level, but if you want to skate competitively, you would need to be 'slotted into' the binary categories of competitive skating.
    2) Similarly, are there are any rules regarding transgender individuals? If so, are these rules contingent upon when one started transitioning (e.g., someone who took puberty-blocking drugs and then hormones, compared to someone who went through puberty and then transitioned)?

    I was reminded of the 'gender testing' (which, of course, should have been called 'sex testing', since she identified as a girl/woman; see that was done to Castor Semenya, the middle-distance runner, and wondered if anything like that has ever occurred in figure skating. Presumably, the same arguments would be made regarding men's biological advantage for jumping/etc.

    I do a lot of research about these topics in my field (math education), so I wanted to see how they applied to figure skating. I look forward to reading your comments!

  2. #2
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Staring at the ocean and smiling.

    You might be interested in tbe above book, Culture on Ice: Figure Skating & Cultural Meaning by Ellyn Kestnbaum.

    Figure skating is one of the most popular spectator sports in the U.S., yet it eludes definitive categorization. In this engaging new book, Ellyn Kestnbaum examines figure skating from multiple perspectives: as sport, as performance, and even as spectacle, guiding the reader through both the technical aspects of skating and the sometimes convoluted rules of figure skating competition. By careful readings of skating events at the 1994 and 1998 Olympic Games, she argues that figure skating is a language, one whose meaning is inflected by the culture at large. In particular, she looks at the ways in which race, social class and gender all disrupt, subvert or reinforce the practices of figure skating, and examines the influence of the media in shaping perceptions of the sport. As a skater, skating fan and scholar, Kestnbaum brings a unique point of view to this study, providing not only a history of the skating world but also a feeling for what it is like to be on the ice
    Last edited by dorispulaski; Yesterday at 11:55 PM.

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