Sexualizing Gymnastics (part 2)

In the post Sexualizing Collegiate Gymnastics, I commented on the following image (later removed from the Utah gymnastics website).

I didn’t like the arched back, the obvious makeup, and the airbrushed legs. Somehow, it just seemed too sexual.

The level 7 gymnasts I coach recently received their floor routines. This is an exciting moment in their gymnastics career as it is the first time they have routines designed especially for them- routines that show off their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Two of the gymnasts end in a very similar pose. One is 10 years old and in 5th grade. The other is 13 years old and in 7th grade. Neither of their final poses seem quite as lewd as the picture above, perhaps because it is in the context of a routine. The background is not edited out for emphasis. By the time they strike that final pose, their gymnastics and athleticism has been on display for 90 seconds.

Still, I don’t like it. I didn’t make their routines and I don’t have the authority to change them. However, when a college gymnast strikes such a pose, she is aware of the sexual implication. When the pre-teen gymnast does it, it’s as though she is “playing grown up.” Better than “sexting” or whatever latest threat to teenagers Dr.Phil is going on about, but I’d rather see gymnast present themselves as athletic young people, without adding a degree of sex.

This isn’t limited to gymnastics, of course. Dance and cheerleading are frequently home to debate about the appropriate movements and costumes of young people. What do you think? Innocent fun or pushing sexuality upon children?

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