Archive for the ‘ Gymnastics ’ Category

Men and Girls

While trying to find my gymnasts’ scores, I came across this goody on the website of a Florida gym.

Since this gym is hosting the state championships, it makes sense for them to also host the meet results. However, if you will note, the first headline says “Men’s State” and the second says “Girl’s State.” Inconsistent, huh?

To confirm the official names, I went to the USA Gymnastics website. State championships are held for the “Men’s Junior Olympic Program” and the “Women’s Junior Olympic Program.” Technically, both programs are for gymnasts eighteen years of age and under, so “boys” and “girls” could have been used. However, per the governing body, the correct terminology is “men” and “women.” The website writer probably made an unknowing mistake, but these mistakes are what reinforce that gymnastics is a “girls” sport.

End feminist ranting.

On a related note, I will share this quote from a class I taught a while back. Always nice to finish with a laugh.

Me (to Beginner 1 class): Okay, girlies, follow me to beam.
6 year old student: Don’t call us girlies. Women get called girls their whole lives and that isn’t right! (pumps fist in air) You shouldn’t do that.
Me: I’m sorry. How about I call you beautiful young ladies? Is that better?
6 year old student: Yes, I think so.
Other kid: Well, it doesn’t matter. Our coach will be dead by the time we are grown up anyways.
Me: I sure hope I won’t be dead. How old do you think I am anyways?
Yet another kid: 32?

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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?

Why I’ve Been a Bad Blogger

The last few weeks have been intense.

My beloved grandmother passed away this evening.

I’ve been struggling with some “what do I want” and “how do I get it” issues, coupled with some further thoughts on labeling my identity.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my parents and the ex.

All of these are things I plan to explore more fully.

In the mean time, here are some gender related things that I have been meaning to blog about, but haven’t had the time or energy:

  • International Olympic Committee recommends gender testing centers, via AP. There are so many things that could be said about this.
  • According to a post on Genderfork, H&M’s Spring 2010 collection includes skirts for men. Yahoo is not so impressed. Personally, I like the look.
  • Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin teams up with Supergirl, of DC Comics, to create the “Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup.” Empowering experience for young female gymnast or disgusting corporate tie-in?

Sexualizing Collegiate Gymnastics

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m a big gymnastics fan. I’ve recently come to love college gymnastics for the publicity it gives the sport, as well as the opportunity it allows for athletes to continue competing beyond their teen years.

When the gymnastics word starting applauding University of Utah’s new wesbsite, I was pretty excited. That is, until I looked at the actual website.

Utah Gymnastics: opening page

The opening page features the gymnasts. However, it features them all made-up, displaying their asses to the camera. Wouldn’t it be more fitting for them to be engaged in their actual sport? Maybe they should be pictured with their hair they way they might actually wear it. Those cute side bangs are a  total safety nightmare. [Added 1/7/09: This picture is not awful by any means. It’s even sorta cute. I’m pretty sure my friends and I took a similar picture before our senior prom. It just isn’t the best depiction available. Why cute?] It’s not new, we like to glam up female athletes. But honestly, I’m pretty sure gymnastics already has enough glam.

It only gets worse.

Utah Gymnastics: Tradition

I’ll give credit when credit is due: at least this gymnast is engaged in activity. However, we never see her face. The primary focus of this photo is her butt and her legs. (That funky looking rash under her left cheek might suggest a doctor’s visit is in order). The individual’s feat of athleticism and flexibility is unimportant. It’s all about the body.

This one is my favorite. I get the feeling the photographer shoots porn for his other job. Arched back as though mid-orgasm, check! Bedroom eyes, check! Airbrushed legs, check! Asian woman to fulfill the hyper-sexual and submissive stereotype, check and check!

Utah, as the #2 ranked team, I’m disappointed. Gymnastics is already struggling with its reputation. Gymnastics is already sexualized enough, as are college aged women. Why not show your gymnasts for the athletes they really are?

Now this is impressive!

[Added 1/7/09: The “Attendance picture” has been replaced by a montage of the stadium and this still shot:

It might not be as exciting, but I am pretty sure this better demonstrates Utah’s high rates of attendance than the back-arched photo.

I’m still surprised when internet uproar leads to change.]

Props to you, Coach!

The other day, as I walked across the gym from coaching uneven bars to the vault area, I heard the following exchange:

6-year-old boy: “Why does that have to be my nickname?”

Coach: “If you act like a boy, I’ll give you a manly nickname. Otherwise, you get a girly nickname. So you have to be tough, and strong, and not complain if you wanted to be nicknamed “Superman” or “Muscleman” or “Tiger.” If you’re weak, and scared, and whine a lot, you’ll keep being called “Princess” or “Fairy.”

First of all, really!? Way to reinforce stereotypical gender roles. Props to you, Coach! Teach ’em young.

Second, as a women’s gymnastics coach, I take offense. My girls are not weak, they are incredibly brave, and they don’t whine anymore than any kid would when required to do things that are painful and difficult.

On the “weak” note, I have an idea. First, we line the boys and girls team up from oldest to youngest, facing each other, as if at a square dance. Then we pair each kid with the opposite-sexed kid facing them and send then off on a leg lift, press handstand, and rope climb contest. My girls will kick the boys’ asses.

On the topic of “girls are scared,” I don’t think my students are any more scared than they should be. Gymnastics is a risky sport. Most of my kids who have been at the competitive level for more than a few years have broken some bone or have some sort of injury that requires constant attention (tendinitis, Osgood-Schlatter’s “disease,” or lower back pain). Like all athletes, my gymnasts sometimes encounter mental blocks they must overcome. For the the most part, however, they their coaches’ judgment. When I tell a kid she is ready to do her back-handspring, back-tuck on the high beam or flip from the high bar to the low part without a mat, they apprehensively proceed. Fear is good. Fear informs us of limits. Fear keeps us from doing stupid things. The coach above should realize the difference between natural and helpful fear and pointlessly being a scaredy-cat.

Finally, kids (both boys and girls) whine when they have to do something they don’t want. If I was eight, and my coach told me to do a hundred sit-ups, you bet I’d whine. But then, I’d do it, because I’d know it was good for me. As my gymnasts get older and more advanced in the sport, they cease to complain because they internalize that challenges and occasional discomfort are inherent in the path they’ve chosen.  It shouldn’t be surprising that a six-year-old boy would say, “Ugh, Coach, I don’t want to do my push-ups!” or “This hurts. Why do we have to do it’?” That doesn’t mean you need to rename him  “Fairy Princess.”