Posts Tagged ‘ gymnasts ’


With graduate school orientation complete, my brain is swirling with ideas. It’s too early on a Saturday morning, I was up too late last night, and I can’t stop thinking. When all else fails, sometimes you have to get your thoughts out on paper (or as it may be in this digital age- get your thoughts out on the interwebs). And thus, I present some possible thesis and/or paper brainstorms. I’m not really looking for commentary on any of this, as I’m in the brainstorming stage. However, if you can think of any good resources on any of these topics, I’d love if you’d send them my way.

1) Body image of female gymnasts, not only at the elite level, but at the recreational, pre-competitive, compulsory, optional, and collegiate level. What do gymnasts think about their bodies? How do they compare themselves with other gymnasts, other athletes, and their peers in general? In what ways do they worry about their bodies? In what ways are they empowered by their bodies? Is there a standardized measure of body image that I can use to compare gymnasts with the larger female population? How does this compare with the representation of women gymnasts in the media (both “insider accounts” and popular media- like Make It Or Break It and youth fiction). While we are at it, how do gymnasts thoughts on their bodies differ from what coaches and/or parents expect

Challenges: human subjects approval, sample size, statistics.

2) The peformance of gender roles in the circus. Compare historical roles in traveling circuses to those in modern circus arts, a la Cirque du Soliel. Strong men v. graceful aerial artists. Was this intentional or coincedental? Did/Does this reflect society or shape society, or both? How does this clear deliniation of gender roles among circus artists compare with the bearded women and such of the traveling sideshows? What was the appeal of each? The beautiful and the grotesque?

Possible resources: Janet Davis (UT Austin) “The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top” 2002, John Kasson, Peta Tait “Circus Bodies: Cultural Identity in Aerial Performance” 2005.

Consideration: UT Austin American Studies PhD? Someone in NC is doing work on this too.

3) Representation of transgender or non-“gender-conforming” individuals in popular media. It’s hard to think of trans- characters in mainstream media, but when they exist how are they shown? More interested in fictional characters than reality shows and talk shows.

Examples of the top of my head: Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Moira/Max from The L Word (is The L Word over-analyzed already?), Transamerica, Degrassi, Boys Don’t Cry. Do these representations reinforce stereotypes or show a range of expierences?

Possible resource: GLAAD

4) The discourse over “butch flight.”

Ah, maybe I can go back to sleep now.


Kissing Girls at Age Four

One of my adorable little gymnasts, “Becca,” can’t keep her hands to herself. She also can’t keep her lips to herself.

All she wants to do is stand next to her friend “Lindsey.” When Lindsey isn’t expecting it, Becca leans in and gently kisses her cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

They are both four years old.

We have been working on the “keep your hands to yourself” thing. As Becca pointed out, “my lips aren’t my hands.” Now we have to work on the “respect your teammate’s personal space” thing.

So, Becca is four. She’s learning that it isn’t okay to kiss her friends. Truth be told, it really isn’t appropriate behavior for the middle of gymnastics class, but I still like to kiss my friends. I’d much rather see preschoolers kissing than see them fighting. I’d rather hear them saying “I love you” than calling each other “meanies.”

I suppose it’s a balance between letting kids be kids and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society. I know that by kindergarten, I had figured out I wasn’t allowed to kiss my friends at school. Away from school, however, many smooches were shared, along with showers and sleeping bags.

Aged three, my brother proudly declared that he loved both Natalie and Caleb. “We aren’t going to get married,” he said, “That’s too much. The three of us are just going to live together.” That, and kiss under the stairs at preschool.

By 4th grade, my classmates had suddenly taken an interest in the opposite sex. To combat the rampant “dating” going on during recess, the teachers banned hand-holding. My friend Meagan and I, always rebellions, proudly proclaimed, “We are just kids. We can skip across the playground hand in hand if we want!” And we did. That is, until later in they year when one of my classmates decided Ginger Spice was a lesbian (Really? Ginger Spice? Even young gaydar should have suspected Sporty or Scary). Meagan and I didn’t want to be lesbians. We stopped holding hands. Our protest was over.

My best friend and I bathed and cuddled together well through elementary school and perhaps into middle school. Then, one day, it changed. At one of our many sleepovers she announced, “I’m going to go take my shower now.” It was a fact, not an invitation.

I’ll admit that I kiss friends now. With a few, it’s a greeting. We’ve lived in Europe, we’re so cosmopolitan, we’re affectionate my nature, whatever. With others, it’s sexual in nature. We might be friends first, but sometimes we are also sexual adults who decide to act on that.

Excluding the final example, when did we learn that we shouldn’t kiss our friends? Do you remember? Who said what? How old were you? I only have a female perspective on this, so I’d love to hear from men as well.