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Was Anti-Gay Bias at Work in Men’s Figure Skating Decision?

by Kilian Melloy
Saturday Feb 20, 2010
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Flamboyant skater Johnny Weir fell out of the top tier of competition, taking sixth place in the Men’s Figure Skating contest at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver; meantime, two Australian sports announcers known for their laddish banter drew criticism for the homophobic tone of their commentary regarding the sporting event. Viewers were left to wonder: just how much did anti-gay bias affect the final results?

While commentators Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy were referencing the gay-themed movie "Brokeback Mountain" and jibing that one skating contestant’s being heterosexual was a shock, the judges were using a new scoring system that placed greater emphasis on certain technical aspects--to the detriment of the athlete who had been favored to win, Russian skater Yevgeny Plushenko, who reckoned that he’d have taken the gold is the judges were using the previously employed scoring system.

But Plushenko’s razor-thin margin of loss was less controversial than the fact that Johnny Weir--who is widely speculated to be gay, though he has never confirmed it publicly in so many words--was ranked so poorly, despite his perfect technique, that he came in sixth. The Christian Science Monitor reported in a Feb. 19 article that the judges were unimpressed with Weir, whose performance was not as technically dazzling; Weir, for his part, cited a popular performer with a big gay following. "As Lady Gaga would say, ’I have all my role models out there,’ " Weir told the press.

Weir has been unapologetic about his public presentation, which, on and off the ice, has been seen as flamboyant--and forthrightly gay. But Weir has seemed to play with perceptions about sexuality, refusing to state his orientation and talking about his sport--which has a reputation for being "gay"--in terms that avoid labeling. "I know that for the men’s population of the Unites States, figure skating is a ’gay’ sport, and that’s a misconception," Weir told Advocate.com in a Feb. 9 article. "There are so many straight athletes in figure skating. I think it’s the music and the costumes that turn most men off. Because they want to see, well, they want to see spandexed men hitting each other’s ass and throwing a ball. It’s very different."

But in Weir’s case, argues Outsports.com’s Cyd Zeigler in a Feb. 17 article, his public persona is not simply a holdover of the sport’s theatricality: "Over the last four years, Weir has been the gayest thing in sports," Zeigler wrote. "He walked in the Heatherette show and appeared in Black Book in high heels. In his documentary, ’Pop Star On Ice,’ he’s in a bubble bath with his best friend, Paris and he lies on the couch with a Hello Kitty doll. When ESPN asked him for an interview, he took the reporter for a mani-pedi. When I interviewed Weir last summer and asked him how many sequins are too many, he answered: ’What kind of question is that? There are never too many.’ "

For Australian commentators Molloy and McGuire, however, the costumes were a subject of mockery--leading to viewer complaints and the establishing of Facebook page "Eddie McGuire is ruining the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage," reported U.K. newspaper The Sun on Feb. 19.

Commenting on the costumes worn by the skaters, Molloy remarked, "They don’t leave anything in the locker room these blokes, do they?"

"They don’t leave anything in the closet either, do they?" rejoined McGuire, who went on to suggest that the presence of a heterosexual skater in the competition was a rarity. Apologizing later, Molloy added a barb: "I suggested that there was a disaster happening at the ice skating rink because organizers had found out one of the male ice dancers wasn’t gay. And I apologize for that really sincerely. But it definitely wasn’t this guy." Molloy was referring to Weir, who was clad in dramatic attire and carrying a prop in the shape of a heart.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • BB, 2010-02-19 15:34:14

    Oh, brother. Gay paranoia has gone off the deep end. Face facts, there is a large portion of the human population now and forever that is going to laugh at male effeminacy. I’m gay, and I think these silly ladies parading around in their poufy finest, wrists dangling and heels clicking are ridiculous. If you act like a clown, some people are going to laugh. To paraphrase an old 60s gay taunt: GET USED TO IT.


  • Arthur Cohen, 2010-02-19 18:13:34

    BB, that reeks of internalized homophobia and is almost as insulting as those idiots’ comments. Fact is these commentators were denigrating these athletes BECAUSE they were gay, and that’s just not acceptable, you’re appeasement notwithstanding. With friends like you, our community doesn’t need enemies. As for these bigots, they should have been suspended.


  • BB, 2010-02-19 21:43:19

    18:13. First off, we need to clear the air of this maladoit neologism. Phobia is a fear of something, and Homo means the same, so "homophobia" is fear of the same. That has no meaning. What you’d like it to mean is anybody who doesn’t get in line with the left wing homosexual agenda. In point of fact, not liking nelly bottoms is something that many homosexuals share with me. There is something quite distasteful about effeminate young men who camp it up for no other reason than to attract attention to themselves and then throw fits when the attention they attract is not to their liking. As to the rest of your prescription, like all homosexualists you are a fascist at heart and want Big Brother to destroy your enemies for you. If you don’t like the commentary, then write a brilliant rebuttal, attack back, strap on a pair and fight for yourself, but no, you want somebody to punish them for you, just like teacher used to when the boys were too mean to you at dodge ball. I have some news for you: one is not a self-hating homosexual if one admires strong willed self-reliant men and despises little queens who prance around mincing and lisping, oh, and also little leftists who want to impose gay fascism on anything and anyone who doesn’t tow the party line.


  • Anonymous, 2010-02-20 01:00:16

    BB you are the most uneducated ignorant piece of human feces on the face of this earth.People like you should be wiped off of this planet,so you are no longer able to pollute society with your ANTI-GAY bigotry.Homophobia does have meaning and you are a sincerely stupid creature if you think your rationality of the word gives you any credibility.In the Webster’s dictionary and in the English language.Homophobia:irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.Thats what Homophobia means.If you had an education you would know what it means.And if you really wanna go down the road of what you are,you are an ill-mannered ANTI-GAY BIGOT.And a BIGOT is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.You treat gay people the exact way as described by the meaning of the word bigot.So you are what intelligent people call a HOMOPHOBIC BIGOT.You are disgusting vile trash and you will reap what you sew.Mark my words you will get yours in hell you hateful bigot.


  • BB, 2010-02-20 01:12:13

    The cutest part of that last screeching little diatribe is the adorable 5-Star rating! You can just see her fellow queens clapping their hands, jumping up and down all excited going going "Yaaaaaaayyyy! you go, girl."


  • tristram, 2010-02-20 04:11:17

    Okay, BB, there were nine skaters whose routines were shown. In your esteemed opinion, which ONE of them was too effeminate for you?


  • tristram, 2010-02-20 04:13:00

    (correction)Okay, BB, there were nine skaters whose routines were shown. In your esteemed opinion, which ONE of them was NOT too effeminate for you?


  • Anonymous, 2010-02-20 07:47:35

    I don’t know about to be or not to be but the guy who actually won is as GAY as my boyfriend (and I’m a guy)....aka there was no anti-gay bias in the decision! Drama queens step off...


  • Anonymous, 2010-02-20 08:25:54

    Priscilla was queen of the desert, she doesn’t really belong on the ice...


  • Milo, 2010-02-22 03:25:16

    I didn’t see the men’s long program, so I cannot comment on the artistic merit of Weir’s performance. In this article, Melloy seems to be making the point that because the judges are weighing technique more heavily than artistry, Weir should have finished higher. The problem is that, regardless of priority, BOTH elements are being evaluated. So it is still possible for a guy with a higher artistic score to beat a guy with better technical marks. @Anonymous: I’m surprised that you would level charges of "homophobia" against BB for finding effeminacy distasteful. If effeminacy and male homosexuality were synonymous, that position would be logical. But your accusation is unfounded becasue: 1. Not all effeminate men are homosexual. and 2. Not all homosexual men are effeminate.


  • Milo, 2010-02-22 03:27:39

    Sorry for re-posting, but I didn’t want this comment to go anonymous. I didn’t see the men’s long program, so I cannot comment on the artistic merit of Weir’s performance. In this article, Melloy seems to be making the point that because the judges are weighing technique more heavily than artistry, Weir should have finished higher. The problem is that, regardless of priority, BOTH elements are being evaluated. So it is still possible for a guy with a higher artistic score to beat a guy with better technical marks. @Anonymous: I’m surprised that you would level charges of "homophobia" against BB for finding effeminacy distasteful. If effeminacy and male homosexuality were synonymous, that position would be logical. But your accusation is unfounded becasue: 1. Not all effeminate men are homosexual. and 2. Not all homosexual men are effeminate. I didn’t see the men’s long program, so I cannot comment on the artistic merit of Weir’s performance. In this article, Melloy seems to be making the point that because the judges are weighing technique more heavily than artistry, Weir should have finished higher. The problem is that, regardless of priority, BOTH elements are being evaluated. So it is still possible for a guy with a higher artistic score to beat a guy with better technical marks. @Anonymous: I’m surprised that you would level charges of "homophobia" against BB for finding effeminacy distasteful. If effeminacy and male homosexuality were synonymous, that position would be logical. But your accusation is unfounded becasue: 1. Not all effeminate men are homosexual. and 2. Not all homosexual men are effeminate.


  • Larry Roberts, 2010-02-22 13:54:02

    I recommend checking out gay law professor Kenji Yoshino’s book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. He points out that while much blatant discrimination is now not allowed, discrimination against people who don’t "tone it down" is still here.


  • Anonymous, 2011-01-30 17:44:41

    TOTALLY AGREE WITH BB. HOOK. LINE. AND SINKER.


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