Friday, July 02, 2010

I threw up a little inside my mouth...

...which is not very feminine, I know. But I washed up and put on a skort and went to work out and I felt better!

Yeah, right.

But according to this article, putting on a skort and doing a workout should make me feel super duper feminine. But the whole thing caused the above-mentioned gag reflex. I have been sitting with this article for a while now and I still cannot figure out how to make sense of it. (I've also been kind of busy hanging in the miserable rathole with the other radical feminists, too; so that kind of limits my time). But I decided to try to take it point by offensive and misinformed point.

First, in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I do wear skirts when I play tennis--though not exclusively. And I wear skirts in everyday life (though not every day). And yes, I probably do fall on the femme spectrum somewhere. And yes I have those yoga pants that are tight in the ass. But I also have baggy gym shorts and grey t-shirts. And baseball caps--not the pink ones! And the other day one my spin students mistook me for a hockey player. That made me very happy. In other words my performance of femininity is varied and often situational. And in the gym you never know what you're going to get with me. Except you know you're not getting a skirt. OK sometimes I pull a skirt on over my bike shorts to drive to the gym. But I take it off once there.
Enough pseudo apologies. I'm not the one engaging in apologetic behavior anyway.
Let's start here: "mannerisms are defiantly mannish." This is a no-win situation for female athletes. Let's not forget that sports have been played by men for years and years and years. And in the modern Western world men have had far more participation opportunities. And so sports themselves are "mannish." Not always; not universally. But why do we not use the adjective when describing the way men play them? Because men are supposed to play sports and no one questions their mannerisms when they do them--unless they're feminine (a la Johnny Weir). Of course if female athletes attempt to bring a non-mannish touch to their sport-playing, they are not taken seriously. This position is acknowledged by triathlete Nicole Deboom who is the creator of Skirt Sports (the name is pretty self-explanatory but here's a visual just in case). But we also have to recognize that what gets deemed mannish and/or feminine is a social construct. So in the case of this article the author has decided that the behaviors of female athletes are mannish. Not that they are sporty, or athletic-like--but that these women have adopted male behaviors--though we don't really know which behaviors she is speaking of as she does not give examples.
Next: "The defeminization of women in sports became so pronounced that in recent years, international sports bodies such as the Olympics have struggled with how to actually implement testing to ensure that the women are biologically female."
Wait, let me check my calendar...OK, yes, yes, it does appear to be 2010. I felt like I was reading something from female physical educators in the 1950s who worried that sports would masculinize their students and thus make the menfolk take away their sporting opportunities (few as they were), but no. This writer thinks that contemporary women have become so masculine through sports that the IOC is gender testing them now. One, mandatory gender testing is over. Yes, it's still pretty lousy that it gets implemented in suspect cases--i.e. some woman who appears too masculine. But part of the whole gender testing thing was making sure men didn't make their way into women's sports. Also this seems to be a sly reference to South African runner Caster Semenya, who was pegged as a suspect case. But Semenya's participation in sport did not make her appear masculine (again masculine is a construct). Testing of Semenya has revealed some sort of intersex condition. (Note that I am not saying that genetics made Semenya mannish, either.)
The solution of course is the skort! Because it will "put an end to androgyny in sports." [Let's also note that some of us like androgyny and think there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. That it's even a *gasp* good/fun/sexy/liberating thing.]
Here's another problem. Part of the marketing of skirts for working out involves covering those unflattering parts which is why it seems that the average age of women buying these things is 40. (This could also have an economic explanation, too. Shorts and t-shirts are cheaper than the apparel on Deboom's website and younger women are not as financially solvent.) Part of the looking good thing is the covering up of some cellulite apparently. The skirts offer cover to the "skimming" spandex that exists underneath the skirts. So work out to feel good and be healthy--but please don't show us your flab, ladies!
And finally, I found this statement by Deboom to be a little ridiculous: "It's just time to redefine women athletes by making it OK to look like a woman while you're working out."
Again, fear of androgyny and masculinity in women. I was wearing yoga pants and a unisex t-shirt while lifting this morning. A female friend of mine was wearing a unisex t-shirt and men's shorts. We both looked liked women even though we were dressed differently. The masculinity was not in our attire though we both displayed different levels of masculinity. My performance of masculinity this morning was largely due to the presence of large shoulder muscles and the fact that I was lifting weights. Neither of which are mitigated by donning a skirt.
So put me in a skirt. You can even try to put make-up on me. But it doesn't make me more or less of a woman as I am laying on my back on the weight bench. And though Deboom says skirts offer greater freedom of movement and other training benefits, I think I would feel a little awkward with my legs splayed as I bench pressed in a skirt.

1 comment:

Diane said...

I'm taken with the concept of being "aggressively feminine." Sounds "mannish" to me!

This is a puff (pardon the "feminine" adjective) piece for DeBoom's company, which is okay, except for the fact that Bass felt the need to insult sportswomen by writing it. It isn't enough that women are gender-tested (I wear athletic shorts when I play tennis, so god only knows what's happening to my chromosomes as I write this), called "ugly" when they have athletic bodies, and accused of taking steroids if they have muscles--Bass has now come along to add to the offensive commentary.

And before someone comes along to say "Women should wear whatever they want, and that might be a skort" the point is: Women should not be concerned about what others think they should wear because of perceptions of their "femininity." Regardless of what they wear, they are going to jump, fall, sweat, yell, and do all manner of things that some people consider "unfeminine."

And now it's time for me to return to my own corner of the rathole, where, I fear, my skirt may get dirty.