On Campus | Alumni
From Gentlemanly Art to Sport for Sissies and Girls: What Can the History of Figure Skating Tell Us About the Relationship between Gender and Sport?
Mary Louise Adams, Queen's University
In present day North America figure skating reigns as the quintessential girls' sport. For much of the twentieth century it was one of only a few sports thought to be compatible with the biological, moral and aesthetic demands of femininity. Today the sport is so identified with girls that few boys choose to skate and those who do are often harassed by their peers for being "sissies." It's an ironic development in a sport that was originally designed by men for male bodies.
In this illustrated talk, I look at the transformation of skating from a nineteenth-century art, pursued almost exclusively by men, into a competitive sport that is now seen as most appropriate for women and girls. I consider the key role played by class in this process and I discuss the implications of skating's feminine "gender reputation" for both male and female skaters, suggesting what the history of skating can teach us about the persistent centrality of normative ideas about sex and gender to our understandings of sport.
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