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  1. #1

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    Thumbs up Boys in figure skating Unite! High school editorial: "Stop Hating on Ice Skating!"

    Written by Brian Benton who is a competitive figure skater: http://voice.paly.net/node/26996
    When I was in seventh grade, I competed at the United States Junior National Figure Skating Championships. While at the competition, I was given a special skaters only T-shirt that I decided would be great to wear to school when I got back to California.

    I apparently was mistaken. What seemed to me like a great way to tell the world how great I was, was apparently just an invitation for everyone in my classes to make fun of me.

    Although I have since overcome this haunting memory, it seems that some of my fellow students are still stuck with their seventh grade immaturity and still see a problem with the fact that I skate.
    ...
    For those of you that are unaware, I have been figure skating for 11 years now, and with that have been receiving criticism about it for about seven (my kindergarten class didn’t seem to have any problem with my skating obsession).
    A profile article on Benton from 2009: http://voice.paly.net/node/20615
    For now, Benton seems content skating, and still appreciates the simplicity that drew him to the sport.

    "I think the main thing is that skating is artistic and athletic," Benton said. "It's one of the few sports that is."

    As Benton continues his quest for success in figure skating, participating in a sport less common for males is not an issue. For Benton it is about the skills, the talent, what he brings to the ice and trying his hardest every time he steps on the ice.

    "I don't think that being a male figure skater affects Brian one bit," Sebastian said. "I think he enjoys that fact that he has the abilities to be different."
    Last edited by Sylvia; 04-13-2011 at 03:20 PM.

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    Good on this young guy for saying what he did! I hope he's aware of the recent news item about Georges Laraque, a former hockey enforcer who skated in Canada's Battle of the Blades with Annabelle Langlois. He feels that figure skating is an "extreme sport" and wishes he had found it sooner in life. BOTB was a wonderful show. I attended a few live tapings and can tell you that those hockey players were filled with respect for their partners.

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    figure skating is at least as much of a sport as baseball or football or any other of those activities where men (often overweight ones I might add) run around in tights.


    So true, how come nobody talks about how football players wear tight pants, bend over in front of each other and pass a ball between their legs? Doesn't sound very "manly." And yes, most of them are fat, not "big boned-ed" but fat.

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    Go Brian Benton !!

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    I have major respect for boys who figure skate, and I love what Brian said in this article. Good for him.

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    I love it! More guys should talk about how great figure skating is, and how athletic it is, and how challenging, and how unique with melding athleticism and artistry with music and skating skills, the endurance and dedication that is required -- the small room for error and the difficulty of making it to the top.

    Johnny Weir has talked about this before -- about how fit a skater has to be and that it is a sport that should be recognized and celebrated and appreciated in America along with the big ball sports (esp. the ones where men run around in tights and/ or baggy pants patting each other on their bums, and jumping into each others' arms).

    Similar to "no crying in baseball," there are no wimps in figure skating (despite the drama, the tears in the kiss n' cry, and the emoting on and off the ice).

    Instead of being apologetic, and or jokey/ winky and defensive about the issue of males in figure skating, why can't TPTB celebrate the fact there are all kinds of guys and girls in this sport, just as there are in other sports. This is a sport with a rich history and tradition and all kinds of stories and incidents that are too often cloaked in silence because no, let's keep stuff under wraps and pretend there's only room for macho among male skaters, as if macho is the only true acceptable standard, as if there aren't all kinds of ways to express masculinity and femininity. Why can't male skaters band together and speak up about the tough tender beauty of this sport, without feeling on the defensive or that it's necessary to promote macho, or to hide who they are? Not all male skaters are gay. Duh! And there's nothing wrong, right or extraordinary about being gay -- IMO, everyone is unique and extraordinary. Both gay and straight athletes have made enormous contributions to this sport.

    It should be okay to be who you are, and all young skaters should be able to feel the freedom of finding out who they are and of developing their skills and talents with authenticity. It can only help further enrich this sport. IMO, Johnny Weir has helped scale the barrier to freedom of expression as a male skater. He has inspired many people within and outside of the sport, whether acknowledged or not (and no this is not about his faults and weaknesses -- we all have faults and weaknesses -- and this is not a referendum on whether you like or dislike Johnny. Have the grace to be open-minded and think beyond the surface of close-minded stereotypical viewpoints).

    No matter who you are inside, figure skating attracts people who love the feeling of flight, and the joy and the beauty of self-expression that participation in it can bring.

    Thank you, Brian Benton! (Ha, ha re that last line ... no haters, I doubt he's advocating violence -- I think he means he's ready to show what those blades enable him to do on the ice!)
    Last edited by aftershocks; 04-14-2011 at 07:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by leafygreens View Post


    So true, how come nobody talks about how football players wear tight pants, bend over in front of each other and pass a ball between their legs? Doesn't sound very "manly." And yes, most of them are fat, not "big boned-ed" but fat.
    Actually, I wrote a letter to the WaPo to that very thing (football players in spandex passing balls through their crotch and smacking each other on the ass) during the Turino Olympics. It was published!
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    aftershocks,

    Great post.

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    boys in skating

    Once this kid is in high school, he can brag about how he gets to hang around with a lot of pretty girls in spandex, rather than a bunch of smelly guys in a locker room. He may even have guys asking him to introduce him to some of those pretty girls. And if he takes up pairs and can lift girls over his head, he will start being viewed as a strong guy. In the long run, this boy will have a lot better social skills when it comes to talking to girls and respecting them. He should have no trouble getting a prom date!

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    Perhaps the traditional jocks disparage the sport because they can't do it. It does require a lighter more flexible body and an ability to learn complex technique.

    Anyway, 7th graders are not noted for maturity or independent thinking (at least when I was in 7th grade). Not too many of them will buck the cool kid even if they think he/she is being a jerk.

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    ^ Yes, that's probably true, and there's likely lots of reasons why the sport is looked down upon by "jocks" and by people who are not necessarily jocks. I think the main reason it is disparaged is because of a complete lack of understanding (abetted by the way those who control the sport view it and fail to adequately promote it due to hidebound fuddy duddy traditions and fears).

    I also think fs is disparaged by some because of the age-old, totally inaccurate notion that it is a "sissy" sport. Ironically, it was originally a sport exclusive to men -- young women in the late 1800s and early 1900s held back by long skirts and antiquated attitudes of that time, were discouraged (and thus restricted) in their participation. With the advent of shorter skirts and the era of Sonja Henie, the sport became associated more exclusively with females, and thus males whether gay or straight -- a culturally verboten topic back then, and still considered a touchy subject -- were looked upon as sissies. Thus the beginnings of the present-day sport's fear of males skating while not appearing or at least exhibiting what TPTB kowtowing to the society at-large, perceive to be macho. This fear, IMO, has been somewhat circumvented today by the expressiveness and beautiful movement qualities combined with athleticism that Johnny Weir (along with groundbreakers before him and along with some other males of his generation) have brought to the ice, which has inspired skaters and non-skaters, artists and athletes, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It is important for male skaters to speak out about the great things about this sport and why they are drawn to it, and stop hiding their light and their love of skating behind a bushel of antiquated attitudes and tired stereotypes.
    Last edited by aftershocks; 04-15-2011 at 02:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aliceanne View Post
    Perhaps the traditional jocks disparage the sport because they can't do it. It does require a lighter more flexible body and an ability to learn complex technique.
    Not saying that other sports don't require practice, but figure skating is SO difficult. I don't think most people realize how difficult it is. Some do realize it and are jealous so they disparage.

    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    Actually, I wrote a letter to the WaPo to that very thing (football players in spandex passing balls through their crotch and smacking each other on the ass) during the Turino Olympics. It was published!
    Awesome - a letter about womanly men by manleywoman?

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    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    Actually, I wrote a letter to the WaPo to that very thing (football players in spandex passing balls through their crotch and smacking each other on the ass) during the Turino Olympics. It was published!
    Right on, manleywoman!

    And good for you, Brian Benton! (Did I just sound like Dick Button?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by skateboy View Post

    And good for you, Brian Benton! (Did I just sound like Dick Button?)
    Yes, and nothing wrong with that.

    Re: this article - I would make this article required reading for anyone who ridicules male figure skating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post
    ^ Yes, that's probably true, and there's likely lots of reasons why the sport is looked down upon by "jocks" and by people who are not necessarily jocks. I think the main reason it is disparaged is because of a complete lack of understanding (abetted by the way those who control the sport view it and fail to adequately promote it due to hidebound fuddy duddy traditions and fears).
    .
    This too. It evolved in Britain as an exclusive club sport for upper class men. The early skating clubs and rinks in the U.S. were very discriminatory also. So that contributed to it's lack of mainstream appeal.

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    ^ Great point, aliceanne, thanks for mentioning. Reminds me of Dorothy Hamill and Carol Heiss talking about being snubbed by exclusive figure skating clubs (neither came from well-to-do families). However, their talent led to others interceding for them to help make it possible for them to join clubs, which was necessary in order to compete at Nationals. Mabel Fairbanks’ talent did not help her join a club in her day because she was African American. However, it’s been reported that Maribel Vinson Owen noticed Fairbanks’ talent and helped her get ice time and lessons. Fairbanks was able to skate internationally in shows, and she is famous for developing the spinning move (a signature move of Rudy Galindo) where you hold one leg up in front of the body, and she brought together and coached Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner when they were very young skaters.

    The sport’s exclusivity (snubbing of talented skaters) and fear of anything less than the appearance of macho in male skating has so hurt the sport. Fortunately, because it is such a wonderful sport, it somehow has survived in spite of its more faulty traditions. Since the sport has been going through a difficult transitional phase, it is hard to determine what this period will mean for the sport’s future. Certainly, a young man like Brian Benton speaking out is a good thing that will hopefully lead to more young men speaking out and more youngsters of every background and gender becoming involved in the sport, whether or not they reach the highest levels. And hopefully, at some point, TPTB will learn to develop a more inclusive vision, and understand how to better promote fs, and how to nurture all the skaters with less politics – a lot to ask for sure. In any case, simply to skate is to be filled with joy. I think that is the essence of the sport’s appeal.

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    USFS ignored adult skaters for years too. They failed to realize that once skaters turn 18, they would like to keep skating. And eventually those 18 year olds grow up and have income that they can keep spending on skating for decades.

    Mindboggling how slow they are to adapt.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skateboy View Post
    Right on, manleywoman!

    And good for you, Brian Benton! (Did I just sound like Dick Button?)
    Haha, I can just picture Dick Button going good for you, lucinda ruh!

    It's funny how this reminded me about a time when one of my skating teammates commenting on football players practice. So football players are complaining about 6 am practice, because they have to get up at 6 am.

    My friend responded..."No no, you don't call getting up at 6 am, a 6 am practice, you only call it a 6 am practice when you're ON THE ICE at 6 am like we are (or on the field...etc.).

    And of course, there was that other time where the school newspaper wrote about the gruelling and tough 6 or 7 am practices the men's hockey team had to go through (nu-uh, they are never on the ice at 6 am, only 7 am for only 2 days a week, and we train 4 days a week at 6 in the mornings). Way to get the facts wrong...cause we were on the ice before the hockey team from 6 - 7 am, and they got on the ice after our practice...hmmm

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    Wow, manleywoman, your comments about adult skaters add another fascinating dimension to this, and you certainly have firsthand experience. That’s so true about the mind-boggling inability of TPTB to lead with vision. I actually think that many people who control the sport of figure skating understand very little about it, and that may be at the root of the sport’s problems. I don’t like to compare fs with tennis, but at least many players are involved in the leadership decision-making for tennis, and that sport has been promoted fairly well to the larger population which provides an important source of revenue.

    It goes without saying that speed skating and figure skating have little in common except ice. Speed skating was developed out of the practical need to find a way to traverse the ice in winter, and later racing across the ice was organized as a sport, while figure skating developed as a leisure pastime. It is completely antiquated that these two individual sports are still bound together. The biggest problem is that few figure skaters hold important decision-making roles at the highest levels of the ISU. Why should speed skaters control what happens in the sport of figure skating? If speed skating needs to piggy back on another sport, why not join the USATF, and become the winter version of track and field?

    Okay, if that’s not gonna happen, couldn’t they at least get with it, and update the way figure skating and speed skating are organized? Above all, they need to allow more figure skaters to control the decision-making process for the sport of figure skating. Get with the times please, and learn how to adapt to the twenty-first century.

    Dick Button is a great ambassador for the sport. I learned much of what I know about figure skating from listening to his entertaining and expert commentary over the years. If the sport were understood and better appreciated by the larger public, it would be a no-brainer to everyone that Mr. Button is a national treasure.

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