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The Winter Olympics, male & female physiology, and socially constructed bodies

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This is a fascinating thread by Milena Popova about the differing performances of male and female athletes at the Winter Olympics. As they point out, humans are sexually dimorphic but the story doesn’t end there. Bodies are also socially constructed.

Physiology is a thing, but physiology is shaped and mediated by our social context.

Look back at those pictures of “women”. Those petite, delicate bodies, those faces we process as “beautiful”. Those are the qualities that globally dominant Western cultures associate with “femininity”.

And sport is one of the institutions that fiercely guards and reproduces dominant ideas about gender, masculinity and femininity. This plays out differently in different sports.

Generally, men and women compete separately. And for the purposes of sport “men” and “women” are defined as people whose bodies were assigned male or female at birth and whose gender matches that assignment.

The obvious example here is South African runner Caster Semenya. But Popova continues with a more subtle (and admittedly speculative) situation:

Now, what really gets me is snowboarding. Because on the face of it that’s not a sport that’s judged on the same gendered criteria of artistry and aesthetics as figure skating or gymnastics.

You’d think under all the skiing gear, helmets, scarves and goggles, it would be quite hard to perform femininity.

And still, as my friend whom I made watch slope style and half pipe for the first time in her life last night pointed out, the body types of the men and women riders are really rather different. You can tell even under all the gear.

And that translates to performance. Women get an amplitude of about 3m above the half pipe, men about 4-5m. The best women do 1080s (three revolutions), the best men 1440s (four revolutions).

But much like any other subculture snowboarding reproduces hierarchical structures. Moves are named after people, some people find it easier to access than others (hint: it’s a massively expensive sport), some people set trends.

One of the structures it reproduces is a gendered hierarchy. It’s a very masculine culture. Women find it harder to access the sport, find it harder to be taken seriously as athletes in their own right rather than “just hangers-on”.

And I have the sneaky suspicion that because the people with the most subcultural capital tend to be men and they decide whom they will admit and accept to the community, there are certain looks and body types of women who find it less hard (not easy!) to gain access.

And those happen to be the body types that may find it harder to do 1440s and to get 5m amplitude above the half pipe.

Another example from figure skating is Surya Bonaly, a French figure skater who landed a backflip on one skate in a performance at the 1998 Olympics. While backflips weren’t banned because of Bonaly’s relative ease in performing them (as claimed here), her athletic style was outside the norm in women’s figure skating, in which traditional femininity is baked right into the rules & judging. This was also a factor in Tonya Harding’s career (as depicted in I, Tonya).

Anyway, super interesting to think about.

Tags: 2018 Winter Olympics   biology   Caster Semenya   figure skating   gender   Milena Popova   Olympic Games   science   snowboarding   sports   Surya Bonaly
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satadru
1 day ago
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I noticed even this year that the commentating verbiage for the women's half-pipe was heavily gendered.
New York, NY
bibliogrrl
2 hours ago
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Chicago!
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if that’s your best, your best won’t do

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“When I was a kid I was tougher than kids these days!” you say.

“Kids who are being bullied need to learn to defend themselves!” you say.

The kids in Parkland, Florida are pretty damn tough. And they are defending themselves. And for some reason, it sure is pissing you off.

I wonder if it’s because the bully they’re standing up to is you? You’re getting a good hard look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t fucking like it.

Sucks to be you.

These kids saw their friends die and couldn’t do anything to help them. These kids saw their coaches and their teachers die while trying to protect them and couldn’t do anything to help them either. These kids texted their parents to let them know they loved them because these kids thought they might die in there, too.

These kids are amazing. They are articulate. They are passionate. They are angry.

They are so goddamn angry.

These kids harnessed the power of social media to call out a president and government who are beholden to the special interests that killed their friends and their teachers. They are using the tools at their disposal to call out the people who are standing by and letting it happen. These are the same people who continually cry “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” but when the children in question cry out “yes, please do think of us”, they are accused of being “crisis actors”.

These kids are survivors and you choose instead to police their language as they express their grief. These kids are survivors who are fighting back and you are angry because they’re not acting the way you believe victims should act. These kids are not “crisis actors”. These kids are not the problem.

You’re the problem. Your lack of empathy and your inhumanity are the problem. Your absolute willingness to defend the indefensible is the problem.

These kids are better than you in every possible way, and I hope, many years from now, you die still mad about it.



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angelchrys
7 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
bibliogrrl
11 hours ago
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Chicago!
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illyria-and-her-pet:Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir score 122.40 on...

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illyria-and-her-pet:

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir score 122.40 on their free dance to El Tango De Roxanne/Come What May from Moulin Rouge. Overall, they scored 206.07 to break the world record for highest combined score and win their 2nd Olympic ice dancing title. They now have 5 Olympic medals (3 gold, 2 silver), making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history.

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bibliogrrl
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notemily: sandwichesandpie: queerly-tony: airagorncharda: petralemaitre: derryderrydown: bomber...

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notemily:

sandwichesandpie:

queerly-tony:

airagorncharda:

petralemaitre:

derryderrydown:

bomberqueen17:

bedbugsbiting:

My face is having uncontrollable spasms. Great. It hurts really, really, really bad.

I think part of why I have trouble explaining pain to the doctor is when they ask about the pain scale I always think “Well, if someone threw me down a flight of stairs right now or punched me a few times, it would definitely hurt a lot more” so I end up saying a low number. I was reading an article that said that “10” is the most commonly reported number and that is baffling to me. When I woke up from surgery with an 8" incision in my body and I could hardly even speak, I was in the most horrific pain of my life but I said “6” because I thought “Well, if you hit me in the stomach, it would be worse.”

I searched and searched for the post this graphic was from, and the OP deactivated, but I kept the graphic, because my BFF does the same thing, uses her imagination to come up with the worst pain she can imagine and pegs her “10″ there, and so is like, well, I’m conscious, so this must be a 5, and then the doctors don’t take her seriously. (And she then does things like driving herself to the hospital while in the process of giving birth. Probably should have called an ambulance for that one!)

So I found this and sent it to her. Because this is what they want to know: how badly is this pain affecting you? Not on a scale of “nothing” to “how I’d imagine it’d feel if bears were eating my still-living guts while I was on fire”. 

I hate reposting stuff, but I’ll never find that post again and OP is deactivated, so, here’s a repost. I can delete this later, i just wanted to get it to you and I can’t embed images in a chat or an ask. 

This is possibly why it took several weeks to diagnose my fractured spine.

Pain Scale transcription:

10 - I am in bed and I can’t move due to my pain. I need someone to take me to the emergency room because of my pain.

9 - My pain is all that I can think about. I can barely move or talk because of my pain.

8 - My pain is so severe that it is difficult to think of anything else. Talking and listening are difficult.

7 - I am in pain all the time. It keeps me from doing most activities.

6 - I think about my pain all of the time. I give up many activities because of my pain.

5 - I think about my pain most of the time. I cannot do some of the activities I need to do each day because of the pain.

4 - I am constantly aware of my pain but can continue most activities.

3 - My pain bothers me but I can ignore it most of the time.

2 - I have a low level of pain. I am aware of my pain only when I pay attention to it.

1 - My pain is hardly noticeable.

0 - I have no pain.

It’s also really important to get this kind of scale to people who have chronic pain, because chronic pain drastically lowers your perception of how “bad” any kind of pain actually is, and yet something like this pain scale is extremely user friendly. 

For example, if someone asked me how much pain I’m in at any given time, I’d say hardly any, and yet I’m apparently at a chronic 2.5, and it only goes up from there depending on the day. 

There’s also a similarly useful “Fatigue Scale”

I think a lot of people who menstruate need to see this because I know for me, my cramps (if not treated) are in the 8-9 range. I also have chronic headaches in the 2 range.

As someone with chronic pain who didn’t know how to adequately describe it, this is super helpful. Being able to say that I’m usually a 3, verging on 4, with an occasional 5 thrown makes me better able to talk to my doctor about it rather than just blow it off as “yeah, I’m in pain, but I’m getting by.”

This is helpful and important.

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bibliogrrl
14 hours ago
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Chicago!
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thebuttkingpost: sindeed28: Science explaining why The Rock...

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thebuttkingpost:

sindeed28:

Science explaining why The Rock won’t survive in the Skyscraper movie.

(Source 9GAG)

Y'all think Dwayne Johnson couldn’t just jump over the sky scraper if he wanted

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bibliogrrl
2 days ago
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Chicago!
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Photo

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bibliogrrl
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Chicago!
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