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Haut Takes is a weekly newsletter. Alexis Haut is an educator, writer and podcast producer based in Crown Heights. She spent seven years teaching, leading and coaching basketball in middle schools in Brooklyn and Newark before independently producing her first podcast series New York, I Love You But You’ve Changed in 2018. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Georgia. She writes about (mostly Drake) lyrics, politics, pop culture and the intersection of the three

Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir: In (Imagined) Conversation

Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir: In (Imagined) Conversation

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“She stuck the landing but this performance isn’t sticking with me, Tara.”

“Why do you think that is, Johnny?”

“I can’t really put my blade on it. I’m pausing for effect here.”

“Good one, Johnny. You seem pleased with yourself.”

“I am, Tara. But I should focus on the job I’m here to do.”

“Ha. Sometimes we forget that we are not on Bravo.”

“Unfortunately. Just kidding, NBC. But not really, we all know you’re Bravo’s parent company and I am going to need a new gig soon. Consider these two weeks of commentary to be my audition reel.”

 “Wow, I think our charming banter made us miss at least two moves.”

“I’ll give her another chance to wow us.”

“I love that we have become an us. I do agree. There is something distracting in this performance.”

“She LIT-ER-ALLY just nailed a Triple Axel. But I think I’ve run out of fuuuucc…”

“Johnny! There are little girls watching!”

“Sorry. But any little girl with dreams of being out on that ice should know what they are getting into.”

“And any little boys!”

“You’re cute, Tara. But I can practically hear dads around the world throwing hammers through their TV screens the moment their sons start sway to a Celine Dion instrumental.”

“That’s super specific. But no one does it like Celine. Wait, is she going for another Triple Axel?”

“I love that ‘Triple Axel’ is back in the zeitgeist. It is like we are mandated to mention it at least once every six minutes or we will lose Coca Cola.”

“Does anyone drink Coke anymore? I saw on Facebook that millennials are singlehandedly killing the soda industry.”

“We just know what we like. Like clever bio pics about female athletes from the 90s that America made into villains. We also like resurrecting them as heroes and thrusting our apologies on them in the form of endless think pieces.”

“The internet really has done a lot for feminism. And apologies.”

“Wait. Did she land that second Triple Axel?”

“Johnny, you’re asking all the right questions.”

“Oh, Bob’s in my ear. Confirmed. She landed it.”

“Impressive. She hasn’t captivated me yet though. Like, I’m not super invested. What is her story? What’s her truth?”

“Tara, it’s hard to tell. I’m not convinced she even wants to be here.”

“I think she can hear us, Johnny. She’s skating faster and she is DEFINITELY not smiling.”

“Yea we lost the smile after the first Axel. But I really feel like she is glaring at me, Tara.”

“You know what they say. Looks can kill.”

“Well I’m not dead yet. It seems like she’s going for a third Axel. And seems to be motivated by spite.”

“Agreed. This is definitely a spiteful performance, Johnny. It’s hard to see what the sport has become.”

“I dunno, some of my best skates were my most spiteful. And now she has at least SOME of our attention.”

“Ok. She is leaning into it.”

“For those of you who haven’t seen that Margot Robbie movie where she somehow makes early 90s shapewear look good, all you need to know is that a Triple Axel is really f-ing hard.”

“Nice work catching yourself, Johnny! I’m proud of you. Yes, it is incredibly difficult. You start skating forward, skidding on the edge of your blade- a move that flings you into 3 and half airborne rotations. Then you land skating backwards!”

“Bonus if you land while smiling manically.”

“Of course. I should have mentioned that. I’m pretty sure our veteran viewers expect to see a manic smile at the end of each move.”

“Definitely. The mania scale is a 1 to 5. One being Melania Trump and 5 being Heath Ledger’s Joker.”

“R.I.P. Heath!”

“He was an icon, Tara. I’m glad his legacy can live on in our commentary.”

“I definitely left a playing card outside his SOHO loft after he died. I felt like I WAS Michelle Williams. I could feel her pain. Sometimes I still do.”

“That’s a little extreme, Tara. Michelle has moved on. She lives in like RICH people Brooklyn. Where there are REAL lawns.”

“Good for her. She deserves that. Wow, it looks like this skater is just standing still at center ice.”

“Is she, like, waiting for us, Tara?”

“Johnny, she is.”

“Talk about needy. Ok, fine. Let’s give her what she wants. Just try not to talk to me for like 20 seconds.”

“I’ll try.”

Ugh, all eyes are on you now, babe. She is going up for the third Axel…”

“And she sticks the landing! She seems excited. But it’s hard to tell. Very few shades of Heath in that smile.”

“Yea. That grin is as stiff as a post injection Kardashian.”

“She’s leaving the ice now, Johnny. It’s hard to imagine the judges giving her anything less than a perfect score. She did stick three Axels.”

“I guess. But even with three Margot Robbies, she still didn’t do it for me. I think it is something about her lower body.”

“It is a little off, Johnny. What is it? You’re the wordsmith here. How would you describe it?”

“Hmmm. Tara. It’s almost like there is nothing at all between her hips and her feet. Like those feet are just moving themselves.”

“Wow, you’re SO right. Like ghost feet. I knew you’d nail it, Johnny.”

“Now that I think about it. I didn’t see one butt cheek during that entire performance. Her ass is entirely covered. And there is a noticeable lack of tulle strangling her waist line.”

“Wait a minute… is she wearing… pants!?”

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT! She IS wearing pants!”

“Ladies and a few gentleman, this is something we have never seen at the Olympic level.”

“Tara, I am not even going to fucking apologize for swearing. This is un-fucking-believable.”

“Oh, Johnny, I totally understand. Even the most disciplined among us would have a hard time controlling themselves in the face of something this shocking.”

“She actually WALTZED on this motherfuckin' ice in PANTS and landed three motherfuckin' Triple Axels. I don’t know whether to be grossly offended or entirely turned on.”

“Me neither, Johnny.”

“I mean in terms of her score, she should DEFINITELY be trashed. You can’t just do that. But is this a huge step for feminism?”

“I don’t know Johnny. The sight of it kinda makes my skin crawl. We are so far from the good old days of this sport.”

“Are you talking about the days when that women who may or may not have whacked Nancy Kerrigan in the knee with that retractable baton was docked points because of the folksiness of her outfits?”

“I know it doesn’t sound great. But there was a certain respectability to all this back then. It was comforting to know that ALL of us were strapped into butt baring singlets. That ALL of our teenage breasts would be chafed by sequins and mesh. It was a community.”

“Tara, don’t read too much into this, but have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?”

“Shhhhhh, the judges are in my ear, Johnny.”

“I don’t think I’m hearing this right. They haven’t mentioned the Axels at all.”

“No! You’re right! They haven’t! Fascinating!”

“Did I just hear them say ‘disqualified’?”

“Oh, my. You did. Holy Sugar.”

“This is a Holy SHIT moment, Tara.”

“You’re right, Johnny. Holy Shit.”

“She is being disqualified and asked to compete as a…man?”

“That’s right. They are saying that her choice to show up in pants was actually a statement of protest.”

“They are sending her… or I guess I should say them… in for gender testing now.”

“What is gender testing, Johnny?”

“I don’t know, Tara, why would you assume I would know the answer to that question?”

“I mean, you’re gay, Johnny.”

“You don’t have to whisper it, Tara. I am PROUD to be gay.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny. We can’t let this… person’s… terrible decision tear us apart.”

“You’re right, Tara. I just wish you’d pull your head out of your ass every now and then.”

“I’ll try, Johnny. Let’s just watch the next skater.”

“My God. She looks great. Are there feathers on that leotard?”

“My goodness, yes. She looks so… feminine. So… lady like.”

“That’s one way to put it.”

“This return to decorum makes me feel so much better. I am so sorry if I was snippy with you Johnny, I just felt so… scandalized a moment ago.”

“It’s ok, Tara. You can’t really help it. You’re a product of this system.”

“I don’t know anything about any system, Johnny. All I know is that those pants were one of those ‘acts of terror’ everyone keeps talking about.”

“Oh, Tara. Just shut up.”

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Author's Notes: 

French Skater Mae-Berenice Meite's (pictured above short program performance during the team competition, which aired on NBC's Olympic coverage on February 10th, was notable for two reasons. One, she skated to a medley of Beyonce songs that did a lot to make small screen viewing of figure skating bearable. Two, she wore pants. You would think that in 2018, a woman's sartorial choice to wear pants wouldn't make such a sordid splash, but that assumption gives way too much credit to the preferences of the International Skating Union- and how their preferences affect our expectations for female athletes. Those pants LIT the internet up.

ISU guidelines prohibited female skaters from wearing pants or unitards until 2004. Many practice rinks still prohibit women from practicing without a skirt. Today, the ISU's official guidebook only says, "that competitors in ladies’ singles must wear something “modest, dignified, and appropriate for athletic competition” and rules out that which is “garish,” “theatrical”. Of course, that language is incredibly subjective. Judges can label an outfit "garish" or "theatrical" at any point. And given that most ISU judges are middle aged and male, their definition of acceptable wardrobe obviously differs from that of the young competitors.

Figure Skating is problematic in the same way gymnastics is problematic. Both sports require an incredible amount of strength, athleticism and attention to technical detail, but they are wrapped in such a thick cloak of gendered expectations that we have been tricked into thinking they are the only sports women have the right to participate in. They have become so closely tied to femininity that the young women who compete in them are judged on their contributions to the "lady as princess" narrative, while the men who participate are considered something less than masculine and stamped with the public's automatic assumption of homosexuality. The bind to gendered costuming and posturing are SO tight that figure skating and gymnastics are not considered "real" sports. 

On the flip side, female athletes who compete in sports that are considered traditionally male are automatically assumed to be inferior athletes and smacked with labels like "butch" and "the female [insert name of superstar male athlete here]. Mentioning the WNBA or tuning into a promo for a women's hockey game is like unlocking a floodgate of sexist commentary labelling the competitions "boring" or "pointless" or a competition between a "bunch of dykes". Just like their male counterparts in feminized sports, these women are considered unfit to call themselves the gender they choose to identify with. As a result, they wear ribbons in their hair and pose for Sports Illustrated covers just to ease our minds that they, in fact, fit our standard definition of a woman.

But here's the tea, the most athletic people I know are ALL women. I exist within a ladyweb of former NCAA athletes and current backcountry skiers and ultra marathon runners and yogis and crossfitters. Most of us work out every single day. I can't say the same for my male friends. The few men in our exercise classes usually enter posturing while whispering condescending promises like "I'll go easy on you" only to be easily outmatched. This happens almost every time I am paired with a man at a boxing class, and I have to say leaving them with a bruised ego feels good. 

Scientific evidence proves that women's endurance only improves with age, and while men may outperform us in brute strength, lady athletes often have the longevity to outlast their male peers. So remember, while you are sitting on your couch spewing your hate towards lady athletes- we will kick your ass every time. But don't worry, we will look damn good doing it.

P.S. This week's cover image is of Debi Thomas. She was the first black woman to hold the U.S. Skating Singles title. She was also a bronze medalist in the 1988 Olympics, to which she wore this pantsuit. Her outfit choice spurred the ISU to implement an official "no pants guideline".

 

List of the Week: 5 of the most predictable headlines from the 2018 Olympic Coverage

  1. Olympic Figure Skater Had Nightmare Wardrobe Malfunction, Vulture
  2. Even Ashley Wagner is Flipping Out Over Taylor Swift Mystery Man, ESPN
  3. The most bonkers music in Olympic figure skating this year: Beyoncé, dad rock, and Despacito, SB Nation
  4. Lindsey Vonn Said She Wanted a Date for Valentine's Day, And Twitter Exploded, Maxim
  5. Barstool Radio Host Can't Resist Calling 17-Year-Old Olympian Chloe Kim A "Little Hot Piece Of Ass",  DeadSpin

Which leaves us here...

HAUT OUT

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