Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cold as Ice

Recently, some members of the Canadian women's ice hockey team drew criticism for their manner of celebrating their gold medal win at the Olympics.

The ladies (and I use that term on purpose) ventured from the privacy of their locker room to the slightly less private ice rink (after the event had ended and spectators had departed) and engaged in some "eyebrow-raising activity".

The first eyebrow raised was that of an Associated Press reporter, who, smelling a story, went running to the IOC for their reaction.
This was the first the IOC had heard of the issue, and after making the required noises about "investigating", realized that what the girls did was actually milder than what the boys routinely do, (out in the streets IN PUBLIC), and quickly backed off.

Probably a smart move considering that barely a year after Michael Phelps was photographed smoking a "bong", the IOC quietly appointed him Youth Olympic Games Ambassador.

What then is the significance of this story? Is it about overly prudish sensibilities, the proverbial  double standard, or even more?

A look at the photos of the celebration reveals that the champions were still in their hockey gear, thoroughly enjoying the moment with the help of beer, cigars, their cell phone cameras and even a wayward Zamboni machine.

Not the stereotypical vision of female loveliness that western society generally entertains.

However, it's clear that these women were having fun - indeed, the time of their lives, and why not, on the heels of such a major accomplishment as winning an Olympic gold medal.

Having fun, dressed in bulky athletic uniforms, unshowered, with no makeup, and nary a man in sight.

Even worse, they were having fun doing guy things. Lying on their backs on the ice with their feet in the air. Drinking! Smoking cigars forheavensake.

The image of one female hockey player pouring champagne into the mouth of another was probably too much of a mixed metaphor for polite society to bear. Graphically sensual in deed but decidedly un-sexy in context.

Head. Must. Explode.

Had the players been sitting with their ankles crossed, demurely sipping white wine from crystal stemware, would there have been an outcry?

Clearly the issue isn't alcohol per se, since it's perfectly all right for the leader of the free world to enter into a bet on the outcome of the men's championship, in which the stake is A CASE OF BEER.

Gambling. Alcohol. All you need now is strike 3.

Interestingly, there has been no outcry that I have heard concerning the female figure skaters' skimpy outfits and the suggestive moves performed by the ice dance teams.
No outcry either for the skin-tight outfit worn at the closing ceremony by singer Nikki Yanofsky, who is only 16 years old.

A minor, one month short of the local legal drinking age? Scandalous.
A minor exuding sex appeal? That's cool, no problem with that.

And in too-perfect juxtaposition, the images at the top and bottom of this newspaper page. (I am referring to the "Sunshine Girl" who apparently changes every day, and whose photo, if you click on it, gets bigger. Or something.)

It's not just a double standard, male vs female at work here. It's a more insidious set of values where context is key, and what matters is not so much what is done but by whom, to what purpose and in what manner.

I don't mean to take the use of alcohol lightly. I do mean to highlight inconsistencies in values held by some segments of society and as always to shine some light on what I see as hypocrisy.

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