What does it mean to be a sport? According to Merriam-Webster, a sport is any “contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.” There are a lot of things that would fit into this category – more than some people are willing to admit. For them, a sport is decisively masculine, so activities like figure skating, which assess competitors based on several more feminine characteristics, are a threat to this definition.
Their feeling of being threatened has become especially evident during this year’s Olympics. One woman, who was supposed to know her place as an artist above all else, crossed the line and expressed herself as an athlete…and will be remembered more for that than anything else. As Amanda Palleschi explains in her article for The Atlantic:
Ashley Wagner will be remembered well after the torch is blown out at the Sochi Olympics, but the 22-year-old American figure skater is no America’s sweetheart. Wagner has been polarizing since before the Games began. Once there, the two-time U.S. National Champion made fewer headlines with her performances than with her meme-worthy faces, mouthed-under-breath remarks at her scores, and her less-than-shy comments about the disputed result of the women’s competition. […Female figure skaters] can be brash, opinionated, feisty, and have some attitude. Why? Because they’re regular adolescents and young adults. Olympic observers may call her a poor sport; I say she’s an athlete daring to be a human in a sport that asks its female athletes to be camel-spinning Stepford wives.
Dismissing Ashley Wagner as a poor sport, while athletes in nearly every other sport are allowed to not only feel disappointed, but to express it as well, is really just another way of dismissing the sport. It’s alright for her not to be America’s sweetheart; most athletes aren’t.