“We’re in a crystal arms race,”
August 3, 2016 8:09 PM   Subscribe

The Bedazzling of the American Gymnast [The New York Times] So it begins: the flag-waving excitement, the teeth-grinding anticipation, the blinding sparkle. The Olympics. Wait … hang on. The sparkle? Indeed. Because if Simone Biles — the 19-year-old American who is often called by sports pundits the best female gymnast ever, and whose performance in Rio de Janeiro will be among the most watched of these Olympics — does what most everyone seems to expect and makes off with multiple gold medals, it is very likely that when she climbs the podium, the shininess of the discs around her neck will pale in comparison to the shininess of something else. Her leotard.
posted by Fizz (45 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I still don't understand why women's leotards in gymnastics don't have shorts.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:14 PM on August 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I gave no problem with this as long as the male gymnasts are allowed to sparkle too. Sparkles are awesome.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 8:17 PM on August 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


I still don't understand why women's leotards in gymnastics don't have shorts.

The sexist patriarchy comes immediately to mind.
posted by hippybear at 8:17 PM on August 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


“In the early 1990s, the U.S. team always wore white, because Martha wanted to show off their six-packs,” Ms. McKeown said (referring to abs, not beer).

Was the editor asleep at the wheel for this article?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:19 PM on August 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh yes, sparkly men too.

Soon all athletes will look like figure skaters and it will be glorious.
posted by emjaybee at 8:19 PM on August 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


As long as they have a subway token and a dollar tucked in a shoe they can probably handle the rain and smile through the pain when they're doing pommel horse during the star spangled rodeo.
posted by srboisvert at 8:22 PM on August 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


In the early 1990s, the U.S. team always wore white, because Martha wanted to show off their six-packs,” Ms. McKeown said (referring to abs, not beer).

Was the editor asleep at the wheel for this article?


I know! You can't leave us hanging like that. Where did they hide the beer?
posted by srboisvert at 8:23 PM on August 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is real commitment to sparkle motion.
posted by Sequence at 8:29 PM on August 3, 2016 [23 favorites]


Oh?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2016 [46 favorites]


I read the article, and...am I supposed to be pro sparkle or anti sparkle?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:16 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Then it's probably close to the cycle switch inflection point where one team goes for a very clean simple outfit, wins and everyone switches towards a classic look.
posted by sammyo at 9:18 PM on August 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


am I supposed to be pro sparkle or anti sparkle?

Pro, it seems, by a look at the favorites. Go, sparklemotion!
posted by datawrangler at 9:18 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


am I supposed to be pro sparkle or anti sparkle?

Bedazzling is safe.

Glitter is the herpes of art supplies.

You decide.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on August 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


I feel like all athletes competing in the Olympics, regardless of gender or sport, should wear sequins and glitter and other sparkly shit.* Also feathers. And if this for real happens I might actually watch the Olympics for once.

*Horses, too. If any sport calls for going full showgirl, it is dressage.
posted by thivaia at 9:20 PM on August 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I competed in gymnastics before and after Lycra. Lycra is amazeballs. That said, there is no reason for female gymnasts to not be allowed to wear the same bottoms as male gymnasts. Except for pleasing the male gaze, and earning the ratfuckers at the top of the iioc another billion dollars.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 10:02 PM on August 3, 2016 [21 favorites]


Lycra! I haven't even met Cra!

sorry folks, that's the best I've got
posted by hippybear at 10:19 PM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it's hilariously awesome that so much research is going into improving crystal technology. I feel like the Olympic gymnastics uniforms are to the ready-to-wear fashion industry what formula one is to production cars.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:54 PM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


hippybear: "Lycra! I haven't even met Cra!

sorry folks, that's the best I've got
"

[9.1] [8.7] [8.8] [8.8] [9.0]
posted by chavenet at 2:34 AM on August 4, 2016 [32 favorites]


I was a competitive ice skater for 4 years when I was a kid, in the nineties. My mom (an accomplished seamstress) made all of my costumes; when I got to a certain (not that high) level, we had to go find and buy Swarovski crystals. (I had mixed feelings about this, being not the most feminine of girls, but crystals are shiny so ?)

That shit's expensive, yo. And it would have been more so if my mom hadn't been able to sew the costumes herself.

In the article they mention the cost, and that the gymnasts on the Olympic team get them for free- but don't really make the connection that all of the aspirants (and at a much much lower level of competition) are expected to also have the best, and somehow their families have to come up with that money.

I do note that there can be a downturn-- I quit for several years, but returned for a year to compete with my college team. And by then the sparkle was much less a thing- my coach at the time (c.2003 or so) in fact told me I needed to go buy leggings that were "matte" instead of "sparkle" because the very sparkly leggings had gone out with the turn of the millennium.
posted by nat at 3:06 AM on August 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Forwarded to my wife. Somewhere in storage we have several hundred pounds of holographic sequins, ostrich feathers, Swarovski crystals and spandex from costuming skaters and pageant babies. Don't ask...
posted by jim in austin at 3:23 AM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Soon all athletes will look like figure skaters and it will be glorious.

Unfortunately, all their relatives will get cancer
posted by thelonius at 4:07 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


When it comes to sparkle, always be in favor!
posted by spindrifter at 4:42 AM on August 4, 2016


I still don't understand why women's leotards in gymnastics don't have shorts.

At the gym where my daughter trains, all the athletes wear shorts over their leotards when they practice. That includes the current Olympic team member who also trains there. It says a lot about the sport that shorts are not allowed at meets.

Team leotards (which are changed every year, for some reason) cost over $100.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:08 AM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]




At least they haven't started vajazzling.

we hope and pray
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:25 AM on August 4, 2016


I forgot to mention that sparkly hairspray and makeup are also a Thing at gymnastics meets.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:29 AM on August 4, 2016


Glitter is the herpes of art supplies

This t-shirt.
I want.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


“We’re in a crystal arms race,”

Thought this was a Steven Universe fanfare page for a sec.
posted by Foosnark at 5:39 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


//the heavily crystal-studded competition leotards would cost an average of $1,200 (more than many prom dresses).//

Should it bother us that this isn't "more than every prom dress ever conceived"?

Also, I have photos of my wife in her baton twirling days in the early to mid 80s, and today's gymnasts got nothing on the heavily bedazzled outfits she wore. However, she says those costumes were damn heavy, which would seem to be a bad thing for an olympic gymnast. I guess today's crystals are much lighter too.
posted by COD at 5:44 AM on August 4, 2016


Oh yeah, this cost to compete for athletes that are ridiculously far away from Olympic level is obscene. My nieces costumes for nationals this year were well over $3,000 and the girls will wear them never again. That doesn't include travel costs, hotel costs...nothing. it's crazy easy to spend $20,000 a year or more following an Olympic dream. More if you get involved with grifters like the karolis. I'm astounded that those two got their greedy horrid claws so deep into American gymnastics. Again, I blame the iioc.

Speaking of, I just heard on npr that athletes are forced into the kidnap and mugging zones if they want a coffee, the only available drinks inside Olympic village are coke products. Idiocracy in full bloom, y'all.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Olympics, as a concept, but not what has happened to them between when I was a competitor and now.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:14 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Speaking of, I just heard on npr that athletes are forced into the kidnap and mugging zones if they want a coffee,

Kidnap and mugging zone. Uhhhh.
posted by desuetude at 6:45 AM on August 4, 2016


Yeah, I'm wondering how much of that "kidnapping and mugging zones" is based on actual fact (it's not like the Olympics are being held in dangerous parts of the city) and how much of that statement is sort of, um... you know... racist.
posted by hippybear at 6:52 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Horses, too. If any sport calls for going full showgirl, it is dressage.

I remember an elite trainer suggesting dressage riders - men and women both - should compete in leotards. It hasn't happened yet, but bling is definitely making headway in dressage - on browbands and stirrups most prominently, but also on riders' apparel.

Dressage clothing is a pretty exemplary case of the re-gendering of clothing following the unisex 1970s and 80s, when we all wore sweaters and jeans or, at least for my riding lessons, nylon beige or dark jodhpurs. That was basically what you got and what you wore, regardless of your gender. Just like jeans are now emphatically for men or women, breeches are..well, mainly for women actually, with all sorts of applique and glitter, and if you can find a men's pair at the tack store they are almost like combat pants in comparison. I mean, it's great to have choice and everything, and the demilitarisation of dressage, which specifically excluded women, is to be welcomed, but I sort of regret the diminishing of unisex dressage and other equestrian attire, and the hiking of prices that has accompanied capitalism's transformation of this market, as with jeans. But at least the top hat is on the way out: good on Charlotte Dujardin and others for ditching that monstrosity, for both style and safety.

Back on topic: I agree that it's absurd that only men wear pants over their leotards (or 'jerseys' because leotards are allegedly women's wear, despite Monsieur Leotard).
posted by GeorgeBickham at 7:09 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


When Paralympics athletes are pushed off their bikes, and athletes are being kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint less than a block from the village, when athletes are specifically targeted at the airports, when the Iioc has demanded that 100,000 people's homes be demolished for Olympic facilities, and the people are justifiably furious about the games, then no, it is not racist to say that the area around the village is not a safe place for unescorted minors. To just be able to get a cup of coffee, athletes shouldn't have to run a security team.

My point is that the iioc is evil, and they will put athletes at risk constantly, both from an environmental aspect and from a social contract aspect. Don't get me wrong, I love Brazil and Rio is an amazing place, or was before the iioc got there, but to pretend it's not a powder keg of violence and crime based on obscene poverty and wealth inequality is to wear the blinders of privilege.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:21 AM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


If this is all a part of sexualizing young women it seems just a part what's all over the news today. US gymnastics was covering up sex abuse by coaches.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:50 AM on August 4, 2016


Glitter is the herpes of art supplies.

This is unfair to herpes.
posted by zippy at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was really hoping this was about some new advances in crystallography or crystal growing. :(
posted by Canageek at 10:34 AM on August 4, 2016


If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair like your pretty boy over there - Brian - why don't you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?
posted by flabdablet at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a parent who's had to pay $500 for a Swarovski-encrusted bit of spandex, sometimes I doubt my commitment to sparkle motion. But I think there's a question to be raised for those who see this as a negative trend, of whether we might be falling into the trap of creating a no-win situation where girls/women are "doing it wrong" in the eyes of some if they opt for more utilitarian uniforms, and "doing it wrong" in the eyes of other if they actually like/want to bling themselves out (which is the takeaway I get from the end part of the article).

Personally, I'd prefer not to automatically associate bling with "sexualization" or sex abuse scandals. Feminization, yes, but I think that's a slightly different connotation (or else every parent who buys their baby girl a sparkly headband or sequined ballet flats or little Ugg boots for their toddler is sexualizing their daughter). If there are problems with some adults seeing a a girl (or a woman) in a sparkly leotard as a sexual object, I think the solution should come from campaigning against the adult attitudes, and not yet again telling girls that they need to dress more plainly and cover up more flesh because perverts gonna perv.
posted by drlith at 12:07 PM on August 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


What I'm saying is that +I+ as a gymnast trained in shorts, and I personally would have been more comfortable, at 13, if I had been allowed to wear shorts, rather than having some man check to make sure I didn't have pubic hair when I did a straddle.

I am all for sparkle for girls that want sparkle. I'm just saying that I know a lot of competitor gymnasts, and almost all of them would rather wear shorts than have to get Brazilian waxes at 13. Especially since a pair of lycra shorts do not impede the ability to judge form. Clearly, since the men's teams can be judged while wearing pants.

Gymnasts should be treated like athletes and be allowed to compete in the earliest comfortable to them, not what some old dude decides they should wear. Nobody is saying girls should be shamed into more clothes, but nor should girls be forced into tiny outfits for the benefit of the viewers if they would prefer to wear something else.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


> Kidnap and mugging zone. Uhhhh

It's considerate of the kidnappers and muggers to keep it to one area.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:49 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


SecretAgentSockpuppet: "Gymnasts should be treated like athletes and be allowed to compete in the earliest comfortable to them, not what some old dude decides they should wear. Nobody is saying girls should be shamed into more clothes, but nor should girls be forced into tiny outfits for the benefit of the viewers if they would prefer to wear something else."

Oh yes. I sometimes wish that sporting authorities would take a similar approach to one of our local schools: create a list of acceptable clothing choices, and then allow any athlete of any gender to mix and match in whatever fashion they want. If the male gymnasts want sparkly leotards they get sparkly leotards. If the female gymnasts want baggy shorts they get baggy shorts.
posted by the existence of stars below the horizon at 1:52 PM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Speaking of, I just heard on npr that athletes are forced into the kidnap and mugging zones if they want a coffee

I should mention that I heard the NPR story about the athlete's village, and while it is mentioned that only Coke products are available there, the phrase "kidnap and mugging zones" is not a part of the text of the story at all. In fact, there is no alarmist talk about having to leave the village to get other beverages. It's merely mentioned that only Coke products are available there.
posted by hippybear at 2:08 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


but to pretend it's not a powder keg of violence and crime based on obscene poverty and wealth inequality is to wear the blinders of privilege.

The people who organize and manage these huge, obscene money making events have no issue with wealth inequality and view their wealth as something entirely merited and lack of wealth, equally so. They couldn't care less about how our societies have been and continue to be structured when it benefits them and as far as I can tell, they want the entire world to be one of extreme poverty with the cream (themselves) at the top. They're constantly pretending and they don't give a shit and I doubt ever will. They distort the entire narrative of friendly engaging competition.
posted by juiceCake at 3:23 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


> is not racist to say that the area around the village is not a safe place for unescorted minors

Saying that an area is not a safe place for unescorted minors is a very different thing than referring to it as a "kidnap and mugging zone."
posted by desuetude at 7:13 AM on August 5, 2016


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