In case you were wondering, ESPN has confirmed that Johnny Weir is a Real Man. I guess maybe some people were wondering, since the figure skater dragged reporter Jim Caple (and yes, I'm sure it was ESPN's idea, but that's not how it's played) for a mani-pedi during his interview with Weir for a "who-to-watch" article leading up to the Winter Olympics.
As we reported earlier, a previous piece about Weir for ESPN the Magazine was loaded with "he's gay but we won't say it" innuendos. The tone of this piece (video after the jump) isn't any different: We know you think Johnny's reeeeeally feminine, and we do too, but he's a great athlete so we're reaffirming that he's a man. Despite the glitter.
Maybe you can't blame most men in the U.S. for wondering. We're raised to think a man and masculinity are very specific things. And wearing sequins isn't among them. Weir offers some spot-on insight about the perception:
"For me, I'm lucky that I've traveled so much of the world and seen so many things and for me, masculinity is completely subjective," Weir says. "Here, a male ballet dancer would get beat up and left on the side of the road. But in Russia, he is No. 1, he is what a man is. That kind of passion and control. In Japan, masculinity is making sure your hair is completely gelled and coiffed and that you're dressed and decked to the nines. Masculinity is what you make it out to be. Here in the U.S., not everyone feels the same way."
Caple's macho act in the piece (particularly the video) is a bit much for me. Before he gets his mani-pedi, he has to remind everyone how masculine he is by naming (twice) the sports he's participated in against big-league athletes. Really? Why don't you just sit down, let your feet get worked on, and talk to your interviewee? Thankfully, Weir challenges him on it.
Weir: What's the harm in this, going with your wife every week to get it (mani-pedi) done?
Caple: It's not very manly, I've always thought.
Weir: There's nothing not manly about taking care of your appearance.
Other than Caple's odd discomfort having to lower himself to some non-macho grooming for the interview, Weir shines. He is as he always is: Himself. He doesn't put on an act, he just talks honestly and challenges Caple (and the reader) to think outside the box. He challenges the stereotype of the elite athlete and asserts that his sport is as tough as any other. It's tough to argue against, and the article does a good job of challenging how people perceive the actual athleticism of figure skating.
I do get the whole "animal in a zoo" tone of the article; For much of ESPN's audience, that's what Weir is. Still, Weir's been in the public eye for so long you'd think ESPN would be able to handle him a little differently.