Stereotyping the Sochi Olympics

by Lucas Witherspoon

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

There are a lot of things wrong with the Sochi Olympics, a fact that’s been well-publicized. From the get-go Russia came under fire for their notorious “gay propaganda” law, but as the Olympics inched closer, corruption, shady business dealings, and shoddy accommodations further marred the Games. Russia was even incapable of getting through the opening ceremony without glitches. Without a doubt, though, it’s been Russia’s human rights violations against gays that have received the most attention.

Throughout the Olympics so far, people have been commenting about how ironic Russia’s anti-gay laws are, given the Olympics are pretty “gay” as a whole. The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion even made what admittedly is a pretty hilarious video parodying the entire thing. Peoples’ analyses are obviously intended to be in good fun, but doesn’t it seem that the real irony lies in the fact people are condemning anti-gay rhetoric by using gay stereotypes?

By saying the Olympics are “gay,” the notion that’s being implied is that gays can be characterized by a love of bright colors, shiny things, flamboyant outfits, etc. That’s not to say that gays can’t be a campy bunch, but by pigeonholing them into what essentially amounts to a gay caricature, what’s happening is the very idea that’s trying to be dispelled and the cartoonish image many Russians have of gay people are being compounded. That’s in no way an excuse to enact violence upon gays, nor is it an espousal of the idea that gays should “masculinize” themselves to downplay their fancifulness; rather, it’s merely meant to highlight a double standard. Fighting for the gay cause while subsequently upholding antiquated characterizations of gays is counterproductive. It’s the same concept as fighting for African-American civil rights while laughing at Al Jolson in blackface without realizing the context behind it or comprehending the origin of the racial archetype. In the way the entire concept of blackface is enormously offensive to black people and pretty much every decent human being, so then should gay stereotypes be.

It’s somewhat unfortunate this subject has overshadowed the actual accomplishments of the athletes, but human equality is a much larger matter than a sporting event in the scheme of things. That’s why, while well-intentioned, it’s important to highlight what effect subconsciously promoting the stereotypes set forth by anti-gay crusaders has. Certain statements may seem innocuous enough, but could be inadvertently validating the same anti-gay bias that’s trying to be dissipated. It’s more important to emphasize the fact that gay people are human beings, not just people with minds that are only capable of comprehending glitter and men in Lycra bodysuits (though I personally object to neither).