Tonya Kerrigan and Nancy Harding. Or whoever. Will some obliging Zamboni driver please wipe away, once and for all, those overexposed, overanalyzed ice queens? A handful of academic types got in what we hope will be the last words on the subject when they convened last week in New York City for a panel discussion entitled "Tabloid TV, Backstage Cameras, and Heterovisuality: Viewing Tonya and Nancy." Webster's has yet to include an entry for heterovisuality, but those in attendance suggested that it means, more or less, "the way in which our society enforces heterosexual and visual norms of femininity."
The panelists spoke of how popular culture embraced Kerrigan as an embodiment of the feminine ideal, with her long legs and ever-present smile. Society, meanwhile, kept the chunkier Harding at a distance; she was a "tough cookie, a hardscrabble girl"—someone we would not want entering our living room except on TV. In papers entitled "Tonya, Nancy, and the Bodily Figuration of Social Class" and "Tonya's Bad Boot, or, Go Figure," the panelists did raise some interesting issues. "Why aren't figure skaters taken seriously as athletes?" asked Abigail Feder, a grad student at Northwestern. "Why do they have to wear all that makeup?" Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, an English professor at Rutgers, said the media had simplified the pair to represent "the icon of perfection" versus "the trailer-park tramp." Others advanced the theory that the media targeted Harding because her body was just too athletic.
Actually, we can think of another reason that Harding took it on the shin—oops, sorry, chin—from the press. But to mention it would simply prolong discussion of a topic that has surely run its course. So we won't.