Let Johnny Weir wear whatever he wants on the ice. The American figure skater came under fire this week for including a tuft of fur in his costume at U.S. Nationals. Animal rights groups are up in arms and insisting Weir stop wearing animals. Weir won't back down.
Nor should he. If you take away Weir's costumes you might as well take away his skates. It's sort of a package deal. His personality, attitude, flair and, yes, flamboyance are just as important to his figure skating ability as his proficiency in hitting a triple axel (see photos below). Two of the five components of figure skating judging are choreography/composition and interpretation. You don't get high marks in composition for wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt. If Weir thinks that wearing a tuft of fur on his shoulder is going to get him higher marks with the judges, then who are we to argue?
If Patricia Feral, the president of Friends of Animals, had honorable intentions in getting Weir to stop wearing fur wouldn't it have been much easier to write him a letter or contact him personally in some way rather than an open letter to every media outlet? That reeks of opportunism. It's almost as if these groups like it when someone famous goes against their cause. After all, without Weir most of us never would have heard of FoA.
And that's what this boils down to: All of this back and forth is part of a symbiotic (if contentious) relationship between Weir and animal rights groups. They're both using each other for publicity. There's a reason Friends of Animals goes after Weir and not the company that manufactured the fur or the trapper who initially got the pelt. He's a big fish, not a small one. And Weir could easily ignore the sniping also but he's all too interested in the attention it garners him, too. You don't give quotes like this if you want to shrink away from controversy:
"I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it's not something that's the No. 1 priority in my life. There are humans dying every day. There are thousands if not millions of homeless in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti.
"I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it's my choice.
"PETA has been [on me] since the 2006 Games. I get postcards and nasty hate mail and videotapes of animals being skinned.''
Individuals have every right to be offended by Weir's choice of clothing. But just because they can be upset doesn't mean Weir has to stop. It's his choice. Who cares if he wants to dress like a cross between Edward Scissorhands and Britney Spears? The "controversial" costumes are part of his persona, and we shouldn't expect him to stop. This is America, people.