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Review of Red nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure on and off the Ice

Erica Rand’s Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasure On and Off the Ice is primarily a series of critical essays on figure skating, and adult figure skating in particular. Rand uses her involvement in the sport, which began in earnest when she was in her 40s, as an entry point into intersecting conversations about gender, sexuality, race, class, the body, identity, and pleasure. To get at the “details of pleasure” (p. 12), however, she extends her discussion out from figure skating and theorizes about (amongst other things) roller derby, television “talent” shows, ice hockey, sport bras, and sex. Admittedly, my initial wish was that she had stayed in the ice rink and the world of adult skating, as there certainly must be enough about figure skating to warrant exclusive focus! I eventually came to appreciate, however, that while skating was the fabric of the costume, examples from other social phenomena and spaces served as the accents—the piping, the glitter, the fleshy cut-outs, the appliqués—which arguably make for a more complete ensemble. I will be honest here: other than a few incorrect facts 1, I don’t have any significant criticism of Rand’s work. Accordingly, the rest of this review highlights some of the reasons I think people with an interest in sport studies and/or people invested in figure skating in some way should read Red Nails, Black Skates