Women, Sport, and Film Course

Cosponsored by Athletics and Physical Education at Bryn Mawr College and the Exercise and Sports Studies Department at Smith College, with support from the Center for Science In Society at Bryn Mawr College and the Serendip website.

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Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 1 Question
Date:  2003-01-31 12:13:10
Message Id:  4333
Week 1
Welcome to our e-forum. As we explore the image of women in sport as framed by film, we hope you will enjoy participating in this on-line forum with students from Smith and Wesleyan.

Please start your response with a note introducing yourself to your forum group.
Respond to either one of the following two questions. Feel free to return to your forum and see what others have written and continue the 'conversation".

1. What makes Title IX a social justice issue and why? How does it impact women today – not just athletes, but the culture of access and equity for women's participation in any area that has a history of male dominance.

2. What is the cultural ideal of women in sport? How does it differ from men?

Name:  lily gataullina
Username:  lgataull@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  cultural ideal of women in sport
Date:  2003-02-01 14:31:58
Message Id:  4343
The ideal of women in sport today is very similar to the ideal of women in business, science or home . Whether it is gym or office, lab or kitchen, women are expected to be impossibly thin good wives who had reached high proficiency in certain sphere. Female athletes, however, especially those of them who are very often depicted in the mass media, play the role of the models, who give the birth to the new standards in the women body image. Strong, beautiful, model-like female athletes are the ones that get the most popularity and who fit the best to the current cultural ideal of female athlete. Thus, the ideal female athlete in the modern society is a composition of two equally important (for the hegemonic culture) elements: body beauty and athletic skills, - while the image of the male athlete stays secondary to his proficiency in his sport.
Name:  E. Färdig
Username:  efardig@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Title IX
Date:  2003-02-02 23:38:41
Message Id:  4362
Title IX was created to combat discrimination based on gender in admissions, housing, educational opportunities, career services, financial aid, health insurance, and athletic programs. (See Title IX Fact Sheet.) It is a social justice issue especially because it is a step toward allowing women the same opportunities as men in the areas that have the greatest impact on their future success. Title IX has changed the perception of what women are capable of doing. It has had a dramatic impact on the number of women seeking and earning bachelors and advanced degrees, degrees in areas traditionally dominated by men such as engineering, math, science, and technology, and participation in high school and collegiate athletics. When women today show an interest in learning something, they can no longer be legally barred from pursuing that interest as they were in the days before Title IX when quotas, segregation resulting in inferior opportunities, and outright denial were common in higher education. Although progress has been made toward women having comparable prospects as men, Title IX enforcement has been eroded in recent years and was never as universal as it should have been.
Name:  Lauren Weiner
Username:  lcweiner@mtholyoke.edu
Date:  2003-02-05 11:39:53
Message Id:  4414
My name is Lauren Weiner and I am a junior environmental studies major, and sports studies minor at Mount Holyoke College. I am on the field hockey and softball teams and I intend to continue my involvement in athletics post-college by becoming a collegiate field hockey coach.
In regards to the first question, Title IX states that no person be discriminated against based on gender in any educational program that receives federal funding. Title IX is a social justice issue because it has had profound impact on the access to resources and opportunities for women. It has allowed women to more easily enter areas of study that were once male dominated, given them equal access to career guidance, and financial aid.
As I'm sure we all know welll, since Title IX was passed in 1972, female participation in sports has increased dramatically. Due to this increase and also as women's sports became more legitimate after the passage of the law, the coaching world of women's athletics also became a legitimate career option for men. Once segregated women's athletic departments soon combined with men's athletic departments and administrative leadership almost always went to the men. While Title IX has been a wonderful law which grants equal opportunity to women, especially in the capacity of athletics, it has also served to limit the coaching and administrative career opportunities for women.
Today, Title IX stands up against much scrutiny by many who wish to see the law changed. I do not know the world pre-Title IX and I do not wish to see law become more lenient as my participation in sports has been so critical to my development as an empowered woman. Title IX has become the scapegoat for other issues and unfortunately it looks as though things might change (for the worse).
Name:  Jenna Rosania
Username:  jrosania@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  question 2
Date:  2003-02-05 15:35:26
Message Id:  4419
Although women in sports today are given much more credit than previously for their talents and abilities, they are still expected to a certain extent to be ladies both in their behavior during their sport and in their personal lives. This is in terms of their popularity with their audience and the degree of their acceptance by their audience. Women should not be violently aggressive in either of these aspects, nor should they ever be involved in illegal activity or have important family crises. On the other hand, men in sports often become more popular when they fight with an opponant, or get arrested, or are going through ugly divorces. We are much more eager to forgive men for these things than women. We are also much more impressed I think when we see football players on TV helping children with organizations like the United Way, much more than we would be with women doing the same thing and more.I think this is because of the notion that men in sports will be men in sports, and for them to be the least bit decent to humanity is truly touching, whereas women should have this instinct to help naturally, and so such an action is far less impressive. The way people feel about women in sports seems regressive, although I think that because it has only been recently that women have felt unashamed about displaying their strength and power which rivals that of men, so as the audience, we are still trying to deal with this, and often what makes the most sense to us is that they must still embody "woman" to balance out their strength, and this makes people want to see quieter and more well behaved women than should realistically be expected.
Name:  Elisabeth
Username:  elindsey@smith.edu
Subject:  Cultural Ideal...
Date:  2003-02-05 16:10:27
Message Id:  4420
Name's Elisabeth, Studio Art Major at Smith College..here I go..
Like most everyone who has discussed the cultural ideal of the female athlete, I agree that it includes a major requirement of multitasking to the nth degree. The home, the body, the office, the kids, the athletic achievement..etc., the list goes on. And a woman who steps out of bounds (ha ha..no pun intended) and let's some slack on these various compartments of her life then she is seen as sloppy, not having proper 'respect' for herself. Whereas the male athletes who maybe regard their various responsibilities (and this isn't saying all of them at all) with less discipline are given a grace period, a margin of error, because that is what society chooses to expect from them, allowing them an out. (And this may be more applicable to prof sports..)
On another note, after seeing the video 'Dare to Compete' it was a major eye-opener to learn about the other major women in the history of sport, because they are not glorified, or even remembered barely. I knew about Trudy and the ENglish channel, but tuesday was the first time I heard many of their names. And that is pretty sad that those women, who markedly achieved so much were so easily disregarded...
Name:  valerie sorensen
Username:  vsorense@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-05 19:26:47
Message Id:  4426
title nine is a social justice issue because women should have equal opportunity reguardless. my sister is a division one atherlet at the university of north carolina and it is the best thing that has ever happened to her. women, particularly girls need to feel that they can accomplish something and be strong.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  week 1
Date:  2003-02-05 22:15:14
Message Id:  4439
My name is Jasmine Eleftherakis, and I am a senior at Smith. I am co-captain of our varsity crew team.

This week's readings and film discussed the cultural ideal of women in sport. When women were finally allowed to participate, it was only in "gender-appropriate" sports such as golf, swimming, tennis, and ice skating. Rules were modified in games such as basketball, so that women wouldn't over-exert themselves. Although they were allowed to participate in sports, women were not expected, encouraged, or allowed to compete in the way that men were.

Though we no longer have "play-days," female athletes are often still discouraged from truly competing. This became very real to me throughout jr. high and high school, when I studied martial arts. There was a guy in the class who was close to me in age and experience, so we often trained together. In the begining our training was very similar, but as we advanced, our instructor increasingly focused on his power and my grace, encouraging me to think of it as a ballet, look lady-like, and smile. It infuriated me that my instructor, who was a woman, would treat me differently because I was a girl. She just insisted that that was what the judges were looking for, and if I wanted to win medals, I had to play by their rules.

Name:  Sydney
Username:  ssiegel@smith.edu
Date:  2003-02-05 22:32:14
Message Id:  4440
My name is Sydney and I am a sophomore here at Smith. I am a Classical Studies major and Art History minor. I simply cannot imagine my life without sports- and I thank the men and women who have put blood, sweat and tears into the fight for Title IX. Title IX has allowed women to level the playing field; both on the court and off. Professor Betty Spears highlights in Prologue: The Myth, that looking back historically, society has only accepted a few talented women athletes, instead of women athletes as a whole. Whether society still only accepts a few women athletes, Title IX gives resources and help to women athletes in general.

Women in sports are expected to have a combination of femininity and athleticism. I think a difference between the cultural ideals of men and women is in the idea of competition. It seems that girls early in their sports careers are taught more in the ways of "anti-competition," where girls should play with rather than against other girls. They should accept a more passive role, where the outcome of the game is not the main focus. This can be seen in the movie "Dare to Compete," when 'Play Day' was described. There were no winners, but rather women would join other members of other schools on the same team, so that competition was not encouraged. The main goal was to play for fun. Men in sports, however, are quite the opposite, where sometimes the other team is seen not as the other team, but as the "enemy". Being aggressive and taking risks in sports are encouraged and winning (if not slaughtering) the other team is a main goal. These ideas may have changed over time, but often these same ideas are taught and emphasized in today's society.

Name:  maura
Username:  mambuter@email.smith.edu
Subject:  cultural ideal of women
Date:  2003-02-05 23:00:03
Message Id:  4442
My name is Maura Ambuter. I am a junior American Studies major at Smith. I have played most sports, namely field hockey, and instruct sports at a weight loss camp in West Stockbridge over the summers. that said...

One major aspect of sports is their entertainment value. I think that there has been a big push to gain an audience in athletics for women athletes and a part of that is that when you do have spectators acknowledging your work, the sport achieves a certain level of legitimacy. In order to achieve this there are cultural expectations placed on women as well as on men. I think major differences in views of what is acceptable for men or women in sport comes down to socialization and gender roles. Just from historical views that have not come close to vanishing, women are expected to be more nurturing, beautiful, thin, made up, gentle, etc. Therefore, when they try to make it in an athletic area, it is hard for society to shed those veiws. Where a man might gain fame for being dominating and rough, or even having a notoriously bad attitude (tyson, rodman)... a women who exemplefied those same antics would be shunned. The etiquette around women's sports goes past pure athleticism. A woman must also possess culturally acceptable mannerisms even at the cost of being less aggressive or hindering her athletic ability.
To contrast the cultural ideal of women in sport, men also have to conform to social views of masculinity, and are forced, to some extent to be masculine, to be tough, to dominate, kill kill kill.... This hurts them in men not being allowed to show pain and leads to unnecessary injury because they are expected to 'suck it up.' Women, however, are expected to show pain, to be weaker, and they are treated more carefully. I think that this probably does not allow women to be pushed as hard which makes their success level lower.
For example... a high school football coach is expected to beat up his players. If a few of them fainted from exhaustion or got sick it would "all be part of the game," yet if a coach of a women's team pushed her players to that same level I could see them being punished very severely because of the ideal that women are not capable of withstanding that type of exhertion. This whole 'women are delicate even when they are athletes' thing is a huge double standard in athletics.

Name:  Adam
Username:  ajonas@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Intro and first two questions
Date:  2003-02-05 23:47:01
Message Id:  4444
My name is Adam. I am a junior psychology major and wrestler at Wesleyan University.

I am responding to both questions. I apologize for the generalizations I make in my answers.

American society prides itself on a fair opportunity for all its citizens. This is embodied by the clichéd term, "The American Dream." One, however, does not have to examine U.S. history very deeply to discover that this "Dream" is a fabrication while the truth reveals a record marred by oppression, discrimination, and intolerance. The American government has slowly attempted to pass a number of laws that enforce the Civil Liberties that all humans are endowed. Those who support and oppose Title IX both believe it is a social justice issue. It would be difficult to deny that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is one of the most important and successful civil rights laws in U.S. history (1). Title IX bars sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. The law gives women access to classes, facilities and opportunities that had historically been male-only (2). Prior to Title IX, if a woman pursued a law or medical school program, she could be passed over for simply because she was a woman. From the class rooms to the playing fields Title IX has been a vital tool in advancing equal opportunities for women and girls (3).
It is the college athletics where Title IX is now being publicly challenged. Because of the segregated nature of men and women's sports, the athletic arena provides a setting to question the fairness of the law. Those who oppose Title IX argue that the law has led to the elimination of hundreds of men's sports. Because of a limited athletic budget some schools have been forced to cut men's sports programs (4). The intent of the law is to create opportunities for women, not strip them from men. Many of those who disagree with the law do support the principle of Title IX; it is how the law has been interpreted they claim is unfair.
Title IX is a social justice issue. Its creation reflects an effort to promote gender equality. Nobody, however, wants opportunities taken away from them. Men, who have a greater number of high school athletes competing for proportionally less college athletic slots, should not be discriminated against. "The public has forgotten that Title IX isn't just for girls," said Christine Stolba, a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum in Arlington, Va. "Mothers of sons want equal opportunity, too. They want to know why their sons can't wrestle while athletic directors are scouring college cafeterias, looking for girls to do archery" (5).
The applications of the principles of Title IX need to be enforced when the athletes are younger. The change should not be at the college level, where social and cultural inequalities have already weeded out many of the potential female scholar-athletes. Comprehensive change should come when girls and boys are encouraged to learn to throw a baseball versus play with dolls. Title IX should not work from the top-down, the real change will come from the bottom-up.
Women continue to suffer from discrimination and social injustice. Until women have the same opportunities as men to enjoy the psychological, physiological and sociological benefits that sports participation can provide, legislation should exist and be enforced (6). The interpretation of these laws, however, should reflect their intent—to grant opportunities, not to take them away.

Notions of femininity influence views about how girls should be. This can create conflict for girls who participate in sports that require 'unfeminine behavior' and produce 'unfeminine body shapes'.
Even today, elite sportswomen who display a 'masculine' body will not be celebrated for their observable devotion to their sport. Moreover, characteristics such as drive, determination, competitiveness, aggression and strength while viewed as important to the success of men are dismissed as unfeminine in women (7). Even though this stigma exists, women and the ideal body image have come a long way. Not too long ago it was believes that women would make themselves sterile by hard training and heavy competition (8). Women were viewed as being physically and psychologically unsuited to rigorous sporting activity, even though demanding domestic, farming and child rearing work was undertaken by poorer women on a daily basis. For women, participation in sport placed femininity in jeopardy and the sacred role of motherhood at risk (9).
The cultural ideal of men in sport is the exact opposite. The more violent the sport is, the manlier the athletes are. The amount of pain a player can inflict and withstand is valued as a measure of 'manliness.' It is this process which makes violent sports a vehicle for masculine identification (10). While these views are slowing changing, sports like football remain the pinnacle of American society.
To confirm their masculinity, men are expected to be interested in sports. Fathers encourage their sons to be athletes while they encourage their daughters to play with dolls. The simple fact is men are expected to play sports and women are not. This is best illustrated by the "humiliating insult" of telling a boy that he, "plays like a girl." While views are gradually changing about women's roles in athletics, the expectation that men play sports continues to persist.
The perceptions of athletic bodies are changing. To look attractive, both men and women want firm, well sculpted bodies (11). Healthy is "in" and both sexes are expected to be in shape. Yet, while more women are working out, and therefore becoming more muscular, men are increasingly turning to body-building in an attempt be even bigger and thus to prove their masculinity.
The cultural ideal for women has changed dramatically in the past decade. Still, the cultural values attached to masculine sports have not been openly challenged enough and the existing forms of subordination, domination and violence continue to be viewed as natural (12).

(1) Ralph Nader, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0130-08.htm, February 4th, 2003.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Frank Fitzpatrick, Http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/front/3584960.htm, February 4th, 2003.
(6) Ralph Nader, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0130-08.htm, February 4th, 2003.
(7) http://brisbane-stories.powerup.com.au/women_sport/03_shave/shave.htm, February 4th, 2003.
(8) Ibid.
(9) http://brisbane-stories.powerup.com.au/women_sport/02_sweaty_women/sweaty_women.htm, February 4th, 2003.
(10) http://www.xyonline.net/Game.shtml, February 5th, 2003.
(11) Peter West, 4a256a7b0034d7af!OpenDocument, February 5th, 2003.
(12) http://www.xyonline.net/Game.shtml, February 5th , 2003.

Name:  Amy Melanson
Username:  amelanso@smith.edu
Subject:  cultural ideal of women in sport
Date:  2003-02-06 00:43:16
Message Id:  4445
Hello, my name is Amy Melanson and I am a senior at Smith College. I am a psychology major and biology minor and I plan on going to medical school to pursue a career in pediatric medicine. I have not been as involved in sports at Smith as I would have liked; however, I was on the crew team my first-year.

In response to the question of what is the cultural ideal of women in sport, I look at it quite similarly to what is the cultural ideal of women in general. Women are expected to obtain a specific body image that is unattainable by the majority of women. There is a continuous demand for women to be thin. Twentieth-century capitalism, which includes the diet, beauty, and the health industries, directly predisposes women to develop body image obsessions and encourages them to be thin. Women are expected to be feminine, child-bearing, fragile, confident and independent (but not too much of either), and to a certain extent attain a specific body image type to which men find "sexually desirable" or "attractive." In addition to physical appearance issues, women are still fighting for equal representation in many professions. Any or all of these ideals can be carried over into athletics. Women are still expected to maintain their femininity on the playing field or in an athletic arena. It is the women athletes that represent the mother, the wife, and the sex figure that get the media converage and endorsements for keeping up with an ideal that has long since aged. It is puzzling because on the one hand I would like to say that women in sport are not regarded as another means to objectify and exploit women for the pleasure and benefits of men. On the other hand, it is quite evident though that a vast majority of women athletes and their spectators have shown that women in sport are true athletes that are more than capable of pursuing a professional career in sport. In popular culture, women are definitely recognized for their athletic ability, however rarely are female athletes portrayed in their actual sport setting.

The ideal for men is a little more straight forward. Football, baseball, and basketball are part of America's past time. The male icons in these sports are looked upon as tough, strong, and confident individuals. There is rarely question of one's masculinity or motive for participation. Women on the other hand have to continuously prove themselves as a worthy opponent. Furthermore, women still have to fight the challenging arguments that many women's sports are not of enough importance. This inconsistency of ideals reinforces the motivations to withhold any amendments to Title IX.

Name:  Laura Pollet
Username:  ljpollet@mtholyoke.edu
Subject:  cultural ideals
Date:  2003-02-06 01:28:17
Message Id:  4446
My name is Laura Pollet. I am a senior at Mount Holyoke College. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sport Studies.

The cultural ideal for women who participate in sport is focused more so on appearance and less on their talent and athletic performance. It is/was believed that women are capable and should be able to compete at levels similar to male athletes. However, in order to gain full recognition, they must remain conscious about their appearance.
The video "Dare to Compete" states, "sex sells". Unfortunately, many times women must use their body to gain acknowledgment from fans. For example, we saw that the women who participated in the women's baseball league were forced to wear skirts while they slid, caught, etc. in order to appeal to people during that time. Also, if we think of a more recent example, men tend to watch Anna Kournikova based solely on her appearance. Her game is nowhere near the level that Serena Williams' game is at, however, she attracts more attention because of her looks and girlish figure.
It is unfortunate that cultural ideals for males are just the opposite to those placed on women. We tend to find that when it comes to male athletes, anything goes. When fans watch male athletes, they tend to focus more heavily on performance and less on actual appearance.
At what point will these cultural ideals change? When will fans accept women as athletes and stop looking at their body and judging them based on their outward appearance?

Name:  Alice Goff
Username:  agoff@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-06 16:43:16
Message Id:  4457
I'm Alice. I am a junior History major here at the Mawr.

To all the explainations and comments offered on Title IX, would add that Title IX is a issue of social justice, not only in the law that it states, opening doors for women in academics and sports, but also one of awareness. Title IX is a social justice issue because it exists-- it brings into the open the question of whether women are treated equally, and makes people aware that their actions against women in academic and athletic fields are punishable by law. Discussions like this one are part of our awareness, and it is important that it remain in the public consciousness that Title IX exists, lest we take for granted our freedoms and forget a time less liberated.

I would also like to add to the voices that see women in sport today very much based on physical appearance, rather than on skill. In my mind this is a trend in popular and mass athletics (pretty much anything televised) that turns games of skill and teamwork into devices of marketing and vehicles for shoe commercials and wheaties ads. In the case of women, sports has become a venue for people to focus on the looks of the athletes. This is a sad state of affairs-- for this reason can we really call women playing sports on a national level an act of liberation? Or are we merely subjugating ourselves to the consumerist market that has infiltrated so many of America's "pastimes"?

Name:  Sarah
Username:  sanguin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Tiltle 9 as a social justice issue
Date:  2003-02-06 19:16:40
Message Id:  4466
Title 9 is a social justice issue because the way women are viewed in sports effects how they are viewed in everyday life and vice versa. Women are often expected to be less agressive and less physically capable in sports. The view of women's athletic abilitiy and roiles has a dirrection connection with the socilal view that women are aand should be less agressive and more submisive than men in the personal and professional lives. By participating in certain sports women challege these stereo types. Title 9, gives women the suppoir they need to challenge gender stereo types, and therefore is a socil justice issue.
Name:  angelica ramirez
Username:  aramirez@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-06 19:24:13
Message Id:  4467

My name is Angelica. I am a senior at bryn mawr and majoring in political science major at haverford.

Despite advances that have been made as a result of policy advancements (such as title IX and affirmative action ) cultural norms as to what is the appropriate place for women are still present not only in athletic field but throughout our society. There are certain characteristics such as aggressivess and competiveness that while being admired in men are seen as threatening in women. thus early on many young girls learn that in order to be accepted they must conform and behave in a "femine" fashion.