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 12:14:35
Message Id:  4335
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:  Nicole
Username:  n2smith
Subject:  Hello!
Date:  2003-02-03 10:53:59
Message Id:  4365
Hi Form Group! I was very happy with Thursday nights discussion. You seem to be an energetic class with a wide variety of experiences to share. I am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts in this on-line discussion group.

First, a little background. This is my fourth year at Bryn Mawr and my second year as an instructor for this course. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1997, and am very excited that some WES students will be joining our discussions.

My competitive athleteic days are far behind me. I like to stay active by running, lifting weights, and yoga. I find it is a struggle to fit fitness into my life -- and I work at a gym! But I think it is important, so I try to carve out time/space in my life for physical activity.

In looking at the questions we have asked you to respond to for this weeks discussion, I am struck by how as a culture, we are now putting more pressure on men to achieve a physical ideal. Magazines such as MEN"S HEALTH show a different buff guy on the cover every month, plus two articles on how to get better abs, and how to slim down. It will be interesting to see if this media attention will result in a higher rate of disordered eating in men.

Name:  Gale
Username:  glackey@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Greetings
Date:  2003-02-04 08:23:39
Message Id:  4394
Hello everyone,

Greetings Nicole! My name is Gale Lackey. I am an Adjunct Professor of Women's Studies, Associate Director of Athletics, and Head coach of Women's Volleyball at Wesleyan University. This spring I am teaching my GENDER AND SPORT class at Wesleyan. Last Thursday we watched "Dare to Compete". Today we will be discussing the movie and moving into lecture and discussions on Title IX (what a timely subject!). I will be urging my students to take part in your discussions as well. We happen to have a few wrestlers in the class. We will be giving a group of our students the opportunity to watch most of the films included in your course. I will attempt to divide our students among the different forums with particular attention to having one or two men in each forum group.

To Nicole's comment - I do believe body image issues or affecting men in our society and could very well lead to eating disorders, if not disordered eating. I also think the male concern with body image is compounding issues with drug abuse. I will try to get some comments from our wrestlers ( as maintaining a particular weight is an issue with that sport) and other men in the class.

Name:  Liz
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Social Justice
Date:  2003-02-04 23:12:45
Message Id:  4405
My name is Liz and I'm a Growth and Structure of Cities major and a Spanish minor. Although I don't compete in atletics any more, I love to run and ran cross country in high school.

The idea of Title IX as a social justice issue can be tied into the idea of the evolution. Throughout history the social justice issues have evolved with the times. Now that other issues have been worked with, women and sports can be examined. I believe, although great strides have been made, there are still many inequalities to be fixed that are aided by Title IX. It is not simply of money, it is a matter of making opportunities open to all people. Just as Affirmative Action helps some, Title XI helps others.

Name:  Madeleine Karpel.
Username:  mkarpel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Cultural ideals and sports
Date:  2003-02-05 09:27:02
Message Id:  4410
Hi all. I'm Madeleine Karpel, a Bryn Mawr student, originally from Mass. (For anyone who's going to Smith right now, I actually live in Noho, and grew up on Prospect st.)
But anyway, I was thinking about the cultural ideals of women in sports, and I feel that in general, the culture doesn't know what it wants. It seems to ask for tough, dedicated and remarkable athletes who simultaneously remain ladylike and poised. While these things are not necessarily incompatible, it certainly creates for an odd dichotomy, when on the one hand, a too-dedicated woman might be described as "cutthroat", "vicious", or a "bulldog" (heard that off the radio once, and it struck me), while a less dedicated woman might be dismissed as "out of her league", "in over her head", or simply "sub par". And I love the positive reactions that Venus and Serena Williams have garnered from the nation; they seem like strong, classy, intelligent and remarkable athletes. But I still feel that they have managed to come out the exceptions; while the culture has reacted well towards them, I'm waiting to see whether that marks an actual change, or is just a fluke.
Name:  claire
Username:  clutgendorf@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Social Justice Question
Date:  2003-02-05 18:26:22
Message Id:  4422
My name is Claire--I'm a student from the Wesleyan "Gender and Sport" class. The following is my response to the social justice question:

America's capitalistic system creates a system of unequal distribution, both of the good and the bad, as the country is run by big business; for profit. Social justice has to do with distribution of goods, or burdens. Just as no one person or group of people should be burdened with all of a bad thing, no one person or group should receive all good things either. Environmental injustice, one form of social justice, occurs when one group of people is burdened by a disproportionate amount of hazardous waste. Title IX has to do with the distribution of goods. Women should be granted equity in participation and benefits from education or activity receiving federal funding. Just like all other forms of social injustices, Title IX comes down to money; who gets the money to be educated and participate in activities.
Title IX has tremendous impacts for women in America today, in athletics as well as all other areas of education. For instance, the discipline of Women's Studies, which did not exist before 1970, is offered at hundreds of undergraduate and graduate institutions. Additionally, the field of women's health has emerged, and women's admissions into elite fields of graduate study, such as law and medicine have skyrocketed. Higher education was formerly dominated by men, who then went on to control the work force in most fields, with housework and childbearing reserved for women. In addition to strong feminist activists and radical thinkers, Title IX has helped provide these new opportunities for women.

Name:  Corey Gittus
Username:  cgittus@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Social Justice Issue
Date:  2003-02-05 20:00:41
Message Id:  4429
Hello all,
My name is Corey Gittus (I am female) and I am a sophomore at Wesleyan Univeristy. I am taking a gender and sport class this semester. I just wanted to comment briefly on the social justice issue question. In traditional society men have been the dominant force in sports and in the workplace. Although women's participation in jobs and sports has increased dramatically over the years it is still not nearly as high as men's participation. For example, women's participation in high school athletics has increased from 8%, in 1972, to nearly 40% in 1995 (packet). Therefore, it is not the lack of interest that has kept women from playing but rather the lack of opportunity. This lack of opportunity makes Title IX a social justice issue. Women should be allowed the same opportunities and benefits, whether it is with playing sports or holding jobs, as men.
Name:  Sarah O'Neil
Username:  soneil@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Cultural Ideals
Date:  2003-02-05 20:17:21
Message Id:  4431
Hello, my name is Sarah O'Neil, a student from Wesleyan University.
(HI NICOLE! Yes, it's me. I'm back at Wesleyan after three years doing all sorts of stuff. I'm playing lacrosse and I'm in Gale's Gender and Sport class. Send me an email or something!)
Anyway, below is a response to the question about cultural ideals for women and men in sport. I find this topic particularly interesting because it's evident that stereotypes have no boundaries.

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

The ideal female athlete is slender and toned and has long hair pulled back into a ponytail. She is fit and sexy and wears spandex outfits to the gym. She runs fast and is graceful and assertive on the field, but never too aggressive or feisty. She finesses the ball, barely sweating—just a light glisten to brighten her complexion. She smiles while she plays and doesn't question calls, or argue with the refs. She's a lady, and cleans up nicely after the game.
The ideal male athlete is aggressive and tenacious. He is quick and decisive, using his thick, muscular body to power his way across the field. His muscles bulge and pop through his jersey, which is drenched in sweat. He has grass stains all over his uniform. He is cocky and is allowed to be smart with the refs. After the game he is expected to be a gentleman and stay out of trouble.
The above descriptions are a bit extreme, but not that far from the truth. Although they are very different, and it would seem that female athletes have it worse, it's important to note that both sexes are stereotyped as athletes. There are unrealistic expectations of both men and women.

Name:  Mosah
Username:  mfernandezgo@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Response to Question #1
Date:  2003-02-05 20:27:19
Message Id:  4432
My name is Mosah Fernandez-Goodman and I am a Junior at Wesleyan University. I am from New York City. I am a member of both the Wesleyan Football and Swimming Teams. I am also a member of our Student Athletic Advisory Committee and President of my fraternity. Please find my response to question number one below.

Question #1:
Title IX is a revolutionary law that has inspired and supported social and political change in America's educational system. Title IX is a social issue in that it serves to outline the guidelines by which educational institutions must operate with respect to opportunities for both the male and female genders. It addresses the social issue of discrimination by gender. Because of Title IX, women now have the opportunity to advance themselves in educational areas that they had previously been prohibited from based on their gender. Title IX supports and protects women's educational rights. This support and protection of one gender from discrimination by another gender makes Title IX a social justice issue.
Title IX is considered an issue of social justice because it works to break down a social injustice. Until this law was passed, the educational opportunities for men far exceeded those of women. Such an imbalance in educational opportunity created a social imbalance. Women were being treated unjustly. Gender opportunities fall under the realm of a social heading. Therefore, the issues that surround the topic of Title IX are considered issues concerning a social injustice. Title IX strives to obtain social justice for females.
Title IX has had a profound impact on the modern American woman. Although the media tends to focus its attention on the impact of Title IX on high school and collegiate athletics, the true intention of Title IX is to provide equal opportunity for both genders across all academic fields. Athletic equality is simply a subset of the overarching theme presented by Title IX. Legally, women must now be given equal opportunity both in and out of the classroom.
The enactment and enforcement of Title IX has provided women with not only the right to equal educational opportunity but also with the inspiration to achieve such equality. The source of such inspiration comes, in great part, from athletics. In seeing members of the WNBA, members of the women's Olympic soccer team and other sports figures, young and old women alike have found themselves inspired to participate in athletics. In cultivating such interest in self-improvement through athletics, Title IX has initiated the process of inspiring women to achieve what they previously could not.
Men have historically dominated society. Females have been oppressed educationally, socially, sexually, economically and politically. Granting women the right to vote granted women great political equality. Title IX has granted women the right to educational equality. No longer must women accept men's dominance over educational opportunities. Title IX supports equal educational opportunities for both men and women.

Question #2:
We live in a male dominated culture. Although major steps such as Title IX are being taken to work towards gender equality, male influence still permeates our culture. Consequently, the culturally ideal female athlete is one who is both sexually appealing to men as well as one who is successful in her sport. The ideal male athlete must be successful at his sport but is not culturally required to have sex appeal. Female athletes face an additional requirement in order to be lauded by our culture. Female athletes are innately confronted with the issues of athletic success and social conformity. Men are simply required to excel at their sport.
Being skilful and excelling at one's sport is of a secondary importance for female athletes in the eyes of mass culture. Women are expected to maintain a feminine physique and not be overly aggressive. Conversely, men have been taught to be muscular and aggressive. The most recognizable evidence of such cultural teachings is evident in almost every gym in America. Women strive to loose weight while men try and bulk up. Women are taught and encouraged to serve as a physical and social compliment to men.
Breaking down the cultural barriers imposed upon them by men has been an arduous task for women involved in athletics. While the media supports and promotes figures such as Anna Kournikova and Mia Hamm as both sex symbols and excellent athletes, the majority of female athletes are not "hyped" up in nearly the same manner or numbers as that of their male counterparts. Male athletes receive much higher percentages of media coverage, fan base and endorsements in large part because sex appeal does not play as major a role in determining their success. In order to fit the cultural ideal, females must accomplish two goals. They must possess sex appeal as well as athletic prowess. Male athletes must simply perform athletically in order to fit the cultural requirements for being deemed a success by our culture.

Name:  Richard Lee
Username:  rjlee@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  cultural ideals
Date:  2003-02-05 21:09:46
Message Id:  4433
Hiya everyone...my name is Richard and I'm a junior at Wesleyan. First in response to the Men's Health question:

I have two issues of Men's Health lying around in my room and here are some headlines on the covers: "Lose Weight Fast! The amazing new diet that strips away fat", "Seduce her in 60 seconds!", "101 Best New Weight-Loss Strategies", "9 Secret Laws of Leanness", "Foods that Fight Fat", "Sexual Superpowers: Be her man of steel", "The Easy Way to Hard Abs"...you get the idea. And this is just from two magazine covers. This magazine is essentially the male equivalent of Cosmo. Plastering the covers with lean and muscular men is no different than putting skinny supermodels on Cosmo. I definitely think that men's body image issues are a big problem, and it will only get worse because of magazines like Men's Health. I read the magazine for entertainment and the occasional helpful bit of information, and afterwards I definitely feel pressure to bulk up and get abs of steel.

Now for the cultural ideals question:

While female athletics has become just as fierce and competitive as men's athletics, women are still expected to maintain their femininity. Muscles, sweat, and aggressiveness are considered masculine qualities, and the exceptional women who exhibit these qualities are often considered "butch" and have their sexuality questioned. In Dare to Compete, we saw that Babe Didrickson faced this paradox, which must have been very difficult for her to deal with. Later in her career she changed her image by growing her hair longer and dressing in a more feminine way. The video also mentioned that in Babe's day, only sports such as tennis, archery, and golf were considered acceptable for women because they could wear skirts while playing them. This paradox still exists today and often more attention is given to a women's femininity than her athletic accomplishments. Anna Kournikova gets just as much attention for bending down to pick up a ball as Serena Williams does for winning her fourth straight grand slam title. Then you have Annika Sorenstam, who had perhaps the greatest year ever in women's golf, and it went virtually unnoticed. Perhaps her skirts weren't short enough.
On the other hand, men are expected to be tough, muscular, and unfailingly heterosexual. Today's male athletes drive ridiculously large SUV's that are big and muscular like them. And just like their SUV's sound systems, they are loud and brash. These are masculine qualities that men must demonstrate to prove their masculinity and heterosexuality, just as women often wear short skirts and ponytails to defend their femininity and heterosexuality.

Name:  Corey Gittus
Username:  cgittus@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Cultural Ideals
Date:  2003-02-05 22:09:24
Message Id:  4435
As with many other female athletes I do not feel this need, which society puts on us, to prove myself to be a woman just because I play sports. Often time's women who play sports must overcompensate their femininity when they are off the field or court, this is because women who play sports have always been considered more "masculine" than other women. Society wants women who play sports to also be very feminine and project the "good girl athlete" image. Over time, the image of women in sports has changed and hopefully in years to come women will no longer have to prove their femininity just because they play sports.
Name:  Rebecca Vogel
Username:  rvogel@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Response to Question 1
Date:  2003-02-05 22:10:25
Message Id:  4437
Hi. My name is Rebecca Vogel and I'm a sophomore at Wesleyan University. I am a Biology major and play on the lacrosse team as well. This is just my short response to the first question.
Title IX declares that no person on the basis of gender may be excluded or discriminated against in an educational system that is federally funded (or assisted). However, the amendment of Title IX has affected much more than educational systems. When it was enacted, and today as well, it not only provided a legal crutch for women, it provided them the confidence to excel. Women that lived prior to Title IX were hardly different from the women experiencing the affects of the amendment today, but prior to 1972 society simply produced women with different goals and ideals. Today, women are given the opportunities that were previously offered only to men in areas of society typically dominated by men. Title IX has given women the confidence to prove that they have comparable abilities to men. Today, women are urged to pursue their goals and talents, while thirty years ago, women were simply not aware of their own abilities. And, because of the standards society had imposed on them, they hardly had an interest in uncovering them. A female business-owner is no surprise to Americans today, nor is a professional female soccer player. To think how far women have come due to one law proposed and enacted only approximately 30 years ago is incredible.
Name:  Liza Eckels
Username:  eeckels@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  gender and sport
Date:  2003-02-05 23:29:54
Message Id:  4443
My name is Liza Eckels, and I'm a senior psych major at Wesleyan university.

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

The cultural ideal of women in sport has changed drastically over the years. First of all, there didn't used to be any women in sport, it simply wasn't culturally accepted. As women emerged in the world of athletics, they were confined to certain sports, such as figure skating, field hockey, swimming, diving, track, etc. Women were supposed to be graceful, flexible, weak, pretty, un-aggressive, non-sweaty, and of course, not crass or violent. However, the ideal for women in sport has somewhat changed over the years. Female athletes are now solid and muscular. They are encouraged to show aggression, sweat get dirty and excel to the highest level possible. As much as these athletic traits are becoming the norm, they come with an attached stigma. As a female ice hockey player, I encounter the butch/brute image. Although, one of the perks of ice hockey is the equipment. The padding allows for quickness, roughness, and aggression. The helmet hides my face so I don't have to be pretty. The equipment prevents any body image issues, because my shape has been masked by the lbs of padding.
The cultural ideal for men in sport has been fairly constant over the years. Men are supposed to be big, muscular, brawny, aggressive, rough around the edges, and violent. It is acceptable for men to be sweaty and dirty, for them to be missing teeth. They are allowed to be hairy, ruthless and animal-like. There are no limits, men are expected to push themselves to the limit.

Name:  Jennifer
Username:  jalevine@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Social Justice Issue
Date:  2003-02-06 01:43:07
Message Id:  4447
Hello, my name is Jennifer Levine. I am a Sophomore Spanish major at Wesleyan Univeristy involved in the Gender and Sport class.

This is my response to the question of how Title IX is a social justice issue:

The fact that Title IX is an addition to the constitutional civil liberties amendment shows that there has always been preference of men over women. Early Darwinism theories of "only the strong survive" have implied that men are the stronger sex, with privilege. If in 1972 Title IX was rejected by Congress, would the American people, who promote democracy and global liberty have magically decided that this was an action that needed to take place. It is a fallacy that the advancement of women in society at that time would have instantaneous come around and sexual discrimination be forgotten. It is possible that for years and even decades women would be attempting to advance themselves in a man's world. Title IX is an incredible legal advancement and protection for women against sexual discrimination. It would be a lie to say that a few decades ago women had the same opportunity as they did today. For example, my mother, a physician was discouraged from perusing a medical career. Though declined admittance into American medical schools prior to Tile IX, she happily matriculated into medical school in Mexico. During this time, a third world country was willing to give her opportunities she did not receive in America, "the land of opportunities." At the present time women, are encouraged and even sought out to attend prestigious professional schools and for myriad amounts of occupations. Their access to universities and once taboo professions for women has practically disappeared and they are being welcomed and encouraged to enter the labor market. Their salaries within the past decade have risen dramatically and are comparable to those of men. In past years there has been statistical data, or proof, that for the same job men generally earned a higher wage than women. Although this fact is appalling it is a remarkable improvement from thirty years ago in quality of life and opportunities and economic independence for women. Today women are becoming the leaders of our country and local communities. They are doctors, lawyers, congresswomen, ambassadors, educators, mechanics, businesswomen and much more. In the words of my late grandmother, "Ladies today have gone farther than I ever thought imaginable in my lifetime." For these reasons, Title IX is a great social justice issue that does and will continue to enhance the quality and progression of the lives of women in America.

Name:  Meredith Rideout
Username:  mrideout@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Social Justice and Cultural Ideals
Date:  2003-02-06 03:21:40
Message Id:  4448
Hello all. My name is Meredith and I am a senior Anthropology/Pre-Med major at Wesleyan. The following are my responses to the issue of Title IX as social justice, and our cultural ideals of women and men in sport.

1. Most of us would agree that racial discrimination is an issue of social justice. Almost a century after the fact we can scoff at the idea that the eugenics movement, and all the scientific research that went into proving that certain races are inferior to others is ridiculous. Similarly, we can easily recognize that the notion that black people do not have the same intellectual capacity as white people and that they are only suited for manual labor, a popular belief in America that spanned generations, is an incredibly racist fallacy. Yet why is it that even though we mention racial minorities and women in the same breath under the Civil Rights Act, sexual discrimination is not taken seriously? Just as scientific principle was used to justify and maintain the social hierarchy that oppressed blacks, so too does the assumption that women are biologically inferior to men and that they are only suited for motherhood, fuel the system of social oppression that restricts women from achieving their potential. Title IX is not only opening up the field of athletic competition and providing women with a place to play and the encouragement to participate and to excel, but it is helping to evolve our notions of femininity and masculinity and our stereotypes about the "nature" of men and the role of women. The legislation has helped to shatter the myth that women are biologically inferior to men by proving that if given the opportunity, proper training, facilities, coaching, and encouragement, women can excel at anything they put their minds and dedicate their bodies to. Title IX is an issue of social justice because it insists upon the fair treatment and opportunity for a group that has been historically oppressed by an established social hierarchy.

2. The cultural ideal of women in sport, while continually evolving, still seems to reside on the opposite end of the spectrum from the ideal of men in sport. Girls are not supposed to be too competitive or too aggressive, physically or verbally. Girls should not work up too much of a sweat, be too big, or too muscular. We are taught to scoff at the violent grunts of Monica Seles as she rips a wicked backhand down the line. We accept the fact that women playing lacrosse sport skirts while the men are clad in helmets and pads and engage in hard-hitting competition. While both men and women ice hockey players wear identical protective gear, it seems to make cultural sense that the women's game is a non-checking affair. On the other hand, the same elements that are taboo if embodied in a woman, come to represent the cultural ideal of the male athlete. Men can and should be bulky. Not only is it okay to sweat and get dirty and draw blood, it is expected. The cultural ideal of women in sport parallels the historically oppressive cultural ideal of women in general. Just as society worked to chain women to the role of the docile homemaker, the culture of sport continues to restrict women by forcing them to wear skirts during competition, by banning physical contact, and by upholding a standard of beauty that celebrates frailty and meekness. When I broke my leg playing ice hockey my father jokingly asked me why I couldn't just play the piano. I told him that I wasn't satisfied using my 6'0, 200-pound frame to dominate a musical instrument. All through high school I was reminded of the phrase "chicks with sticks don't like dicks," implying that women who played ice hockey were homosexuals. The idea of women playing a sport, especially one notoriously reserved for men, challenges society's cultural ideal of men as the essence of masculinity. The notion that "the stronger women get, the more men love football" rings loud and clear, perfectly embodying these established cultural ideals of masculinity and femininity.

Name:  Natalie
Username:  nmerrill@brynmaw.edu
Date:  2003-02-06 15:45:14
Message Id:  4455
Hi, my name is Natalie. I'm a junior at Bryn Mawr. I'm a sociology major, political science minor with a concentration in health studies (I just made that last one up, though eventually I hope to be involved in health law and public policy).

In response to question two, I found what someone in class last week said about women in sports- that the majority of women seem to participate in physical activity to look good and to mold their body into the current feminine physical ideal. Whereas for men, it seems that their participation in sports or athletics is based primarily in competitive endeavors. It is interesting that women are still expected to behave and look a certain way, though I feel that we've come a long way. As it was also said in class last week though, we can't forget where we've come from or diminish our efforts at furthering our position. There is always work to be done in liberating ourselves from the oppressive cultural ideals which have been created.

Name:  Sunmin
Username:  smlee@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Title IX
Date:  2003-02-06 17:43:44
Message Id:  4462
Hi! I am Sunmin Lee from Bryn Mawr College. I am glad to meet you all. :)
I am from Korea, so I might have a little different prospectives. This is my first time ever to take any course related to gender and sports.

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.

Actually, I had no idea what Title IX was, so I did a little research on the internet. I came across the following passage;
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance. -- From the preamble to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972"
Since its passage in 1972, Title IX helped to change attitudes, assumptions and behavior and social understanding about how sexual stereotypes can limit the opportunities for capable women to be educated. Women had made davances in fields of science and math which were dominated by male. Title IX served a symbolic role that shows now women should not be discriminated because of their gender.