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 12:13:56
Message Id:  4334
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:  Emily Hanson
Username:  ehanson@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Title IX as a Social Justice Issue
Date:  2003-02-04 21:13:54
Message Id:  4402
1. This week's question deals with Title IX as a social justice issue. As Thursday's movie illustrated, women had few opportunities to participate in sports and certainly not to the same extent that men competed. The adoption of Title IX gave women to right to not only compete with men on an equal standing, but to demand equal funding for their sports and for scholarships. Recently, the current President has requested an investigation into the possibility that the provisions in Title IX are discriminatory towards men because men's sports are losing funding in order to provide equal funding for their female counterparts. Title IX was intended to level the playing field between men's and women's sports and provide women with the same opportunities of their male counterparts. The fact that men's sports are losing some of their funding hardly makes up for the centuries that women's sports had NO funding. Even today women's sports receive far less attention and funding than men's sports. Title IX has done more than just provide parity for women's sports, it has given women the confidence to pursue their dreams and to believe themselves capable of the same things as men. By rolling back Title IX, as the Bush Administration hopes, the government sends a message to women that they don't deserve the same opportunities as men, and that their dreams are not as important.

2. The ideal for women in sports is vastly different from men. While men are supposed to be strong and competitive, the ideal for women is to be agile, a "good sport", and to excel while still appearing feminine. Last week's video mentioned how the women of the Tennessee Tigers were encourage to finish their race, duck out, and quickly reapply makeup so they wouldn't appear any less feminine. Society views sports for women as something they should do to keep fit, not to enjoy in a competitive sense. Those women who appear more competitive are portrayed as the "bad girls". The video mentioned how the press portrayed Chris Evret and Martina Navertalova. Because Martina was more combative and competitive than Chris she was portrayed as the "dark side" or the "evil woman". Women in sports have also always had to continually prove their sexuality. Women that appear too talented often have their femininity questioned. There either called "dikes" or "butch". Men involved in sport rarely have to prove their heterosexuality. Their automatically considered to be manly because of their obvious athletic ability. While society's opinion of women in sports has changed greatly in the past centaury, there are still many obstacles women need to overcome.

Name:  Rachel Kahn
Username:  rkahn@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  the cultural ideal of "women" in sports
Date:  2003-02-05 11:43:29
Message Id:  4415
1. The cultural ideal for a woman in sport is to be a "woman." While this may seem like an obvious statement, problems arise when we start to define "woman." In our society, people are forced to fit into one of two categories: male or female. This binary gender system is so accepted and so obligatory that it wasn't until I started to read about intersexuality (people are considered intersexual if their reproductive systems, chromosomes or genitalia do not fit the norm for either male or female) that I realized how incredibly problematic the system is. In 1968, the International Olympic Committee began requiring that all athletes undergo sex testing, so that males could not compete in female competitions. Intersexuals are still banned from Olympic competition today. Some estimates place the number of people who do not fit either male or female standards at 1 to 2 for every 100 births. This means that 1 to 2% of people are still banned from competition today. I feel that this is an important issue to bring up with regards to our class because I don't think it is widely known that, despite Title IX, there are still people excluded from sports. Also, to directly address the question at hand, the binary gender system is (unfortunately) very influential in determining the cultural ideal for "women" in sports. In order to be a popular, well-loved "woman" in sport, one has to fit neatly into the category of "woman" as defined by the binary.
(I got my stats, dates and definition from these two great websites. www.isna.org and http://members.fortunecity.com/dikigoros/intersexism.htm)
Name:  Stefanie Keenan
Username:  skeenan@smith.edu
Subject:  Cultural Ideal of Women in Sport
Date:  2003-02-05 13:42:23
Message Id:  4417
Hi Everyone!

My name is Stefanie, and I'm a senior neuroscience major, chemistry minor at Smith College. I've played a lot of different sports in my life, and am currently an intercollegiate basketball player here at school.
Growing up, I always considered myself an athlete, and never gave a second thought about competing with the boys in the neighborhood. In this respect, I was never discriminated against as a girl, because I proved I could play just as well, if not better than most of them. I was able to shun the label of a "female athlete" and prove that as an athlete, I am competent and talented in sports. Today, even with the help of Title IX, culturally, women athletes are still seen as slightly inferior to their male counterparts. In my opinion, this is due to the fact that they are labelled as "female athletes". Biologically, women and men are different, their bodies are constructed to perform differently in certain situations. Therefore, labelling an athlete as a woman, before even assessing her talent, etc, already separates her from male athletes with similar talent. Seeing the statistics of a coed basketball game, without using any names, each athlete will be assessed with the same respect. Yet, once you add names and realize that one of the athletes on the roster is a female, there is already a form of discrimination being used when comparing her stats to those of her male teammates. Therefore, in order for women to be culturally identified at the same level as most male athletes, we first need to shed our identity as "female athletes" and demand that we be viewed as strong, competitive athletes.

Name:  Emmi Connolly
Username:  econnoll@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Title IX
Date:  2003-02-05 13:59:14
Message Id:  4418
My name is Emmi Connolly and I am junior at Smith College. I am a Chemistry and Pre-Med major and I play basketball for Smith.
As most of us are, I never experienced women's sports during the time that Title IX did not exist. I take my oppertunities of equality for granted; that is for sure. Title IX as a law states that no person be discriminated against based on gender in any area of education, athletics or any other program that recieves federal funding. In that sentence, lies the definition of a social justice. "Social work that promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being." (International Federation of Social Workers,www.ifsw.org/Publications/4.6e.pub.html). By giving women social justice, it gave them an arena to excell in not only athletics, but it gave them oppertunities in areas that men had dominated, such as science, medicine, economics, engineering and politics.
It has given women power in most professions and oppertunities except for coaching and athletic administrators. When Title IX came into effect, most of the segragated athletic departments merged into one, handing the higher paid and distinguished jobs to the men. Even now, most women's teams are coached by men and athletic departments are overwhemlingly dominated by men. What happened? Does this lie under Title IX?
The current review of Title IX is backed by coaches and players of collegiate sports that do not draw much revenue or recognition, such as gynastics and wrestling. I am not suggesting that women's athletics be cut to fund these opperation, but isn't this a form of descrimination as well? Is this fair to those athletes that give as much passion and heart to their sport as football players?
Name:  Lisa Lindberg
Username:  LLindber@smith.edu
Subject:  Title IX
Date:  2003-02-05 19:21:53
Message Id:  4425
Hi, I am Lisa Lindberg a Senior at Smith.

Of couse Title IX is a social justice isssue. It was never intentioned to be only an athletic issue. Title IX guarantees equality in all aspects of education not just athletics. It applies to admissions, recruitment, facilities, access to course offerings, access to vocational education, counseling, financial assistance, student health and insurance benefits, housing, marital and parental status of students, education programs and activities, and employment. The enforcement of Title IX is not taking away access to funds to which men are entitled. In fact, it is the opposite. Giving more equality to women does not mean men become less equal, nor are their opportunities for advancement slighted. However, denying women equal access to funds does operate to further subortinate their role in academic spheres, a place where men are already favored.

Name:  Marla McConnell
Username:  mdmcconn@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Title IX
Date:  2003-02-05 21:56:38
Message Id:  4434
Hello, my name is Marla and I am a junior chemistry major. After watching "Dare to Compete" I came to realize what an impact it has had on my entire life. Title IX has and will continue to influence the role of women in American society. Everything from educational and athletic opportunity to equality for women in the work place has been touched by this law. I think that it is important to understand the gift that title IX has given so many women and extend those ideas to reach all excluded people and not take steps backwards by repealling it.
Name:  Anna C. Crary
Username:  acrary@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Cultural ideals of women in sport
Date:  2003-02-05 22:09:49
Message Id:  4436
My name is Anna Crary, and I am a junior Art History major, African-AMerican Studies minor at Smith. I used to play soccer, volleyball, and swam competitively in high school. I am currently a member of Varsity Crew here at Smith.
While there are aspects of contemporary American society that have evolved when its views of women in sport are concerned, there are many ideals - social, cultural, political, and personal - that are still relatively old-fashioned, conservative, and limiting as to the roles an athletic woman can play, or the ways in which she can be portrayed. In my experience as an athlete, when placed in co-ed environments, women who are intense, competitive athletes, i.e. those who sweat a lot, lift a lot of weight, make noise when they compete, etc., are ridiculed as being manly, masculine, or otherwise unfeminine. Think of the riducule Monica Seles endured because of her on-court grunting, or the sexually oriented insults Martina Navratilova, Babe Didrikson, and other strong, successful, competitive female athletes received from the press and public at large. I think that on one hand, contemporary society is fascinated and greatly entertained by female athletes. The success of the William's sisters, Sarah Hughes, the WNBA, etc. attests to this. However, while male athletes are allowed to compete as simply athletes, I feel that female athletes are never fre of that label - female. They never exist solely as athletes. Beliefs that these athletes should somehow maintain and represent "aspects of their femininity" while also competing are engendered by a huge segment of America, to the extent that female athletes who are not conventionally attractive or feminine in a way society sees fit, are not focuse on or given as much media play time as those athletes whose physical appearance is visually pleasing. Take Anna Kournikova, for example. She has yet to win a major tennis tournament, yet she is one the most printed and photographed female athletes today. Do we ever hear about the mediocre male players? Besides coverage of Agassi and Sampras, both phenomenally successful athletes, we never hear about the B-grade male athletes even if they are attractive. Female athletes are held to maintain complex sexual standards, whereas male athletes are asked simply to play and win.
Name:  Mary W. Jayne
Username:  mjayne@smith.edu
Subject:  Title IX & Social Justice -- and the "cultural ideal" for women in sport
Date:  2003-02-05 22:12:32
Message Id:  4438
Today, one area of focus within the larger "social justice" category is reparations for American descendents of African slaves. I personally think that there are many questions that can be raised about reparations of any kind, for any past wrong. I like Title IX especially because it does NOT try to address past wrongs, but instead goes forward, in effect from 1986, to create equal opportunity and equal access to the money and resources that support athletics for men and women, girls and boys.

Of course, we can bring up the idea that there have been centuries of INequity -- but the main direction of the Title IX provisions has been to create equal access now and into the future. To me, the unwillingness to hark back to past wrongs strengthens the arguments made by the Title IX provisions for equal access now and makes it all the more important that we not allow these standards to be eroded away in the slightest.

Regarding the "cultural ideal" for women in sport, so vividly illustrated by many frames of the "Dare to Compete" film, I think that, largely thanks to Title IX, we have really "come a long way, baby"! As many of the participants in this discussion have noted, most female athletes today think of themselves as athletes, not female athletes. This is just what Title IX was intended to create, a nation of committed paticipants in sport, who do NOT focus on gender, but on athleticism. As a fifty-six-year-old mother of a son and daughter, both now in their twenties, I can really attest to the difference between the "then", when I participated in high school sports and the "now", watching our children grow up competing in a total of six sports each, from elementary school through college. Whether teams were single sex or co-ed, school or league, girls and boys were treated exactly the same throughout -- and thought of themselves in the same way, as athletes. I have always thought that this marvelous development was 100% due to the changes brought by Title IX. In case I ever tended to forget that, I couldn't help but be reminded, when our daughter and her friends were led triumphantly out of Middle School to troop down Capitol Hill to participate in Girls and Women in Sports Days on the Capitol grounds and the Mall, complete with participation by Olympic athletes. (We've lived in Washington, DC during all our kids' growing-up years.) Perhaps we've been especially lucky to be in Washington, where equal access for girls to sports funding and resources is assumed, but this has been my rewarding experience in raising our children. It's a striking contrast to my own years on a crummy high school basketball court, wearing a one-piece "gymsuit" with, yes, bloomers, and being allowed only three bounces of the ball, before being called for "travelling". Everyone meant well -- but we were definitely treated differently, thought of differently and we thought of ourselves as less athletic than our male peers back in the early 'sixties.

Now we need to focus on accurate media reporting of the moves made by the Commission which will be making important decisions regarding Title IX. We can let seemingly innocuous changes be made that would reverse more than twenty years of progress. Mary W. Jayne, Smith College

Name:  Caitlin Snow
Username:  csnow@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  cultural ideal
Date:  2003-02-06 12:33:46
Message Id:  4450
Hi, my name is Caitlin Snow and I'm a senior psychology major at Wesleyan. I am also a captain of the women's indoor/outdoor track and field team.

Today is February 5th, 2003 and yet women are still held to standards and ideals based on stereotypes that should have died thirty years ago with the advent of feminism. While progress has been made, women are still expected to maintain their "femininity", both during an athletic event and in their private lives. It is not a coincidence that sports articles about women include questions about their spouses (for example, how the spouse feels about her career- funnily enough, no NBA stars are asked how their wives feel about their profession) and children if they have any. If they do not have children, they are occasionally asked if they plan to have them in the future, and if so, how they expect to fit said children into their athletic careers. If a WNBA star were to sleep with men in every major city and occasionally mother children, only to abandon them, there would be not only public outrage but also court proceedings.
There is a curious double-standard regarding muscular athletic women. While it is necessary for elite athletes to train rigorously and develop strong muscles, women must toe the line between the "athletic look" which is desirable and sexy and the "amazon woman" who is "mannish" and therefore undesirable. Women who power-lift and body-build competitively are often placed in this category, while a muscular Brandi Chastain in a sports bra made the front cover of Sports Illustrated. One can argue that male power-lifters and body builders are also viewed negatively because of their incredible size and musculature, but they are viewed as "extra-manly" whereas women in the same situation are viewed as less than women and more like men. These double standards continue to haunt both professional and non-professional female athletes daily, and it will take a massive media campaign for the American public's expectations and standards to change.

Name:  Marta Sobur
Username:  msobur@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Cultural Ideal of Women in Sports
Date:  2003-02-06 17:04:04
Message Id:  4459
Hello everyone, I'm Marta, sophomore, Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology(YEAH!)/Italian major at Bryn Mawr.

I would like to focus for a moment on the component of the question being the cultural 'ideal', which for me is a term with a strong positive connotation. The cultural ideal of women in sports makes me think, on a very primary and superficial level, of strong, sportive, and healthy women, whose bodies are in a state close to fitness perfection. However, watching the acrobatic olympics several times, I came to think that the ideal bodies of sportswomen, from the perspective of sport competition, are oftentimes bodies shaped by unhealthy training of development of only those sets of muscles, which are essential for the excellence in performing a particular game or sport. My impression is a construct, which came to be as a result of combining the tv images of small skinny girls with unnaturaly (sorry for that cruel expression, but I cannot think of a better word) elongated members of the body, with notions of how training affects women's biological functions(which may be a shovinist prejudice, but I suppose it is possible for the menstruation to stop occurring as a result of an extensive training and usage of drugs which should enhance the performance in sports). The modern ideal of women in sports is thus by definition a paradox for me, as sometimes, in the above case of young athlets, the ideal bodies of sportswomen are far from being ideal from other, mainly sociologically formed perspectives.

Name:  Rachel Hochberg
Username:  rhochber@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Female athlete expectations
Date:  2003-02-06 17:19:00
Message Id:  4460
Hi, I'm Rachel, I'm a junior at Bryn Mawr.

It seems to me that there are just too many stereotypes surrounding athletes in general, and too many expectations of what male athletes and female athletes are supposed to be. For female athletes, I think the biggest expectation is that they be women, as well as athletes. In order to be popular in society and in the eyes of fans, they are supposed to be pretty as well as strong, they are supposed to look feminine. This always struck me most when I used to see shampoo commercials with female athletes; there would be a shot of the athlete swimming, or biking, and shaking out her hair and a voice over about how her sport makes it hard to have good hair. But such and such a shampoo can help her play hard, and look good too, or something like that. To me it reflects a certain cultural expectation that women "look good," whether they're athletes or not, but it presents a problem for women in sports, because it's hard to look good when you're sweating and exhausted. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to be sweaty and gross--a lot of times, that somehow makes them even more attractive to women.

Name:  Christen Gore
Username:  cgore@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Cultural ideal of women in sports.
Date:  2003-02-06 18:05:29
Message Id:  4463
Hello!!! My name is Christen And I am a freshman at Bryn Mawr College.

After watching the movie in our first class I was struck by how sports represented much more than just a chance for women to play and compete for one another. At the trun of the century the invention of the bicycle offered women a new kind of activity. Bicycling offered women a chance to get out of the home and become active in a public sphere. Though there was criticism of the sport and its effect on women, it quickly became a popular sport. In 1906 the Playground Association of America was organized. This association worked to organize sports activites for both girls and boys. These early strides in the fight for women's sports were also early strides in the fight for the idea of "the new woman." A woman who could work and play outside of the home. A woman who could compete not only in the sports arena but also in a political and public arena as well.
The passing of Title IX in 1972 was the culmination of these early battles. It ensured women of their equal right to be athletic, powerful figures.

Name:  Laurel Jackson
Username:  ljackson@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Question 2
Date:  2003-02-06 18:57:34
Message Id:  4464
Hello, everyone. My name is Laurel, and I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, majoring in Biology. Throughout high school I was a starter on my high school's girls basketball team. I experienced first hand the unreasonable expectations that our culture sets forth for female atheletes. I always noticed that in a boys b-ball game, the referees let things slide, allowed a little more attitude, and ignored lots of mistakes such as "walking" and fouling under the basket. In my games, the refs made a point to call anything that was moderately out of line. If a girl went to confront a ref about a call, he would often tell her to "calm down", or "it's just a game; relax." I found this type of behavior extremely sexist and offensive, as though girls games don't matter. So, even though title IX has allowed for much growth for women sports, cultural ideals still limit women. It's difficult for some people to accept women as sweaty, foul-mouthed, agressive, and yes, sometimes even angry atheletes. We are expected to be demure ladies who keep their mouths shut and slap on a toothy smile.