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 2 Questions
Date:  2003-02-07 11:31:09
Message Id:  4478
Week 2 Questions. Please respond to at least one of the questions. Particiapnts may also continue to comment on the questions from week 1. To read the comments of the Week 1 questions, please refer to the archived link.

1. What is the meaning of the images used in the popular media that portray women? Portray women athletes? Give some examples of positive images and some negative images. Look at the WNBA website for an interesting look at the intersection of media and women's professional sport. www.wnba.com

2. What role does gender play as enhancing the athletic image of women in sport? What influence, what difference, did the image of Velvet as being gender neutral – and in fact trying to pass as a male jockey. What does this say about women in sport, women in male domains, and the cultural ideal of women? Is this applicable toady?

3. How does the cultural ideal of sport relate to the cultural ideal of women in society?

For those students who watched National Velvet, add the question:
Are you, or did you ride horses in your youth? Describe the passion of riding horses. How would you describe the link between gender as portrayed in the movie?

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  test
Date:  2003-02-11 10:48:39
Message Id:  4537
just testing
Name:  Liz Marcus
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Women and Sport in the Media
Date:  2003-02-11 10:57:40
Message Id:  4538
The image of women in the media concerning sport is very similar to women in the media in general. Although many rights have been gained for women, there is still a sense of being feminine and what that means. The conotations are different from those that apply to men. By Velvet cutting her hair in "National Velvet," she was able to break the boundaries. She eliminated her femininity and took on a neutral gender. In many ways this appears to still happen today. Women who are successful athletes in non-traditional sports must first eliminate their feminine side before being taken seriously.
Name:  Madeleine Karpel
Username:  mkarpel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  National Velvet
Date:  2003-02-12 09:25:45
Message Id:  4551
I think it's interesting to look at Velvet's ostensible gender neutrality in National velvet. On one level, she does manifest a certain gender neutrality; cutting her hair short, passing as a male jockey (even when another jockey bullies her), etc. She also displays a lot of positive traits (frequently associated more with men, incorrectly) such determination, discipline, a substantial willingness to work at it over and over, brains, and heart. So in those ways, she's gender neutral.
But I have to say, I think calling Elizabeth Taylor, at any age, "gender neutral" is an inadvertantly ironical statement. While Velvet does cut her hair and pass for a male jockey, she remains throughout the movie one of the most distinctly "feminine"-looking female "athletes" I've ever seen in a movie. She has delicate features, luminous blue eyes and a cupid's mouth, all accented by makeup. Her portrayal of Velvet is as a passionate, emotional and breathily-voiced girl. And I'm not by any means condemning her portrayal: it's a good one, and Velvet is a sweet, smart, and likeable child. But just in terms of gender neutrality: if her role is so neutral, try to imagine Mickey Rooney playing the role of Velvet. *eep*
Name:  Nicole
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Gender Neutral?
Date:  2003-02-12 14:08:43
Message Id:  4553
Interesting observation, Madeleine. It seems at times the film attempts to "have it both ways". Playing up Velvet's adolescence so as to assure the viewer she is not a woman, making a strong case for gender neutrality, and then suggesting that Velvet is female with female desires. The scene of Velvet on the bed preparing to ride Pie could be interpreted as sexual. It is also interesting to note the similarities between the boy?s name and the horse (Mi and Pie). In the end, the film fails to address Velvet being disqualified as a female rider, and instead disqualifies her for a "technicality" -- dismounting from her horse before she has reached the appropriate place. Fainting, of which Velvet does quiet a bit, is often thought of as a specifically female characteristic.
Name:  Angela Murphy
Username:  bunki8@hotmail.com
Subject:  question 3
Date:  2003-02-13 10:00:17
Message Id:  4566
3. How does the cultural ideal of sport relate to the cultural ideal of women in society?

The cultural ideal of society is brought into sport by the way women are portrayed.
In sport the common thought that is put to the forefront and called upon when challenges are made to why there isn't more media coverage or more prize money or anything close to equal between the womens and mens sports is that women aren't as physically able to do these sports. This is quite annoying, for some of the women who train just like the men, to be able to compete with the men, during which time they develop *gasp* muscles as big as a man, they are referred to as freaks, or not females, and most certainly not role models. So who does the sports media think should be role models? Well, basketball players and soccer players and any one else who has these characteristics: skinny, pretty, married, and whatever else that doesn't make the world think that women are getting too powerful. Granted this isn't all the pictures out there, but they are the predominant one's.

Name:  Jennifer Levine
Username:  jalevine@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  relation of cultural ideals for sport and women in society
Date:  2003-02-13 15:47:49
Message Id:  4580
3. How does the cultural ideal of sport relate to the cultural ideal of women in society?

The cultural ideal of sport and the cultural ideal of women in society are not easily intertwined. There are many features of women athletes which are not in the cultural norm for women in society. The movie, A Hero for Daisy, shown in the Wesleyan University Gender and Sport course, shows female athlete, Chris Ernsts, overcoming barriers that existed. Chris Ernst was a female rower at Yale University. She told stories of inequality in the sport between the men's and women's team, in terms of equal facilities and equipment. She knew the only way to make a statement and have change instituted at the university was to make a immense non-destructive political statement. The crew team invited a New York Times journalist and photographer to attend their demonstration. They marched into the women's athletic heads department in their team uniforms. They formed into rows and completely undressed, showing the words Title IX written all over their bodies. After the demonstration made national news, Yale was very quick to reformat and show equality in the facilities and equipment for men's and women's athletics. Even thought this brought about change, Chris Ernst was considered a rebel, or trouble in the eye's of some people. The university and others believed this was not a statement or action that women should participate in society.
Later on in life Chris Ernst, went on to qualify for the Olympics in rowing. Due to her unbelievable muscular appearance, she was tested three times by the Olympic committee for gender. They did not believe that a female could develop such large muscles and have great athletic ability. This shows society's relentless denial of a women's ability to form such features by hard work and dedication and athletic. She was viewed as un-normal and manly.
There should be no double standards for men and women in society and sport. The cultural ideal of women in society as small framed, gentle, quiet and obedient is a mentality of a long time ago. A woman should be able to be an aggressive muscle machine in sports as well as men, without being judged. Furthermore, their sexuality should not be questioned by such actions. Also to make revolutionary breakthroughs in women's sports a woman should not be deemed "rebellious" to help make strides for her fellow athletes. No one would ever question a man who was trying to progress male sports. Just because a women is aggressive, muscular and determined in sports and life does not mean she can't be feminine, gentle, and caring at the same time. Until society can be open-minded about gender equality, on and off the field, many negative stereotypes and connotations will be associated with women in sports.

Name:  Corey Gittus
Username:  cgittus@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Body IMage -"A hero for daisy"
Date:  2003-02-13 16:03:14
Message Id:  4581
Hello all,
I just wanted to briefly discuss cultural ideals of women, how women are portrayed in the media, and gender roles and women as athletes. I am in the Wes gender and sport class. We did not watch National Velvet we did however watch "A Hero for Daisy" which is about a woman rower and her difficulties with sports, crew, college, and gender issues. She like many women athletes have to deal with constant scrutiny of body image. What is the perfect body for a woman vs. what is the perfect body image for an athlete? She was very muscular and society felt intimidated by her muscles and presence. I feel that the media has always tried to portray the woman athlete as still being very feminine and delicate. Until, recently the ideal body of a woman has always been small and frail. However, when the U.S. woman's soccer team one the championship and Brandy Chastain ripped off her tshirt millions of people noticed her six pack and rippling muscles. I feel that was a defining moment for the history of women's sports and body image. The media ate up the picture of Brandy and she was pictured on the cover of many magazines, in all the newspapers, and commercials. By showing the confidence of her muscular body she showed to women and men that it is ok to be muscular. Women should not be afraid to be muscular, it does not mean that they are more "manly" than men. It simply shows that they are confident and enjoy being fit. In "A Hero for Daisy" she is very confident with her body and is not scared to show it off. She stood up for her rights as a woman and as an athlete and should be an inspiration to all women and atheletes. The important thing for being a hero is not gender but rather attitude and determination.
Name:  Sunmin Lee
Username:  smlee@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Gender Neutral?
Date:  2003-02-13 18:18:36
Message Id:  4587
2. What role does gender play as enhancing the athletic image of women in sport? What influence, what difference, did the image of Velvet as being gender neutral ?and in fact trying to pass as a male jockey. What does this say about women in sport, women in male domains, and the cultural ideal of women? Is this applicable toady?

In the movie "National velvet," Velvet is often refered as a "little girl." The usuage of this term plays a significant role in the development of the movie. The first usuage of this term is to reinorce that Velvet is just a "little girl." Naive, not a full-grown woman yet, thus, it is acceptable to make a mistake or go a little beyond the pre-set gender boundary. The second usuage of the term is to let her realize she IS a girl, who will become a woman. The second usuage is to press social restrictions against her. Throughout the movie, these two different identities as a "little girl" are used to justify her actions. Velvet's mother says several times that a little girl needs to do this or that to justify what Velvet does. Also, at the end, people in England are generous for what Velvet does because she is a "little girl." Then, I want to ask, is a "little girl" gender neutral? I say that it is not the gender neutrality that kept Velvet from being criticized, but the ambiguity of her identity as a "little girl."

Name:  Richard Lee
Username:  rjlee@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Women on the web
Date:  2003-02-13 21:57:06
Message Id:  4593
Comparing the websites of women's sports with those of the men, I found surprising differences in how athletes are portrayed. There is a section at wnba.com called "This is Who I Am", which features pictures of women in their "everyday clothes". Yet most of the women are actually wearing lavish dresses, makeup, and jewelry. One is even wearing what a wedding dress and another is donning a tight leather suit. I doubt this is what they look like when they head to the grocery store. One of the players, Ticha Penicheiro, notes: "People...always see us sweating with a ponytail, they don't know how we look, and this is great promotion for the league and for myself and for the other athletes." What is wrong with seeing sweaty women with ponytails? Clearly there is pressure for female athletes to compensate for their athleticism by presenting a more feminine side.

Looking at the websites of other prominent women's sports—golf, tennis, and soccer—you find the same things. The LPGA website has a page featuring wedding pictures of recently married golfers. What is more feminine than the classic white wedding dress? Meanwhile, the WTA Tour has a section called "Off the Court", which includes an article on Justine Henin's upcoming marriage. The WUSA website has a similar page entitled "Off the Field". Meanwhile, men's sports coverage is purely focused on the sports. There is no mention of off the court activities, nor will you find any pictures of athletes wearing anything but their uniforms. For men, uniforms, muscles, and sweat are all a part of their masculinity, so there is no need to display another side of their lives.

I also think the reason for this discrepancy in the media is that female athletes aren't taken as seriously as their male counterparts. When the WNBA was established, my friends and I mocked it and thought of it as something of a joke. I'm more enlightened now, but there are obviously still many people who think this way. In general, women's sports don't carry the same clout as men's sports, and likewise women athletes don't have the same clout as men. Male athletes are simply athletes, while media coverage of female athletes portrays them as regular people who also happen to play sports. It will take time for these attitudes to change, but when they do, we will start to see more women make money comparable to men, and not as many women in wedding dresses.