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 3 questions
Date:  2003-02-16 16:10:21
Message Id:  4624
The class at Smith, Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan have viewed a few different films--all films have themes that connect to the larger questions of women and sport. Please respond to the questions based upon the films you have watched. Feel free to comment on the themes that link all of our classes together in the broader conversation about women, sport, Title IX, gender etc. Enjoy the conversation!!

1. What is the cultural ideal displayed by the main characters in each film? What norms/ideals of the time, do the characters challenge and expand?

2. What is the relationship between the main characters in the films and their message about women and sport? Has it had an impact on what is happening in women's sport today? How does it effect womne who are not engaged in sport?

3. How does the media - print - video/movie - web - portary women and sport? Is it helpful?

Name:  Rachel
Username:  rhochber@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  media
Date:  2003-02-19 12:23:06
Message Id:  4672
I think that print media and news media both tend to portray women athletes as if they are other than athletes; in their kitchens, wearing bikinis, and in general, pretty, sexy and feminine in the most traditional sense. Film is a little different; there are many films that portray women athletes playing their sports, getting sweaty, getting hurt, getting dirty. Love and Basketball was a good example of this--the main character was definitely portrayed as a strong and capable athlete, with many scenes on the court, and probably more scenes than the male lead. The differences in sports media coverage was also highlighted in Love and Basketball--there was a sequence of scenes on the court with both the female lead and the male lead, and during the men's team games, there were scouts and cheerleaders and media people everywhere, lots of noise and fans and such, while at the women's games there was a much smaller group of fans, no media, and no cheerleaders.
Name:  Rachel
Username:  rkahn@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 00:07:11
Message Id:  4694
While I think that Q respected Monica's basketball playing abilities from the beginning, it took him a while to realize that she took the sport as seriously as, and wanted to be considered as seriously as, a male basketball player. This was most evident when he wanted her to miss her curfew for him. Had she stayed with him, she would have given up her dream and possibly her career for him. Women often were, and still are, expected to give up their dreams to take care of their husbands. Monica challenges this cultural norm when she stays true to her own goals. Eventually Q challenges cultural norms too. The ending of the movie shows Q holding the baby while Monica plays in the WNBA. The cultural norm of the wife supporting the husband was turned upside down by this "role reversal."
Name:  Christen Gore
Username:  cgore@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 02:32:43
Message Id:  4695
Hi!! My Name is Christen from Bryn Mawr College.
The idea that the media misrepresents female athletes when it portrays them in pictures and commentaries is one that has recurred several times in our discussions. It seems that whenever a magazine features a female athlete we see her on the beach or in the kitchen but never as an athlete. A newspaper might run a story about how a female athlete is also a mother or a chef but hardly ever is a story written about the records or accomplishments of the female athlete.
Why is it that the media can ignore the woman as an athlete? Why don't the athletes become upset when they are photographed wearing almost, or in some cases, absolutely nothing? Why don't they insist that photo shoots include shots of them playing their actual sport? Yes, some of this is the fault of the media but some of it is also the fault of the athletes. No one is forcing them to put on a bathing suit and play in the surf. No one is forcing them to pose with only strategically placed soccer balls as a covering. The fact of the matter is that the photo layouts won't change until the female athletes insist that they be portrayed as athletes.
Name:  rachel
Username:  rkahn@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 16:15:36
Message Id:  4710
In response to Christen's comments, I think a fair amount of blame should be placed on the media and I agree that if the athletes refused to pose in little clothing, the exploitation would stop. However, the media is perhaps not so much to blame as the people who look at and buy the images. The media simply tries to make as much money as it can by producing what society will pay to see. If everyone stopped buying the images of soccer players in bathing suits, the media would stop trying to sell it.
Name:  Marta Sobur BMC'05
Username:  msobur@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 3
Date:  2003-02-20 17:37:28
Message Id:  4712
Hello everyone, I watched "Love and Basketball" this week I really enojyed this inspirational movie, full of important problems concerning the position of female basketball players in society, as well as the role of sport a women's life. I agree with Rachel that Monica challenged the cultural idea to a significant extent, by becoming a great professional player, however I am not quite sure if the same can be said about Q. The ending of the movie, which portrays him sitting with their baby and cheering for his wife, can be interpreted in two following way: either Q has accepted the fact that Monica is a better player than himself, and allowed her to lead the relationship with regard to sports (and, I assume this of course, but it could have been his way of agreeing with Monica pursuing her career in basketball), or, the second interpretation: Q did not essentially have to make any sacrifices or decisions, because his supposed role of the 'house-husband' was imposed on him by the unfortunate accident that disabeled him to become the star of American basketball. I think that Q would challenge the usual stereotype of male in sports, had he not experienced contusion and at the same time agreeded for Monica's pursuit of her careers, as she was obviously brilliant at it. What also interested me was the impact that the social/psychological conditions had upon Monica's deicision to quit playing basketball, when she realized that she loved and missed Q and that she was not inspired anymore to compete and win, as much as she was when he was by her side. I am in trouble trying to link this fact to the role of a strong female player, which I believe we would all agree Monica was. It makes me tentativly conclude that in the two of the films, we have watched, there is a repetition of a certain behavioral pattern, namely, how women, after having achieved a lot, still are able to prioritize the family higher than the sports. Such was the case with Mrs. Brown in the National Velvet, and now Monica, at the peak of her career decides to stop, if Q is no longer a part of her life. However, this makes me think (and be proud of the fact ;) that those two women were not only great at competing in sports and achieving great results, but they are also able to acknowledge their emotions and feelings, as Monica did, and make the 'sacrifice' of having a family, as Mrs. Brown did. Anyway, Ladies and Gentlemen, what are you thoughts about it?
Name:  Laurel Jackson
Username:  ljackson@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 18:10:58
Message Id:  4717
In Love and Basketball presents a picture of a successful female athelete and a fulfilled housewife. I found it interesting that the makers of the movie chose to display both of these woman as happy, complete individuals who want nothing more than to play basketball/to cook and clean for her family, respectively. I applaude them for not making one of these roles "wrong". Both Monica and her mother suffered hardships because of the choices they made in life, but they respected themselves, and in the end, each other.
At first, I was offended by the ending of the movie. It seemed to weaken the character of Monica to say that the game just wasn't the same if her man wasn't in her life. Why does she need both? Couldn't she have given up Q and still led a happy life? It was hard for me to accept that Monica needed Q. Afterall, she loved basketball before Q, why not after? Later, it occured to me that the movie is not completely dedicated to Monica. It's also about her relationship with Q. I remembered after Q's surgery he had confided to Monica that he was going back to school because apart from the fame, it wasn't fun anymore. Somehow, the fact that both Monica and Q were dependent on each other for fulfillment made it more palatable.
Name:  Laurel Jackson
Username:  ljackson@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 18:30:29
Message Id:  4719
After reading Rachel's and Christina's comments, I immediately thought of Anna Kournikova--the oh-so-beautful, untalented tennis player who seems to be continually in the media. Is she commended for her athletic ability? Rarely. She is in the spot light for one reason--her sex appeal. I know that women atheletes who pose scantily clad for magazines say that they are trying to draw attention to their sport. But the kind of attention they seek is the wrong kind of attention. It seems counterintuitive to try to attract the attention of people not interested in women's sports by presenting an image that is not concerned with women's sports. I am not suggesting that every woman who plays a sport is responsible for always being seen as athletic, but it would probably bring a welcome change to the objectification that comes when sexual inuendo is included.
Name:  Marla
Username:  mdmcconn@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  love and basketball
Date:  2003-02-20 18:40:03
Message Id:  4722
When I think of the ways in which women in sports are portrayed today, what strikes me most is the seemingly unavoidable ties between women as athletes and women as sexual beings. It seems that female atheletes are sensationalized as much for their athletic prowess as for their physical attractiveness, or lack thereof. For example, the female athletes that are portrayed in current advertisements conform (physically, at least) to the current American view of what is attractive, and therefore desirable; thin, muscular women in basketball jersies and short tennis skirts cavort across the screen in an attempt to convince the audience to buy the product that, presumably, assisted them in the process of becoming athletic and beautiful. However, I have yet to see a female power lifter in a commercial for skin cream or Gatorade. Apparently only certain female athletes are deemed commercially useful.
Name:  Christen Gore
Username:  cgore@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 18:43:19
Message Id:  4724
Hello!! My name is Christen from BMC.
If as Rachel says, some of the blame about how the media portrays women also lies with society, (I am not arguing this point just hypothesizing.) then the question becomes why does our society "buy into" only the sexy images of female athletes? Why can't a woman be both strong and feminine? What does this say about the society in which we live? Maybe there needs to be some sort of reeducation among sports fans, who seem to be mostly male?
Does the challenge the media presents to women athletes represent something more?
Are there still some barriers that women need to break through?
Name:  marla
Username:  mdmcconn@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2003-02-20 19:12:39
Message Id:  4733
With regard to Laurel Jackson's comment about Anna K. being untalented: I'm not sure that she actually is untalented, I think that she's just among the worst of the best of the WTA, which is nothing to sneeze at. I think that it's sad that all of the hype around her (and other good-looking sports stars) detracts from their perceived talent. It's funny that the media is so willing to thrust anyone into the limelight (athletes, single men and women willing to look for love on national TV a la Joe Millionaire and the Bachelorette), as long as (s)he fits certain physical criteria.
Name:  Mary W. Jayne
Username:  mjayne@smith.edu
Subject:  Love & Basketball
Date:  2003-02-21 21:05:26
Message Id:  4744
Hi Everyone:

I'm an older student at Smith, (an Ada Comstock Scholar, or "Ada"). My name's Mary and I loved the movie "Love & Basketball" because the film-makers tried to present a complex story on multiple levels. Many of the earlier comments have reflected this.

There was the story of Monica and Quincy -- kid neighbors/athletic rivals/high school crusaders in their chosen sport/then lovers/sparring lovers/spouses.

There was the story of Quincy's doomed family unit and of his role within his own nuclear family and the separate story of Monica's uneasy role within her nuclear family. These contrasted with each other in such an interesting way. Q modeled himself on his dad, eventually to his frustration and bitter disappointment. Monica strove to take the opposite path from her mother & sister and ultimately, you infer, made a comfortable peace with her chosen path in relation to the paths of her mom & sis.

There was the story of each individual, Monica & Q, in relation to her/his own trajectory in organized basketball. Two very different stories. The early, easy path for Quincy in high school & then college. The struggle for Monica in both arenas. Q dropped out of college to turn pro and was injured, all the while experiencing personal turmoil, due to family troubles. Monica sticks with college, then settles for European league basketball, just to keep playing.

Everyone who's commented so far seems a little uncomfortable with the "pat" ending of the story of Monica & Q as reunited lovers. Could real life ever be this neat & tidy? Each of the characters gets exactly what she/he wants? But you do feel happy for these two, nonetheless. The film-makers have done a great job of getting you to like both of the main characters enough to be willing to accept the perfect denouement. The story has moved along at a leisurely pace in order to accomplish this. The scenes with Monica & Q as children, as high school athletes, at the Prom, in college -- all lead slowly and carefully down this road toward a happy resolution. There is even time to quite fully develop most of the roles played by the various family members of the two main characters -- as well as those played by their respective team-mates, especially Monica's.

This really is a well-told story, that takes time to focus on issues in sport, as well as in love and family relationships. There are very few stereotypes. Most characters are well developed. (Perhaps Quincy's parents are exceptions to this, especially his dad.)

For me, the issue of race is not at the forefront of "Love & Basketball". I found the stories more human than particular to a racial group. I concluded that, if this was going to be a story of basketball stars in school & college, it made sense for the lead characters to be African-American. Race was never made an issue for the characters -- and it never seemed to me to be an issue either. Although Monica & Q were both obsessed with their sport, you felt as though they could have just as easily been tennis players or musicians or aspiring writers. They were both kids from families that had high aspirations for their children. It was as simple as that.

We're just starting "Blue Crush". I don't think these characters will be travelling as smooth a road.

Mary W. Jayne

Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 4 Questions
Date:  2003-02-22 09:34:36
Message Id:  4749
Please answer one of the three questions:

1. Is it advancement for women in sport, that the main character is the first woman on the cover of SURFING magazine? Why or why not?

2. (Same as week #1) What is the cultural ideal of women in sport? And how does it differ from men?

3. How does this film stereotype the main and supporting characters in this film?

Name:  Anna Crary
Username:  acrary@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Love and Basketball
Date:  2003-02-23 18:50:07
Message Id:  4767
I'm Anna, a junior at Smith College.
In terms of Monica in Love and Basketball, I think that her decisions to place basketball at the forefront of her life for the majority of the movie - putting it before her relationship with Quincy, making it the deciding factor in where she goes to college, and deciding not to stop laying post-college, but to move to Europe and continue her career- breaks the traditional female mold concerning their in involvement in sports - or, more appropriately - what used to be considered the traditional female role concerning sports. She truly made it her career, her life, and continued to do so even after she has a child,a s we see at the end of the film. I think that this representation of her placing basketball before many other things in her life was veyr tasteful and fair to her character. She is not depicted as selfish, or as a wayward female "who hasn't got her priorities straight." I think that this film's depiction of her in that way is uncommon from the way in which the media usually depict female athletes, i.e. women who neglect their dutiesd as wives, mothers, and women, in general.

Monica was also allowed to be seen as an athlete, unconcerned with projecting her femininity on the court while playing. While she did appear in her sports bra a good number of times - I had to wonder at that depiction, and whether it was a choice of the producers to make her more sexualized or make her more believeable as an athlete - the depiction of Moinca was always, first and foremost, as an athlete, not a female sex symbol. I think that this letting her be seen in warm-ups, in sandals, in tshirts and shorts, all teh time, is far and away from the typical depiction of female athletes in the media - film, paper, etc. Like I previously stated, while she is allowed to function as a feminine, sexual being, those two functions never seem to overwhelm her functionality as a superb athlete. I wish that more athletes could be represented in this way, both visually and characteristically. More of the ideas and thoughts of Venus and Serena and ANnika and ANna and less of them in their underwear. THe development of MOnica as a complete person, as an intense, thoughtful athlete, just lent more validation to her existence within the film. I feel that similar treatment towards other popular female athletes would result in our seeing them not as sex symbols or a good fantasy, but as complete, awe-inspiring people.

Name:  Liza Eckels
Username:  eeckels@wesleyan.edu
Subject:  Blue Crush
Date:  2003-02-23 22:43:58
Message Id:  4778
In the sport fo surfing, I feel like males and females can compete more directly. The males don't necessarily have any athletic advantages over the females. Because of this equity of ability, the males in the movie were very defensive and acted condescending towards the female surfers. Drew was always being a jerk to Anne Marie, because he felt threated by her surfing abilities. Deep down he knew that she was a better surfer than he was, so he thought that calling her a coward and other derogitory terms would put him above her in the hierarchy surfing subculture. The male surfers objectify the females, by calling them Barbies and picking on their "girliness" as if having any feminine qualities is detrimental to the female athlete.
Name:  emmi
Username:  econnoll@email.smith.edu
Subject:  women's role in sport
Date:  2003-02-23 23:31:56
Message Id:  4780
Monica challenges the stereotype of women in sports in the first scene of the movie, "Love and Basketball". The neighborhood boys allow her to join in their game without knowing that she is a girl, but when the discovery is made, Monica retorts with, "I can ball better than you." She then confidently states that she will be the first woman in the NBA and goes on to beat the boys before Q pushes her out of bounds.
Her mother, who declares why her daughter must play like a boy upon Monica getting hurt, contrasts her confident attitude. This contrast is carried out through the movie as Monica grows up and her mother is constantly portrayed as the voice against Monica's empowerment through sport. The examples are that Monica's mother is never present at her games, automatically thinks that every time Monica is upset, it is about basketball and only is seen in the movie when Monica are going to the Spring Dance. Monica defies this voice against women athletes throughout the movie and is portrayed as an athlete who loves her sport above all else until the end of the movie. She places basketball before everything else in her life until the end of the movie when she declares her need to be near her family and Quincy. I think that this is fair to her character because these are feelings that not only women athletes feel, but many men who play overseas. It is also typical for women athletes though to take a break in their careers to get married and have a child or fulfill their duties as a woman. This part in the movie seems to mirror typical media portrayal of women athletes.
Other than this example, Monica's feminine sexuality is not the focus of much of the movie. She is often shown in sweatpants, tee-shirts and sneakers. The only scenes of the movie where she is dressed up is for the dance and for her work in the bank. During her playing time at USC, she is often shown in her sports bra, even when she is talking to her coach. This was amazing to me because my coach won't even let us out of the locker room unless we are completely clothed and most times dressed alike or in team gear. As the article from the Journal of Sport & Social Issues states, "...(women in sport) ultimately these women were judged within the limitations of heterosexual desirability." This movie portrays Monica as a great athlete, dedicated and gifted in her sport, but it also makes sure that Monica is portrayed as a stereotypical woman who desires what "every" woman wants, a family as well as a career. In this way, her differences with her mother are solved because she has taken on the role that her mother portrays, but also one of her own.
I think that there is the possibility for a woman to be a dedicated athlete and also a stereotypical woman. I am more impressed with a female athlete who is proud to also be mother and wife than one who does not want to portray this side of their life. This also goes for men. Male athletes who are proud of their families and loving homes impress me. I think that this is a value not only for women, but for men as well.
Name:  Stefanie
Username:  skeenan@smith.edu
Subject:  Portrayal of women athletes by the media
Date:  2003-02-24 00:54:42
Message Id:  4782
Hi everyone,

My name is Stefanie and "Love and Basketball" is one of my all time favorite movies. This movie is drastically different from most any sports film just based on the fact that the main storyline is about a woman basketball player trying to succeed in a sports arena that has been previously dominated by men, and the only professional opportunities available were overseas. In this respect, the portrayal of a woman athlete differs from the typical layouts of women athletes seen in magazines, in ads, during interviews, etc. Usually women are seen in roles that are far from athletic or that have nothing to do with the sport or sports in which they are involved. Their feminine physique is the focus of any pictorial layout, whether that requires them to wear their typical athletic apparel or not (most often not). Yet in "Love in Basketball", the main character, Monica, refuses to wear anything that she can't shoot hoops in, such as a dress or heels. She is consistently portrayed in an athletic environment, sweating in her uniform during a game, or wearing some form of athletic apparel while hanging out. She is shown to work hard and play harder, a mantra typical of male athletes, and even once in a while she will lose her temper just like the "boys" do during their games. She is the epitome of a "tomboy" and yet does not identify herself as anything but a female basketball player.
However, within the movie, the focus on the female form is still prevalent. For example, many scenes are done inside the locker rooms where the athletes are changing and are typically conversing in nothing more than shorts and a sports bra. In this respect, the movie is showing that Monica, how ever good a basketball player she is or will become, is still a female. This is affirming her "femininity" even though she can trash talk with the boys, and possibly play just as well. Monica proves herself a great athlete, and yet still must be portrayed as a female through the modest, yet obvious, nudity of these scenes in order to reduce the threat of female athletes infringing in the world of male-dominated sports.