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Women, Sport, and Film - Spring 2005 StudentPapers On Serendip

Connecting Themes in Women, Sport, and Film

Katie Eichhorn

All of the films we watched this semester in Women, Sport, and Film dealt with serious and important issues: race, class, cultural distinctions, the struggle for women to play sports, and how far women should go to improve their bodies. However, three films stood out as having some similarly constructed themes: Rocks with Wings, A Hero for Daisy, and Dare to Compete. These are all documentaries, and yet are all very different in their own ways. The theme that connects the three is that of motivation and drive to succeed.

Rocks with Wings is a documentary about the struggle of a high school basketball team on a New Mexico Navajo reservation to win the district championship with the help of a coach who would not let the girls accept defeat. The girls were used to losing games and accepted it as something they could not change. They had little motivation to succeed. A new coach, Jerry Richardson, entered the scene and pushed the girls harder than they had been pushed before. Jerry, an African American man, grew up in the South during forced integration. As a result, he had a strong will to succeed and do the best he could at whatever he put his mind to, whether it be academics or athletics. When he came to New Mexico to work with the Lady Chieftains, the girls had a hard time working with his personality. However, they were able to work through their differences and come together as a team, learning that they can win and being motivated enough to work hard and win the district championships. The reason the director chose to take on this project is fairly obvious: a losing team learns to have the motivation to win. The use of Navajo culture interspersed with the story of the team was an unusual new addition. The director, in mingling the team's story of victory with the culture of the Navajo people, gave us a glimpse of the Navajo way of life and how difficult it was for the girls to change. Many of the Navajo's interviewed said that the Navajo people were used to accepting defeat, and they were peaceful and did not like conflict. When these views are applied to basketball it is easy to see how the girls did not have the drive to win. As this is a documentary, the outcome was already decided. However, the director showed the final game in vivid detail, increasing the tension and making the victory more dramatic. This film was also interesting in that it did not compare the women's team to the men's team, accepting women playing sports unquestionably.

A Hero for Daisy is another documentary that looks at a team's will to succeed, but in a slightly different fashion. The Yale women's rowing team was sadly lacking in locker room facilities despite Title IX's enactment into legislation, forcing schools to equally fund women's and men's sports teams. Led by Chris Ernst, the women decided to force the Yale administration to listen to them. With reporters in the room, the women went into the athletic coordinator's office and stripped, showing off "Title IX" on their backs. Outraged, many Yale alums contacted the administration, many donating money to improve the women's locker room. This story focuses on these women's inability to accept defeat despite the administration ignoring their needs. They had the motivation to fight for what they wanted, and with this motivation were able to succeed. The story line focuses on Chris's life as a two time Olympian with an emphasis on her time at Yale and this event. The director used first hand accounts to make this event seem more real, and to show the audience how influential Chris was in the team's decision to protest their inequality.

Dare to Compete is the story of women's sports in America. In the nineteenth century Victorian era women are just beginning to take part in sports. However, it is looked down on because it is seen as harmful, having the ability to make a woman's uterus fall out (although no woman's uterus that has fallen out as a result of playing sports has ever been recorded). At first, women were seen as meek and diminutive, who should stay in the home and not venture out. Baby carriages were seen as a horrifying new invention because they allowed women with children greater freedom of movement. Sports were similarly seen as a threat because they gave women freedom as well. As time passed several influential women came to the forefront of women's sports proving that women can legitimately play sports (and well). The director uses real women's stories, often calling on first hand accounts, to emphasize the difficulty with which these women had to struggle to succeed. S/he uses documentary to tell the story of women in sports. There will never be an outcome to this story as women's sports will never end. This documentary ties in with the other films in that it showcases the motivation and drive to succeed the women have in their fight for equality in the realm of women's sports.

These three documentaries are all connected in that they deal with the issue of motivation and the importance of knowing how to fight to get what you want. In Rocks with Wings, the girls realize they have the ability of playing well and acquire the drive to win. In A Hero for Daisy the rowing team is fed up of their inequality and fight for their right to equal locker room facilities. In Dare to Compete women struggle for the right to play sports. Oftentimes, the mentality that one can achieve the seemingly impossible if one works hard enough is all that it takes to succeed.

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