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:  Anne Dalke
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Welcome!
Date:  2002-02-07 09:18:37
Message Id:  843
Welcome to forum #2!

I'm one of the co-teachers of this course, already introduced on an earlier page of this website as a member of the Bryn Mawr College English Department and co-ordinator of the College's Feminist and Gender Studies Program. I was a high school cheerleader, and have swum 20+ years for fitness (whenever I can find the pool open). Although I never bet (this a Quaker principle), I am proud to report a recent game of "cosmic bowling" (ten pins and NOT alone) with a life-time high score of 179.

I learned a lot from last night's video about the history of women's sport in this country, and found myself moved to tears several times by its evolution. Found myself moved to skepticism, also, thinking about the limits of the sort of liberal feminism that impelled the Title IX innovations, intended to give women access to a sports culture that might better (in line w/ a more radical form of feminism)...be renovated to be less...competitive...revenue-oriented...star-focused/spectator-driven, more focused on life-long fitness...etc. etc. etc.

I guess I'm returning, w/ these musings, to last night's discussion: can we re-define what it means to be an athlete, so it is a category you'd be willing to put yourself in? Are Bryn Mawr and Smith women loathe to call themselves "athletes" because doing so would call into question their seriousness as scholars?

I'm looking forward to your responses to these questions.

Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  forum question
Date:  2002-02-07 09:30:52
Message Id:  845
Women and Sport Film Course
February 6, 2002

History of Women's Sports Forum Question

1. write a brief bio so others in your forum may know something about you. Interests, major where you are from etc.

2. In the book, Women, Sport and Culture by Susan Birrel and Cheryl Cole they write:

"At the broadest level, the debate over Title IX and public policy has completely avoided questioning the sex-role polarization that sports creates and the long-held belief that sports is a masculine domain. Though social scientists and public policy makers are content to leave to philosophers and radical theorists any questions regarding the ultimate nature of the human experience, they do so at the cost of leaving a vacuum to be filled by the dominant cultural and institutional definitions that have been shaped by men's values, men's understandings of the world, and men's experiences. Women's alienation from sport, their indifference to it, and their reluctance to enter it stem in large measure from the fact that, as it has existed historically, what sport celebrated, what sport offered, what sport demanded, what sport rewarded do not reflect much of women's experience of the world"

Please comment.

Name:  Joan Steiner
Username:  jsteiner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  First Class Session
Date:  2002-02-07 16:23:35
Message Id:  855
Hello! My name is Joan, I'm 21 years old and a Political Science Major at Bryn Mawr. These are some of the sports I have participated in throughout the span of my short little life: gymnastics, swimming, horseback riding, tennis, did cross country, wrestling, and track in Middle and High School. I had to stop running because it was wrecking havoc on my shins and achilles tendons. Right now I am a big Fitness enthusiast and am going to be certified as a personal trainer. I am hoping that in the next year or two to compete in a Fitness or Body Building contest.

I consider myself an athlete but perhaps not in a traditional sense. To an extent some people will accept Fitness and Body Building as an athletic sport since there is some competition involved. I think overall people are biased about the terms "athlete" and "sport", limiting themselves to what the mainstream lables a "sport" or an "athlete". Then again, doesn't that dilhemma seem to plague everyone and everything in almost every aspect!

I think that sports in general are still being "genderized" because many people do not want to recognize the Jungian shadow that still haunts us from years past.

Overall I find that women in general are not encouraged enough to do sports. Not only by society but by important role models like their mothers, siblings, friends, extended family, and many of the more highly profiled female role models. Unfortunately, even in this day in age each woman has to take it upon herself to take that first step and not be worried about how others will perceive her as an athlete. Many women are uncomfortable to participate or become interested in sports for fear of de-feminising themselves or just do not see any personal benefit for themselves to get interested or participate in sports.

In the rhelm of female body building there has been a shift in the judging standards. It has been said that the judges are now looking for a more "feminine look" in the competitors, and not have as much size and definition as in previous contests in years past.

One reason this was implemented was to attempt in making female bodybuilding more popular with spectators and perhaps get more contestants. I find many female bodybuilders and fitness contestants do not get the credit and admiration they deserve. To an extent they are looked at as freaks simply because they have put a lot of hard work into building up their muscles, and their effort is seen as not a big really a big deal. Again, I feel as though I really am taking it upon myself to persure this. My mother has been very supportive and encouraging, but I still get looks of concern from my extended family, especially the females.

Overall, I find that there is a great lack of understanding for women when it comes to sports and athletics and improving their health. Title IX opened many doors for us, but now we as women have to help and encourage more women to walk through them.

Name:  Faith
Username:  fwassman@email.smith.edu
Date:  2002-02-08 14:11:46
Message Id:  866
1. Hello! My name is Faith Wassmann, and I am a sophomore at Smith College. I transfered into Smith this semester from Northeastern Univeristy. Right now I am undeclared as far as any major goes, but I'm leaning towards being a psych major right now. We'll see... I took part in club gymnastics from about age 5 up until I was 16, but then injuries, coaching problems, and the politics of the sport got in the way and I stopped competing and started coaching. As a Senior in high school I tried diving, but I didn't like it too much.

2. About Title IX, I think that we are still in the progressive stages. Title IX has opened a huge door for women but I still feel we have a long ways to go. Just because Title IX states that, "no person... on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination..." does not guarantee that everyone will drop what they are doing to accododate this rule.

I do find it interesting how in some sports women fight for equality, and in other sports they accept the conditions. In gymnastics, mens' gymnastics has six events, and womens' gymnastics has four. Vault and floor overlap, the goal for a woman competing on floor is to combine her grace and elegance with her acrobatic ability. Her routine is done to music and she dances between each acrobatic move. Men on the other hand do not perform to music and their routine is built around showing power and strength. Men include static strength holds and are not concerned with the fluency of movement between skills. Men's events (i.e. still rings) are all based on strength and power, while women are expected to be "light on their feet" and elegant. But, these differences are accepted by men and women. Why is this?

I disagree with the reasons why women may not participate in sport. In the past that MAY have been true, but only because society taught women to believe such things. Today, I believe that women choose not to participate because there are other options for them. Also, to participate in sports at any level, there must be a genuine interest in the sport and a time commitment. You have to be happy with what you are doing in order to pursue it, and with all the other options for women out there, it is just as likely to be interested in playing a musical instrument as participating in soccer.

Name:  Katie Lefebvre
Username:  klefebvr@smith.edu
Subject:  forum questions
Date:  2002-02-08 16:59:50
Message Id:  872
1. Hi! My name is Katie Lefebvre and I am a senior biology major at Smith College. I am orginally from Smithfield, RI--not too far away from Northampton. I played field hockey and squash during both my first and sophomore years. I love sports--watching them, learning about them, and playing them. It has always been a dream of mine to one day coach my high school's field hockey team. I am excited about the material we will be covering in this class and look forward to meeting everyone through this forum!

2. I do believe that, to some extent, sports lead to sex-role polarization, but that it definitely differs according to the particular sport. I feel that in sports like tennis, track, and swimming, attitudes toward female participants are much like those toward males. Just look at the Williams sisters--they are respected by men and women alike. I don't think there is one father alive who wouldn't be absolutely thrilled that his daughter(s) were extremely athletic tennis stars. Flo Jo and Jackie Joyner Kersey are two other examples of this point. I am not sure how to phrase it eloquently, but what I'm trying to say is that these women all have achieved as much muscularity and play as aggressively as any of the men in their sport and I do not think that they have had to compromise their sexuality.
On the other hand, I do feel that a woman competing in, say, wrestling or football, is often viewed as "butch" or masculine, right off the batt. I agree that a young girl who dreams of one day playing one of these sports may very well be deterred from achieving her goal and, if she does get to play, may be alienated amongst her presumably mostly masculine peers.
Overall, I would have to say I agree to a certain extent that women have been and continue to be alienated from and thus indifferent towards or reluctant to play sports. Predominately in team sports, where aggressiveness is often necessary, women are commonly frowned upon for being too "unladylike." Oppositely, when participating in such individual sports as swimming or tennis, where the traditional male camaraderie is not threatened or imposed upon, both men and women tend to view female athleticism a little more objectively. As long as there is no body-to-body contact, there doesn't seem to be a problem.
I don't think that is acceptable for a young girl or woman to claim that sports are not available to her, because they are. If we sit back and remain passive, settling for participation in only those sports which have been deemed "socially acceptable", then all the work of the women who came before us if for nothing. Instead, we must continue to push for MORE, using Title IX as our driving force. We need to spend more time teaching young girls that it is most important to believe in what you truly want to do and to not be squeezed into narrowly defined categories that were created in large part by the ignorant. The more women enter college and professional team sports, the more it will have to be accepted.

Name:  Sarah Cushwa
Username:  scushwa@smith.edu
Subject:  forum question
Date:  2002-02-09 10:12:30
Message Id:  878
1. Hey guys. My name is Sarah Cushwa and I am a junior at Smith. I am majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in Women's Studies. I am from Sheffield, MA- a tiny little town in the Berkshires that is famous for its antique stores (thrilling, huh?). I play soccer for Smith, and I love it. Its challenging yet very envigorating. In high school I played three varsity sports- soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Currently, I am taking classes so I can teach children how to swim this summer.
In terms of putting myself in the "category" of athlete, I have never been afraid or ashamed to do this. In fact, I wear my Smith soccer gear proudly, and often identify myself as a soccer player. Women in my house call me "soccer Sarah". I will admit that sometimes I feel in the minority when I am in my house, since I am one of few athletes there. In terms of calling into question my seriousness as a scholar, I often find that soccer provides a wonderful outlet from academics. I believe that if I didn't have to go to practice or a game everyday, I would find myself sitting in my room all the time! What kind of fun would that be? Of course it is not easy to balance a demanding course load with the pressures of competition, but I believe that any one with a disciplined mind can accomplish this task. However, I have encountered many women at Smith that chose not to play a sport because they worried about their academic work.
I agree with Birrel and Cole's statement. Providing equal opportunity for men and women in sport on paper is one thing, but combatting a history of long time discrimination and stigmas is quite another. I am curious as to what the authors mean by , "the women's experience of the world". I am not sure that in sports, there necessarily has to be two different experiences. However, I know that this is an idealistic idea. For instance, men's lacrosse has full contact, like football (helmets and shoulder pads and all!), whereas in women's lacrosse there are strict rules. How many people do you know that watch men's ice skating or gymnastics? Very few I bet. It seems ridiculous to me to make distinctions on the basis of gender. I think this country needs more role models such as Venus and Serena Williams, Mia Hamm and Keri Straug, that are not afriad to exhbit both masculine and feminine qualities. In this way, the gender distinctions will be lessened.
Name:  Deepti Menghani
Username:  dmenghan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Entry 1
Date:  2002-02-09 23:09:04
Message Id:  886
Hey, my name is Deepti Menghani. I am a sophomore and majoring in math at Bryn Mawr. I am from New York. An athlete is someone who trains themselves physically and mentally during the game and after the game. Even though the athlete competes against other competitors, the real competition is themselves. They must train themselves day and night to win the gold. Dedication is the key to win the game against yourself. I don not think Bryn Mawr and Smith girls loathe to call themselves athletes becasue of their seriousness as scholars. BMC girls and Smith girls would call themselves athletes if their schools did not assign a heavy workload. Many of these students did participate in sports during high school. However, now these students have no time to dedicate themselves to sports. The answer to this problem is these colleges should assign less work. Then BMC and Smith girls would have teams.
Name:  Monica Locsin
Username:  mlocsin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Forum Question
Date:  2002-02-09 23:39:20
Message Id:  887
1.) Hi everyone! My name is Monica Locsin and I am a freshman at Bryn Mawr College. I am from the Philippines and I plan on majoring in Communications or Political Science. I did not participate in any team sports in High School however, my hobbies are playing sports such as badminton and tennis. I enjoy writing, travelling and making new friends. I like this class and it is great to have the opportunity to communicate with students from Smith College. The discussion in class about the definition of an athlete made me think of what an athlete really is. I am not a sporty person but I do enjoy playing some sports for fun, but does this consider me an athlete? In class, many people considered individuals having medals or individuals who participated in competitions as athletes. To be honest, that is what I thought too. But now, my views have changed. I think that being an athelete does not have much to do with competition and winning medals, but it does have to do with trying to be healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. So I do consider myself an athlete to an extent.

2.) Title IX has made women have the opportunity to participate in sports that they were not allowed to play. This enabled women to have a voice in sports and it also strengthened the female sex. Because of this, women strived even harder to be better than men. Just because Title IX was enforced, this does not mean that there is that much equality in women's sports today. I think that because of how times have changed, women have been more accepted. In today's society, inequality is still present, however women have proved that they can succeed in the sporting world just as well as their counterparts. I truly admire the women who fought for their right to be treated equally especially during the periods of time where men and women were not treated equally. I don't like how women had to be sophisticated and very conservative to an extent where they could not participate in sports that they wanted to play. I believe that everyone has the right to participate in anything redarding their gender and class, race
and sexual orientation.

Name:  AK
Username:  AK
Subject:  Forum questions
Date:  2002-02-10 20:52:27
Message Id:  903
1. Hi, my name is AK. I am a sophomore math major at Bryn Mawr College. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and attended high school in Westport, CT. Ther were not many athletic opportunities growing up in the city, especially for girls. Like many of my friends, I began dancing at a young age and continued through my freshman year in high school. I have played a couple years of basketball and competed for a few years in tennis, however, I do not consider myself an athlete in the traditional sense. While dance was an integral part of my life for many years, I never assumed dance to be a sport, although I have often heard arguements in support of dancers who are althetes.

2. For those who do believe dance is just as much a sport as basketball and tennis, the "long-held belief that sports is a masculine domain" falls short of the broadest definition of sports. While sports have historically been a male dominated field of interest, there are those activities that have been soley associated with women, such as dance. Therefore, while the arguement made in favor of Title IX is understandable and solid, there is an aspect of sports that is overlooked as female-dominated.

Name:  Maggie
Username:  mscottwe@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-11 03:25:26
Message Id:  913
Hi, I'm Maggie and I'm a freshman at Bryn Mawr. I played basketball from third grade until my junior year of high school and volleyball from fifth grade to my senior year. I also took horse riding lessons for six years, played two years of softball, and I have always liked to run but I could never run cross country because of volleyball season. While I still work out and love sports, I do not consider myself an athlete because I am not competing. I obviously haven't declared a major, but I know that I want to be an author; the plan right now is to be a history major and concentrate in creative writing.

I really was moved be the documentary on Wednesday, I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes when it talked about the heroic women who made it possible for us to enjoy sports the way we do. I question Birrel and Cole's description of women being alienated from sports. My experience was anything but alienation or reluctance, and although my mom can't catch to save her life, I assumed it was just the era in which she grew up. Certainly, there aren't lots of female linebackers, but remember the immense popularity the women's soccer team enjoyed? Soccer is a demanding and grueling sport, and I remember when I watched their games I felt like I had missed my calling because you could really hit people in soccer and not worry about fouling out. They say also that sports have not reflected women's experiences in the world. Perhaps I am interpreting the comment too literally, but I don't think that sports reflect anyone's real experiences in the world, especially not anymore. Sports would not be as fun or popular if they were similar to our every day experiences. My high school only managed to abide by Title IX by counting every different type of cheerleading as a different sport. So although it has been passed, and is for the most part enforced and accepted, there are clearly ways around it. I also feel strongly that women at Bryn Mawr and Smith are no more or less likely to call themselves athletes because of emphasis on academics at our colleges. I always did better in school when I was playing a sport because I was forced to do my work and regulate my time. The women at these schools who play sports would be just as proud to call themselves as athletes as more of us were in high school. I think it is natural for there to be a drop off of the girls who play competetive sports in college. College is another level of skill and time commitment that some of us may not able to handle.

Name:  Sarah Harger
Username:  sharger@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-11 22:36:08
Message Id:  933
Hi, my name is Sarah Harger and I'm a senior at Bryn Mawr, majoring in French and political science. I'm from Worcester, Massachusetts, and I almost went to Smith, so this is really cool for me. I did some sports in middle school and high school but nothing organized in college. Film and gender have alwasy been two of my interests, and I need one more PE credit to get out on time, so that's why I'm here.

I'm curious to find out when Birrel and Cole wrote their book--what alienation from sport? What indifference and reluctance? Last night the women's snowboarding halfpipe was on TV, and it drew just as many viewers in my dorm as the men's tonight did. I see women entering the fitness/ sport arena with enthusiasm. Even if they begin working out or playing a sport because their parents push them to or in order to lose weight, the women who stick with it do so because they want to and are dedicated.

Finally, I think defining yourself as an athlete or not is a personal choice, sort of like calling yourself a feminist. It's not a label that anyone can put on another person without risking inaccuracy and superficiality.

Name:  Kerry Flanagan
Username:  kflanaga@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  forum questions
Date:  2002-02-12 23:51:34
Message Id:  955
Hi, my name is Kerry Flanagan and I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College. I plan to major in English with a possible Psychology minor. I'm orginally from outside of Baltimore, but later moved to Tampa, Florida. I horseback rode from the ages of 6 to 14, and was a cheerleader for four years in high school.

In terms of Title IX, I believe that though no one can be excluded from any sport based on gender, certain prejudices in our society still exist in terms of men vs. women sports. Though both are supposedly equal now, male sports still seem to garner more interest as a whole. Though I was deeply moved by the video we watched last Wednesday, I can't deny that I get more of a rush and am more excited by watching an nba game than a wnba game. Though i am proud and inspired by women in professional sports, I feel that in today's society things can be supposedly "equal", but without the backing of the interest of the society as a whole, male and female will never truly seem equal in nature.

Name:  Jen Prince
Username:  jprince@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-13 02:17:15
Message Id:  957
Hey, I am a sophmore from Manhattan. I'm undecided in terms of my major(waiting until the last minute). I played on varsity tennis, softball, and basketball in all four years of highschool. I am not on any of the Bryn Mawr teams because the time committment is entirely too great.

In terms of this weeks question, I too believe that although we have achieved a great victory with Title IX, men and women's athletic programs - collegiate and otherwise - will never be seen in the same light. I think this may be in part because women are not ecouraged to develope a career in sports. It is true that we have the WNBA, etc., but the money is not there for the women like it is for the male athletes. For example, most of the women in the WNBA hold down a regular job during off season. Most of these women do not have the luxury to just take a vacation because of money.

Name:  Sarah Welsh
Username:  swelsh@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Forum questions
Date:  2002-02-13 02:35:59
Message Id:  958
Hi, my name is Sarah Welsh. I am currently a junior at Bryn Mawr College and I am originally from Yorktown, VA. I'm majoring in French and Chemistry and I horseback rode throughout middle school and highschool.

I found that the video was extremely interesting, but am sad to say that I hadn't previously heard of the majority of the women that the video focused on. I think that the main reason that I had not previously heard of most of the women in the video is that despite Title IX, Americans in general don't consider women's sports to be as exciting as men's. Many people still believe that women have less skill and less physical prowess. I remember being shocked and amused that people believed even until the 60's that a woman's uterus would fall out if she over-exerted herself. However, I believe that this line of thinking still exists in less extreme forms. There is still a general belief that women should not be "hurting themselves." For example, when one looks at the differences in rules between men's lacrosse and women's lacrosse. I think that we have come a long way since Title IX, but we still have a long way to go yet.

Name:  Trish Gould
Username:  tgould@smith.edu
Date:  2002-02-13 14:09:01
Message Id:  962
Hi! I'm Trish, a sophomore at Smith majoring and Psychology and considering a minor in ESS (who knows?). I started taking karate in first grade and continued in 2 different styles until the end of high school when I was forced to stop training because of multiple serious injuries. I was also the captain of the tennis team at my high school--mind you this doesn't mean I play tennis well at all :)I live in the inner city and I was the best they had, and I had fun with it.
As far as Title IX goes, I do believe that it opened the door for many white women athletes, yet whether they chose to walk through the door is their own choice. Here's a personal example..when I was six and saw those guys training at the karate school, I knew that I wanted to do what they were doing. The problem was there were no other women in the school yet at all. Not only would I be one of the youngest students he had, but the first girl. BUT, I went ahead with it anyway. After a few months of other girls seeing me compete in tournaments against their brothers, they started taking lessons. One mother told me once that the only reason her daughter joined was because she saw that if I could stand up to those guys in the class, she knew she could too.
Maybe all girls out there need is a little tap in the right direction.
Name:  Jim Pike
Username:  jpike@student.umass.edu
Subject:  why i love sports
Date:  2002-02-14 23:05:34
Message Id:  996
Hello my name is Jim Pike I am from Los Angeles and I am a junior at UMass and I love sports. What I love most about sports is that it gives people a chance to bond in my case my I dad and I grew really close by play, watching and talking about sports. Perhaps the most amizing thing i witnessed was when the Lakers won the championship (woohoo) and a city that had become so devied between black and white due to things like Rondey King and O.J. for three months came together to watch basketball.