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
Date:  2002-02-14 12:53:58
Message Id:  982
Forum question for the second week of the Women and Sport in Film Course.
Professor Shelton will also post a question. Please respond to one of the three.

1) What are the boundaries or issues that prevent us from having an in depth discussion about race/class in sport or other fields where the field represents different values, stigmas, or is otherwise overshadowed by an historic culture of limited access.

2) How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

Name:  amse
Username:  amseh@yahoo.com
Subject:  question2 - nihil
Date:  2002-02-14 16:56:55
Message Id:  993
my background is nihil towards sports. that definitely affects my attitude towards sports. i find that my contributions to discussions are weak because i can't relate to the topic questions raised. i don't come from a world where sports have played any role. i didn't grow up watching sports, playing sports, or having anything to do with them until middle school when i joined the wrestling and volleyball teams. my resulting injury went untreated because my family believed that sports only brought on trouble and i deserved what i got.
i don't understand why people train in sports. i understand that abstract idea that it's like people who love to read and so read all the time -- only with athletics. i admit, i feel like a blind man in the land of the one-eyed giants. - amse
Name:  Emilie Kottenmeier
Username:  ekottenm@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Emilie Kottenmeier
Date:  2002-02-14 17:30:09
Message Id:  994
question 1:
I believe that the family background has a large influence on the role of sports in peoples lives. I come from a family that is not affluent in the realm of sport, and thusly have never had much interest in joining team sports. I have been on swim and track teams, but never on active team oriented sports like basketball or soccer. I believe that my family's lack of interest has influenced me. Similarly, friends of mine, who are devoted members of various teams, have families who love to watch sports games in general.
I also believe that ones socio-economic background plays a role in ones athletic activity. The child who has the financial resources to afford top gyms and trainors has an advantage over he who relys on the lesser quality. An individuals love and devotion to a sport (or any activity for that matter) is very seperate from his finances. However, it is plausible that the person who comes from a lower economic background will have more drive to excel at the sport, and like in the movie, believe that it is their ticket into the world.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Second Week's Response
Date:  2002-02-17 19:41:11
Message Id:  1017
As far as what limits the discussion of race, etc. in relation to sports in our class, I think it is largely due to experience, or lack thereof. For my part, my school was not very diverse, we had two ethnic groups - latino and white - which were about evenly slpit, and little to no representation of other ethnic groups. (My school was in Southern California.) I was on cross country and track, and on those teams there was no racial barrier or bias.

I think the impact of ethnic and/or social background on one's orientation towards sports really depends on each individual's situation and also which sport(s) we're talking about. For instance, it is much easier for someone of lower social class to participate in cross country or track because the only equipment you have to buy is a pair of shoes every few months. But even the shoes cost anywhere from $50-$120 for a good pair. I really think it depends on how much the individual wants to participate in sports, because I think they can always find a way to do it on their own until they have enough money to join a team.

An interesting gender conflict I remembered: One day, my friends (two girls) and I were doing a workout around the track, and there was a pair of guys who were doing a workout on the track, too. Our coach (male) yelled at the guys to "catch up with them", not specifying who the "them" was. One of the guys asked "Who? Those girls?" and the way he said "girls" implied that he sincerely doubted this. My friends and I were quite angered at the way he said that, and we couldn't waste our breath on a retort, but we were overjoyed (and surprised) when we heard our coach yell back at they guys: "Those girls are kicking your butts!" :-) My friends and I held a grudge on those guys for a while, but we had a new respect for our coach.

Name:  Liz Godshall
Username:  egodshal@email.smith.edu
Subject:  question 2
Date:  2002-02-18 14:17:57
Message Id:  1030
I agree with Laura that experience is one of the most important things leading into discussion about sport. I've always been exposed to individuals of races and classes different than my own participating in sports, so for me, it has never been an issue. I've never really engaged in discussion about it because everyone I grew up with felt the same. I've participated in many different sports, but would never consider myself much of an athlete. I have friends, however, who are dedicated athletes and are much more willing to discuss issues in sport. In this way, in addition to environment, interest also plays a role in starting discussion about race and class in sports.

I think that socio-economic background has a lot to do with one's affinity to different sports. Certain sports that might not require as much money to participate in might attract members of the lower classes. These sports would not only serve as a source of recreation, but also perhaps as a way out of their lower-class position in life.

Name:  Nicole Goulet
Username:  ngoulet@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Social Origins
Date:  2002-02-18 16:29:30
Message Id:  1034
A person's social origins affect their orientation towards sports, because some people never even get a chance to participate in certain sports because they have never been exposed to them. Skiing is a good example of how race and class are sometimes barriers. You do not see many people of different races or even different classes much on the ski slopes or at least participating in races. If you watch the skiing olympic events, you will notice this at once. Skiing is an expensive sport that is only in certain parts of the country. People from lower class societies just aren't exposed to skiing because it is expensive. Many people in lower classes or neighborhoods are exposed more to basketball and track. From talking to people who grew up in lower class cities, I learned that almost every neighborhood has a basketball court, even if it is a poor one. I think that for the most part, people are involved in sports that they are introduced to and exposed to at a young age.
Name:  Jess Justice
Username:  jljustic@mtholyoke.edu
Date:  2002-02-18 20:12:29
Message Id:  1046
I agree with Nicole's points that she brings up about socio-economic class and sports such as skiing. As we have discussed in class, there are certain sports which cater more to those living in an urban area and/or who are of a low socio-economic class: basketball and track for instance. After thinking about that for a while I realized that it seems that there is very little that we can do to change that! I think that people are trying. You often hear of benefactors going back to the urban high school they attended to show kids how to horseback ride or golf or row. But it doesn't happen nearly often enough to change the diversity of many sports.

In contrast there also seems to be the inverse problem with certain other sports like basketball. In "Hoop Dreams" it was written that 80% of the NBA is African-American and the ratio is similar in the WNBA. This is interesting considering in many towns across the country more and more upper-middle class girls are getting more involved with AAU programs. I wonder how the trend of diversity will go in the next twenty years in light of the recent successes and advances of US women's athletics (ie the Olympics).

Name:  Alia Preston
Username:  apreston@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 2
Date:  2002-02-18 20:27:06
Message Id:  1048
I think that a person's class (which is so closely tied with race) is one of the biggest things affecting a person's orientation toward sport and athletics in general. Historically, those with the most time to spend on leisure activities (which includes, but is not limited to sports) have been those in the higher classes within society. People who spend the preponderance of their day working hard labor are less likely to spend any time that they have playing a sport or watching a sporting event. Not only have women interested in sports had to overcome thier gender, but their class as well.

The problem of affording the proper equipment is a big one for people within the lower classes of our society and is one that persists today. Equipment for team sports may be easier to afford because they may be funded by the county or the city or another organization, but equipment individual sports may be impossible for some people to afford. (I used to figure skate in my younger days and that was a huge expense for my family, the extent of which I didn't realize at the time.) Still, there may be ways of getting around the problem of affording equipment.

Another problem that is compounded by the class structure is knowledge and exposure to certain sports that have traditionally been tied to the upper echelon of society. Knowledge about certain sports is not widely disseminated amongst all people; I doubt that very few people dealing with problems of poverty are given information about or opportunites to play polo.This problem is not only class based, but is also regional--you don't expect a winter sport competitor from a warm weather state.

Name:  Claire Reilly-Shapiro
Username:  creillys@email.smith.edu
Subject:  week 2
Date:  2002-02-18 22:24:17
Message Id:  1054
I agree with all that has been said about class-based barriers to sport. Experience in a sport is hard to acquire without any access to the sport. Many lower income families can not afford to buy private lessons in any sport for their children, or even to buy the equipment for group sports, although I think it is important to note that many of these families sacrifice other amenities to promote sports for their children because they see sports as a way out of their social class. This was evident in "Girl Fight", in which many of the male boxers were training so they could turn professional, make money, and move up the social ladder. The movie also showed, however, that families were willing to finance training for the son, but not the daughter. Diane wanted to take lessons for the love of the sport, but her father only supported Diane's brother's lessons, despite the fact that he wanted to be an artist. Art is not the most profitable career, and so the father did not support his son's true passion.
Name:  alisa
Username:  aalexand@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-19 01:41:31
Message Id:  1068
Many inner city children that live in poor neighborhoods dont attend schools that have money to buy team uniforms or equipment. So they are left to "cheaper" games ..court games such as basketball. many students coming from privilaged schools play the more "expensive" sports--schools that can afford to maintain the structure of the school and pay for the expensive teams in the school.
Name:  Amanda
Username:  ahrubik@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-19 02:41:22
Message Id:  1070
I think very often a person's social origins have an affect on their orientation toward sport in terms of availability and feasability. Yet, those same social origins also have a reverse affect on that orientation. How many lower class children raised in the inner city who grow up with the idea that sports like polo, skiing, or golf are sports played by "rich people" would in fact even want to associate themselves with that sport? In the film, Diana steps out of a gender role by choosing to learn to box, but she is obviously not the first woman to choose to do so (and thus, she is never confronted with the issue that women actually *can't* box, simply the opinion/belief that they shouldn't). However, she does not step outside of her social situation by choosing to play a sport, no matter how accesible, that is seen as an "upper-class" sport.
An entirely different issue relating to individual orientation toward sport has very often, in my opinion, to do not only with the social environment one is raised in, but also the views of the parents toward both sport and their child's involvement in it. Regardless of economic or social circumstances, many parents may feel that anything that is important to their child may be worth whatever the sacrifice necessary, no matter if it will lead to anything "glorious" in the end.
In my opinion, social origins thus become almost the most important determining factor in an individual's orientation toward sport. However, the individual's relationship to their social origins must also be taken into consideration.
Name:  Molly
Username:  mfinnega@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 2
Date:  2002-02-19 13:52:30
Message Id:  1076
When I entered elementary school, the time most kids usually start playing soccer or t-ball, or start doing track or swimming, my family lived twenty minutes away from the school. Both my parents worked full time, and there was no one to drive me. It really disappointed me then, because I could remember my brother playing soccer and baseball (we had lived closer ten) and I wanted to participate also. A lot of my other friends could do sports because their moms didn't work. In comparison, we weren't extremely poor, but it reminds me that even slight differences in class makes a big difference in terms of access. Even though i remained a very active child, the fact that I never had a lot of experience in organized sports as a young child made me feel less of an athlete, because into middle school there were all these other girls who had been playing and training for six years.
Name:  Jenn Sawyer
Username:  jssawyer@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-19 19:11:40
Message Id:  1082
There are of course a lot of factors involved when one thinks of access to a certain sport. As is clear from the discussion so far, there are certain sports which are just very hard to play if you're from a lower class, simply because of the cost, and possibly location. Then there's the stigma associated with the sports, as Amanda pointed out, with lower class people not wanting much to do with "upper-class sports." I can't help but think of the movie "The Cutting Edge", in which the main character is afraid to tell his family he's involved in figure skating (he used to be a hockey player). I think that's a case of class, but also of gender-bias. Altogether, it really just depends on the athelete, what they like, how hard they want to work, basically, how much they want to play whatever sport, which decides what they do. But one can't deny that if they've never heard of a sport, they're not going to play it...
Name:  delaina s.
Subject:  week 2
Date:  2002-02-19 22:57:32
Message Id:  1087
before i entered private a private high school, i had never heard of sports like lacrosse and field hockey. before i entered college, i had never heard of rugby. my family has made an economic transition from dirt poor, to stable, to mddle class, to upper middle class. i feel that it has only been through these economics advancements that i have had access to these "upper class" sports. both these institutions are concidered to be for the economically advantaged, and as a result, so are the sports endorced and organized.
to further illustrate my point, i played on a golf team for the public school i attended for one year. the women's team was comprised of about six underclasswomen who had never palyed before. i believe the lack of involvement and experience on the team was a result of the lower to middle income that dominated the town. the rich people played golf. we were the poor kids; and the country club members and other teams were all rich. we were stared at and teased because the two left handed players had to share a set of clubs. and it wasn't a complete set. as nearly everyone else has observed, the school's energy was focused on basketball and football. they were the cheap sports, and thus, popular.
Name:  Suzanne Skotheim
Username:  sskothei@smith.edu
Subject:  Second weeks comment
Date:  2002-02-20 10:56:23
Message Id:  1095
I believe that family backround and ethnic backround play a major role in how sport affects one's life. In certain races it may almost seem as it is expected for one to be good at a sport, for example, many African-Americas are expected to be good in basketball and therefore that expectation when they are younger will drive them into that sport. I have grown up in a very sports orientated family and have been taught all my life that sport is gender and race blind, and that anything is possible in sports. This is a very idealistic view of sports, and i know that my parents told me this because I was a little girl and they wanted me to think that any dream I had could come true, but in reality sport is very aware of gender and race. Although there are a few sports that are mixed with many different races, most sports have a dominate race, and society has its expectations.

I believe that economics plays a role too but it does all tie into race in my mind, and that is because in the ghettos we mainly see minority groups, and although we are aware that there are many caucasians who live in poor neighborhoods, we mostly hear about the poor minoities making it big through the sports world. The sports world is very aware of race but changes need to happen in society and then sports can also change. Although i do believe that sports can help start that change, which it has done in the past.

Name:  Stefani Bluestein
Username:  sblueste@email.smith.edu
Subject:  question 2
Date:  2002-02-20 14:20:23
Message Id:  1097
My name is Stefani Bluestein and I am a first year at Smith. I did not get to respond to the last question because I broke my arm last week and had surgery. I broke my arm skiing, and I believe (like others have said) that skiing has huge class barriers. Thinking of all the costs that go into skiing, it makes plenty of sense that lower class people aren't involved in the sport. The amount of money that goes into the gear, the lift ticket, and the housing is a ridiculous total. For many families the access to all those materials would be unheard of, especially lower class. Access to a track or field or basketball court is normal for most towns, allowing people in lower classes to be able to participate. Most people play the sports they excel in, and those sports are often the sports that they start to play during their adolescent years, that their families introduced them to.