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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(See Archive for earlier postings)

Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-14 12:54:51
Message Id:  983
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:  Monica Locsin
Username:  mlocsin@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Forum Question: Week 2
Date:  2002-02-14 21:41:37
Message Id:  995
) How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

I thought that Girl Fight was an excellent movie. It was enjoyable and at the same time it made me think about being a woman. I have to admit that it isn't easy being a woman sometimes as seen in the movie Girl Fight. The leading actress struggled to be accepted as a woman boxer. It was a tough fight for her, but she made it! It is sad to say that until today women are still put through these types of situations. Being a woman isn't easy because there are things that women are thought of being uncapable to do. However, in reality there are just as good as men. This movie focused more on class and gender in my opinion. Yes, there were issues that probably encircled around race/ethnicity. The woman in Girl Fight came from a low class family and grew up with her father and no mother. Having no mother figure terribly bothered her and that is what I think made her a strong person because she knew that she had to make it in this world without no mother. Being in a family that is tight in income, she had to find money and actually got some from her father without telling him. To fulfill her dream of being a boxer, she had to do this. The major issue was being a woman. She was the only woman training in the gym with all the male boxers. At first, she was looked down upon but when she proved them wrong, they could not say anything. All these factors she had to go through affected her orientation towards sport. In the end, this even drove her to be better than everyone else.

Name:  Celeste
Username:  ccavines@smith.edu
Date:  2002-02-18 06:33:11
Message Id:  1023
How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

I would have to say that people are geared more towards sports by many factors although race, class and gender all play a part. Class can limit what sports are available to you fincially if you are coming from the lower class status. Sports like high level tennis, soccer, etc that require coaching, travel and equipment are often too expensive for many people. One of the articles talked about inner city kids not having access to soccer, lacross and crew because there were no areas for fields where they could play. THat is going to orient kids away from those kinds of sports and more towards basketball and track, things that are cheap and easy to find in their neighborhoods. Unfortunatly that is where race also comes in because there are a lot of minorities that don't have access to all kinds of sports.
Being a woman also will orient you to different kinds of sports than men and vice versa. Not many women play football or wrestle, or box. At the same time not many men choose to ice skate, do gymnastics or ballet. THere are always acceptions to the rule but for a lot of sports there is a definate gender norm.

Name:  Maggie
Username:  mscottwe@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-18 10:50:11
Message Id:  1024
2) How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

I think that a person's social origins affect how likely they are to participate in sports, and also what spots they will play. However, I feel that there are other things that could influence their participation more. I think that if kids are not encouraged to join teams, to run, or to be active when they are young, then they are less likely to ever play a sport. This is regardless or class or race or gender. Although kids in poor school districts will have less sports to choose from, worse facilities, and less involved coaches than upper class districts. Also, kids who have to work after school, either to help the family or to save money for their own future have less time to spend practicing a sport. While people of all backgrounds live in poor neighborhoods and go to below average schools, perhaps minorities are more likely to see sports as 'their ticket out', and I think that guys definitely have more of a tendency to expect sports to take them somewhere in life. Girls are probably less likely than guys are to just randomly decide to play a sport, and also less inclined to see it as a future career. But I think that this gap is closing every day, with more and more women athlete role models for young girls.

Name:  AK
Username:  AK
Subject:  Forum Question 2
Date:  2002-02-18 11:02:33
Message Id:  1025
How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

There are many ways in which a person's social origins affect their orientation towards sport. Class is a large determinant. Many sports, such as horseback riding, tennis, and crew, require a great deal of money in order to participate due to the materials and facilities needed. Without the proper finiancial resources, one cannot excell in these sports. Likewise, goegraphical location plays a role in one's ability to participate in sports. For example, one will find many more stables in the suburbs and country than in a city, while coastal states have more crew facilities than the midwest.
One's family and community are also factors in one's orientation towards sports. One is more likely to participate in any given sport if one has siblings/parents/close friends who also play that sport. Take the movie Girl Fight for example. The lead actress, while predisposed to fighting/boxing, would not have begun boxing had her brother not been enrolled in the classes he was taking. For her, the exposure was already there. The same goes for many other sports.
Finally, gender, as well as race and ethinicity, are all factors in the orientation of certain people to certain sports. The media plays upon those sports that are most popular with the viewing audience. So, when a basketball game comes on, most people are not suprised to see that the majority of players are black, while gymnasts are most likely assumed to be women. With this constant stream of visual representation, anyone who strays from "the norm" is considered different or radical.

Name:  Faith
Username:  fwassman@email.smith.edu
Date:  2002-02-18 17:30:35
Message Id:  1037
How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

I think that a person's social origins are involved in almost every aspect of the sport that you play. First of all, your social class plays a huge part in which sports you are able to participate in. Sports such as figure skating that require a personal coach, fancy dresses for competing, skates and then additional costs like ballet lessons and getting skate blades sharpened every week, can add up very quickly. On the other hand, sports like basketball don't require much to practice with, just a hoop, ball and a good pair of shoes.

Your race/ethinicty also play a large role in the sports that you decide to participate in. Our society has stereotypes about which sports are suitable for different racial backround even though no one comes out to explicitly say so, but we all know that those stereotypse exist. With that in mind, racial backround influences which sports you choose to persue. Racial/ethnic stereotypes can also help a person once in a while. In gymnastics, there is the stereotype that all Russians and Romanians are the "elite" in the sport. This type of steroetype can work in favor for the athletes and can sometimes give them the edge coming into a competition.

The final image of the film "Girlfight" leaves us with many questions. Will both Diana and Adrian continue to box? Can boxing be their ticket out of the projects? How was Diana transformed by the sport of boxing?

I think that both Diana and Adiran will continue to box, but for different reasons. I think that Diana will continue because boxing is almost a necessity to her now. It's a way that she can vent her anger, makes her feel good about herself, and in a way rebel against what other girls her age are doing. For Adrian, I think that he will continue to box because he still dreams that boxing is his "way out". He also doesn't have anything else to fall back on. The movie portrayed Tiny as being a very smart character, and that when he wasn't boxing he was doing something worthwhile with his time. Adrian doesn't have anything to fall back on, boxing is his life. Whether he makes it out of the projects or not is debatable, but I think he will continue to try. For Diana, I think that boxing could be her ticket to a new life. Women in the sport of boxing was still new to everyone, and with Diana being as good as she was, it could bring her a lot of attention. Throughout the movie you could see Diana being transformed by her training. Her shoulders began to broaden and you could see muscle definition. But boxing transformed her metnally as well. I thought that she was able to channel her anger and frusteration into a punching bag rather than physically hitting someone who upsets her.

Name:  Sarah
Username:  scushwa@smith.edu
Subject:  forum question for week #2
Date:  2002-02-18 19:43:02
Message Id:  1042
How does a person's social origins (race/ethnicity, class, gender, etc.) affect their orientation towards sport?

Wow. This is a packed question. In terms of race/ethnicity, I believe that there are certain sports that are definatley dominated by a certain ethnicity. For instance, figure skating seems to me to be a predominantly white sport (I can only think of one black figure skater-Suria Bonely, whom the media focused on for her "unconventional" nature), boxing seems to be a predominantly hispanic sport and football seems to be a predominantly African-American sport. In my opinion, those who are not in the majority of the participants of a certain sport will tend to feel alienated, fear that people will "look at them twice" (as was the case for Ms. Johnson, the only black rower on her college crew team)or categorize them as the "token minority". The same is true with gender. Many sports have gender norms. For instance, figure skating, gymnastics and equestrian are "girl oriented". In addition to dealing with being in a major minority,males in these sports have their masculinity and sexuality constantly challenged. On the reverse side, sports such as boxing and football are more "guy oriented". Diana from Girlfight proved to be an inspiration for female athletes because she was not intimidated or broken down by the fact that she was practically the only female in the sport of boxing. In terms of class, again there are norms. Sports such as figure skating, equestrian, tennis and golf are generally viewed as more "upscale" sports, meaning the majority of their participants are from the upper middle and upper class. This is probably because they require expensive equipment or practice places that are not affordable or accessible to a working class crowd. As Girlfight proved, sports such as boxing are dominated by those of a lower class, who often view it as their "ticket out"- a form of upward mobility per say.

Name:  Joan Steiner
Username:  jsteiner@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Social Class and Sports
Date:  2002-02-18 19:46:57
Message Id:  1043
I think Political Correctness is a limiting factor in having an open discussion about Social Class and sports. Many of you talk about how cost and access hinder those of lower socio-economic class from participating in many sports. While this is true, some sports have developed into a sort of label for people. While there is always exceptions to rules, again as a society we feel restricted in talking about this because we don't like to label. So I just want to say that by simply calling a spade and spade, it does not necessarily always have to be a spade.

In a way I am sorry to say that the sport of boxing has always been prevelant to the lower classes of American Society. While I am not saying that the mentioned ethnic groups are or were truly the lower classes of America, that is where the majority of them stood or stand today. If you think back, earlier in the century it was Irish and Italians who were dominant in the sport. Later on in the years Blacks made their pressence strong in boxing, and now Latinos make up a good number of contendors.

And even those sports that are out of reach to most people of lower socio-economic class, even if given the opportunity to participate in them, such as equestrian, crew, or golf, may likely decide not to for fear of being looked upon as selling out or abandoning their roots.

Name:  Lauren Holway
Username:  lwholway@mtholyoke.edu
Date:  2002-02-18 23:15:46
Message Id:  1058
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.

I missed last week's forum so I will introduce myself now, I go to Mount Holyoke and I'm taking the class at Smith with Chris Shelton. I've played soccer for as long as I can remember, though I don't currently play for MHC. In high school I also ran cross-crountry and track but it was only in soccer's offseason to stay in shape for soccer. I never found any real love for it.

I think as was previously mentioned, the prospect of sounding un-PC is a very intimidating thought which often prohibits a real discussion from going on about race/class in sport. Often times stereotypes and generalizations that may make people uncomfortable are brought into this discussion. If I were to say that African-Americans excel at basketball but not at soccer I would be making a huge generalization that may seem partly true but is not true for all African-Americans.

Another boundary is the experience issue. Someone who is only exposed to sports from TV may see that many basketball players are African-Americans or that soccer players are all white. The thought of class diversity wouldn't even be a question here because all of the basketball players on TV have millions of dollars. Whereas someone who grew up in the inner city mmay see African-American males playing street-ball and seeing the few opportunities that are available in certain sports for people of color and of lower classes, and can see another side of it. Maybe rather than seeing that African-Americans have certain abilities and whites have others, they'll see what opportunities exist for each, such as noticing that in the projects it is so easy to make a basketball court; I saw a basketball hoop made out of a board and a tire rim nailed to a tree once. In comparison a soccer field is a lot harder to come across, especially in the inner-city. Where are you going to find a 50x100 strip of grass?

I feel that though these are obstacles some may also be starting blocks in order to have a more diverse conversation, in which more opinions are heard. Questions and thoughts of everyone are important in order to have a rich discussion and so that everyone can learn something.

Name:  Lauren Sanzone
Username:  lsanzone@smith.edu
Date:  2002-02-19 10:22:43
Message Id:  1075
I also missed out on the posting for last week, so I'll introduce myself here. My name is Lauren, and I'm a senior Economics major at Smith. In my high school days, I was a track and cross-country runner...coaching and personal issues made me leave competitive running, though I still run a lot on my own. I've also competed in sailing, skiing and mountain biking, and even did a stint as a high school cheerleader. Currently, my primary activities are running, hiking, and whitewater kayaking. I started kayaking about 2 years ago and have had the opportunity to visit wonderful places and meet amazing people through the sport.


I agree with most of the comments made above, though I'd like to make an amendment to Sarah's post -- Debi Thomas was on the figure skating scene long before Surya Bonaly. (I believe she won the bronze medal at either the 1984 or 1988 Olympics) I found it interesting that the bulk of the earlier posters cited purely economic reasons for the differences in sports participation that we observe among race and class lines. While this is obviously a key component of these differences, it seems that socialization plays an enormous role. The process of socialization begins as soon as we can comprehend the existence of a world beyond ourselves. Thus, social origins have the power to affect everything in our lives, including our interests in sport. There are some sports that are a part of different cultures -- for example, in the heavily Italian-American community in which I grew up, bocce ("lawn bowling") is a part of many families' lives.

Taking this argument further, it seems that even in this day and age, it is still considered more acceptable for people of some races or ethnic backgrounds to participate in certain sports. Both more subtle social influences (like my bocce example) and outright discriminatory acts (e.g. whites-only country clubs) act to reinforce this, and the interaction goes both ways. African-American communities may ostracize members who compete in traditionally white sports, accusing them of forsaking their roots and trying to "act white". Brannon Johnson (the black rower in "Left Behind", who spectators used to cheer with "go black girl") and Tiger Woods have probably both had to deal with this from time to time. The same fate awaits white kids who play basketball, listen to rap music, and otherwise are seen as trying to "act black" from the standpoint of their Caucasian community. As much as the optimists among us like to think that the world is increasingly color-blind, this is simply not reality.

Name:  Deepti Menghani
Username:  dmenghan@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 2
Date:  2002-02-19 17:03:50
Message Id:  1077
I really enjoyed Girl Fight. I really do admire the girl because she did what she wanted to do even though she got a lot of criticism for it. The movie made me realize that it takes a lot of motivation and discipline to become a star athlete, especially if you come from a poor background. I thought the girl had two drawbacks for achieving success; being female and being poor. Her boyfriend made me realize that many athletes in poor neighborhoods only compete because they want a ticket out of their poor lifestyle. However, I admired the girl because she competed only because she loved the sport. I do think her social status and gender would be drawbacks for the future success of her career. I can not picture her ever succeeding to the big time. I do believe that race affects their participation in sports. For example, people usually generalize that Africans are good at basketball--look at the NBA. I also do think that social status affects the people in sports because their schools may not fund certain sports or provide eligible equipment. I do believe that it is more difficult for a rich athlete to succeed than a poor athlete because they can access better coaches and facilities. Therefore, race, gender, and social class do affect an athlete.
Name:  Kerry Flanagan
Username:  kflanaga@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  post 2
Date:  2002-02-19 18:42:01
Message Id:  1079
2) How does a person's race, class or gender affect their orientation towards a sport?

First of all, I think that girl fight was a very good movie, especially in terms of what we are discussing in this class. Though the lead actress was a surprise in the ring as a result of her gender, the other two components we are discussing here (race and class), seemed to be right on target. All of the other boxers seemed to be of the same race and class, suggesting an orientation towards boxing for that particular race and class. This situation also made me think of a similar movie titled "love and basketball". In this movie, the female protagonist struggles, often against her male love interest, to make it in the world of basketball. Again, her gender makes her somewhat of an outsider to the sport, though her race does not. She is black, as are most, if not all of her teammates. In this manner, both movies examine the role gender plays in contributing to sport, though not race and class.

Of course, all three of these attributes, and many others, such as geographical region etc. play into one's orientation towards sport. There are the sports of the rich and privledged such as horseback riding, which require a great deal of money. If one does not have adequate funding to give, competition is completely out of the question. In girl fight, the leading actress was worried about getting 10 dollars a week to pay for boxing lessons, a situation that based on the level of wealth of her family portrayed in the movie seems realistic. Ten dollars is not a huge amount of money, but enough that it was hard for her to come by. In comparison, in order to engage in horseback riding, the sum would have been a great deal higher, and completely out of the question. In this manner, though boxing funding was a bit of a challenge, it was realistic for her wealth bracket. All three of these components will always factor into a person's orientation towards sport, though it is not always immediately apparent how.

Name:  Kristina Davis
Username:  kdavis@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  class affecting sports
Date:  2002-02-19 19:33:33
Message Id:  1084
Like many others, I, too, thought Girlfight was an excellent depiction of the struggle to be accepted in sports as a woman. I thought the subplot of class was interesting. Seeing the Olympics going on right now, I wonder how many of these athletes could have afforded to be in the Olympics had their families been from the lower classes. Figure skating especially is very capital intense, and skiing as well. Not that there haven't been athletes who have won gold medals despite their financial struggles, but I think that the Olympics are favored to the upper classes. Or at least to those who are fortunate enough to have families who are willing to do without in order to finance the athlete's Olympic training. It seems that most of the winter Olympic sports are too expensive to do without a great deal of financial backing. Summer Olympics do not have this limitation.
Name:  Sarah Welsh
Username:  swelsh@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Girl Fight
Date:  2002-02-20 00:44:02
Message Id:  1093
I agree with most of the previous comments. Gender, class and race most definitely factor into which sports a person chooses to participate. Wealth is one of the more obvious factors that many other people touched on. If someone can't afford the equipment and training for a particular sport, it's out of the question. Gender and race also play a role, although I think somewhat less tangible. I believe one of the biggest factors is precedent. In a previous post someone mentioned that they were the first female to start karate lessons at a particular venue, but after she started other girls began to believe that they could do it as well. All it takes is one person to think a little differently, to break down whatever was thought of as the social convention and show that indeed it is possible. I think Girl Fight did a fabulous job in portraying this struggle with social convention without compromising the integrity of Diana's character.
Name:  Jennifer Prince
Username:  jprince@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-20 14:34:28
Message Id:  1098
It is impossible for someone to ignore the fact that some sports are dominated by certain ethnic groups. The problem arises with the resulting stereotypes. It is unfair to assume that because I am hispanic the moment I step onto a baseball field I will dominate the game ( even without practice). These assumptions box in people and result in immediate unfair judgements. (Not to mention feeling of inadequacies because one is of a certain race but isn't as athletic as one would expect.)
The movie Girl Fight was interesting yet it left me with a lot of questions. The movie seems to just give you a glimpse of Diana's life. You're not sure where she came from or where she is heading. You simply watch achieve an incredible goal, fall in love, stand up to her father, and then its over. I wanted more... I want to know if she continues to box, what becomes of the relationship with her father, what happens to her brother, and how much longer her relationship with Adrian will be. In all the concept of the film was important and it was done in a raw way. A good movie, more conducive to discussions of gender than race.