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:  Forum question for Week 3
Date:  2002-02-21 11:33:06
Message Id:  1107
Forum Question for Week 3

The director chose certain visual shots, scripted dialogue and personal interactions to convey a message about your character. (Rachel, Bev, Lori, Carla or the judges) What is the director attempting to "say" about your character?

BMC students: please take a moment to read the e-mail sent today that gives important information on the final paper and the format for next Wednesday's class.

Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Forum question for week 3 from Professor Shelton and the Smith discussion
Date:  2002-02-21 17:04:04
Message Id:  1115
Define --as your assigned character would define them, and you may
use examples--
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-02-24 19:49:11
Message Id:  1124
Name:  Susannah E. Smith
Username:  ssmith@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 3
Date:  2002-02-24 19:55:31
Message Id:  1125
Oh, good, it's working again.

Well, our characters were the judges, and I don't feel as though we really got enough of a look at their psyches to be able to say how they'd define sexuality or sensuality, but I think we did get a good look at how they define femininity: breasts, albeit vestigial, were requisite, and less bulky abs were preferred, as that allowed a smaller waist which could contrast with hips (think Rachel vs. Bev).

What really struck me about the film, though was: what the hell kind of sport is this anyway? I mean, obviously a LOT of effort and training and time and sweat and competition (both with self and with others) goes into bodybuilding, but then the culmination is a goddamn beauty contest?! I *so* do not get this at all. I could see it more if there were some quantitative measurements to the contest, like how much weight can each person bench press, leg press, etc. But there was nothing even remotely like that. Totally subjective set-up, nothing objective or concrete at all. Very strange, in my opinion.

Name:  Peilin Chen
Username:  p2chen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 4
Date:  2002-02-24 23:08:49
Message Id:  1137
My group is the judges. The one female judge was always shown in a negative light because her attitude toward was also negative. She was shown shaking her head and looking disapprovingly at Bev. She also was interviewed and publicly voiced her opinion that she thought Rachel should win because she still had some femininity. Oscar, the other judge was shown in humorous light. The audience was more attracted to him as a character because he was shown scowling at Rachel, the character that no one liked, and also because he was the one person who seemed to be doing the fair thing, when none of the other judges were.
Name:  Lelani
Username:  lsanchez@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 3
Date:  2002-02-25 08:33:14
Message Id:  1140
I'm not sure what the judges thought of sexuality and sensuality but the directors tried very hard to make it clear which woman had these qualities. Take, for example, Rachel's pool scene versus Carla's pool scene. Rachel's looked like some cheesy porn--with her and Christian lounging around all greased up. And Carla, in her synchronized swimming was elegant and serene. So I'd say they wanted us to attach the term sexuality to Rachel and the term sensuality to Carla.

Now, Bev didn't get a pool scene but I feel that everyone, even Bev made it explicit that she didn't have (or really have any interest in having) a feminine exterior. That's not to say that she wasn't feminine. There was nothing really rough and tumble about her except that she could lift a serious amount of weights. In fact, throughout the movie she was playful and sweet and flirty (with that other bulky fellow) and just "girly." I have trouble defining feminine--but I guess that's what the point is.

I feel like the judges did all they could do and maybe even made the right choices given the guidelines. They could only judge feminine from a purely asthetic standpoint. And from the beginning Bev made it clear that she didn't want to be built like a woman bodybuilder but like a man bodybuilder. So it was her choice to forego any of the more exterior female attributes.

I do have a problem with the contradiction or, at the very least, the confusion of having a body building contest that judges femininity. It seems to me that the two don't really compliment eachother.

Name:  Katie Lefebvre
Username:  klefebvr@smith.edu
Subject:  response to forum 3
Date:  2002-02-25 11:01:04
Message Id:  1143
Group 5 at Smith chose to analyze the Australian, Bev Francis. From the film and the readings, I got the impression that Bev sort of re-defined sensuality, sexuality, and femininity to what she thought they should be and, in turn, did not really care what the others thought. I actually thought that Bev displayed the most finesse and manners when speaking with her family, her "man", her coaches, the other girls. She had an air of self-confidence about her that, although it was sometimes read as "manly" by her peers, seemed to enhance her sensuality. She is graceful in her movements and she seems to know how to work a crowd, it just doesn't seem as natural coming from Bev. The fact that she is seen with "her man" as the article states, tags Bev with being heterosexual, even though she appearance may lend to the contrary. Bev never actually acted "unfeminine" as many liked to claim. I thought she was extremely lady-like in her mannerisms and her speech...it was her appearance that shook everyone. So, in response to the question of how Bev would define sensuality, sexuality, and femininity, I would have to say that she viewed those terms differently. Sensuality, for her, seemed to spawn from a burning desire within. Her passion for power-lifting seemed to span into many other aspects of her life. She was tagged with as an overt heterosexual, but I think she would define femininity in terms of honoring the female form and taking it as far as it could go, not in terms of how appealing the female body could look for men.
Name:  Dasen Woitkowski
Username:  dwoitkow@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Forum Question #3
Date:  2002-02-25 13:30:15
Message Id:  1148
In Pumping Iron II, the director displayed Bev as the more masculine of the bodybuilders. The director never skimmed over Bev's body like it did to the other three, never showed her with a "intimate" partner and never showed her putting on make-up. The director just showed her in her hotel room and at the gym. The dialogue of Bev was mostly made up of how big she was and when she would go to the gym next. Bev liked to display her manliness and her big muscles.

I think Bev redefined sensuality, sexuality and femininity. She would define sensuality as something that is pleasing/appealing to the senses. For example that her muscles LOOK good or the massage she received felt good for her muscles. Sexuality would be defined as relations between man and woman. She wouldn't take it any further than that because she doesn't have an intimate relation at the time. Femininity would be defined as having qualities of a woman. Bev doesn't display femininity during the movie, but the other three bodybuilders documented were shown with their significant others, applying make-up and worrying about how they look, not just their muscles. Bev takes femininity to another level saying that women can look like her and be feminine and have a well developed body.

Name:  Sarah Johnson
Username:  swjohnso@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  week 3
Date:  2002-02-25 21:31:46
Message Id:  1174
Although the judges didn't get much screen time in the film, I think that the director was trying to convey how the judges determine who is the best bodybuilder in contrast to how each of the participants would determine it.
I think the director intentionally portrayed the conflict between the judges, between the participants, and between the judges and the participants in order to show that there was not only a conflict within the fictionalized competition, but how the sport itself defines who the "winner" is. On a more broad level, I think the film speaks to the discrepancies that exist between the criteria for judging how women vs. men compete in the same sports on competitive levels. Perhaps the director was suggesting that we not only re-evaluate judging in bodybuilding, but in sports in general.
Name:  Nicole
Username:  n2smith@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 3
Date:  2002-02-25 22:18:05
Message Id:  1177
I have enjoyed readng your comments this week.

The head judge states that the outcome of the contest will define feminity. Carla, a physically strong, intellectual, graceful, and independant woman is chosen as the winner. She is also the only contestant who is not shown trained by or dating a man. Instead she gains her support from other woman (her mother and sister). While perhaps the director was attempting to define feminity in a positive and feminist friendly way, it is interesting to note that he chose a black woman (an "other" or border character) as the winner. As noted in the reading, Carla's music while she is performing begins with jungle sounds, which suggests that chosing Carla was in some way a compromise or "safe" way of defining feminity. Any thoughts?

Name:  mk sagaria
Username:  msagaria@smith.edu
Subject:  portraying bev
Date:  2002-02-25 23:04:00
Message Id:  1179
I'm not sure if it is my own bias or the ability of the director to portray bev in a positive light, but I felt as though bev was one of the most likeable charictures in the flm. Bev, in comparison to the other contestants seemed level headed, smart, personable, and enthusiastic about the competition. I think this portrayal is interesting given the outcome of the event and bev's last place finish. In a way the glorification of the "underdog" was elicited and I felt an affinity towards bev.

In contrast I bev was certainly filmed as an outsider to all the other women. When I look at the shower and swimming pool scenes, along with the "girl talk" that other contestants were participating in, bev was never in the shot. She was shown with friends, but the focus of her female friends was not on their femeninity. And the focus of Bev's male friends was never on the physical level, where as the trainers and boyfriends of other contestants was a prime focus for other contestants.

Looking at the two portrayals of Bev in the filmmake her seem like a true outsider. A woman who never fit in with her female counterparts.

Name:  Kelley Duran
Username:  kduran@email.smith.edu
Subject:  week 3
Date:  2002-02-25 23:05:58
Message Id:  1180
Our group at Smith decided to use Bev as our character in the movie. I thought Bev was displayed by the moive directors as more masculine than the other body bilders in the movie. Her body was displayed in different angles by the camera, making her body look more masculine than the other characters.
Sensuality to most people is how we feel when we see something beauitful and makes us feel pleased. But Bev defiened sensuality differently, that it was more for herself. Sensuality for her was feeling better about herself and her body more than what people felt for her. Sexuality is viewed as the relenship between man and woman. Bev was not in any type of relenship in the movie, so her sexuality was not clear. Maybe the movie directors did not think that Bev cared about her sexuality becuase they did not show her in a relenship with anyone. Or maybe Bev's sexuality was considered devient and the movie directors did not want to show that part of Bev's life. Bev does have femininity in the movie. She believed that a woman can have big muscules and still be feminine. She did not worry about how her body looked as much as the other body builders in the movie, but when she did her dance in the contest, she was graceful and a beauitful dancer. She did not have to worry about make-up or hair to be feminine.
Name:  Brooke Leonard
Username:  bleonard@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Week 4
Date:  2002-02-26 17:21:22
Message Id:  1221
I agree with most of the comments in our forum - it is difficult to really get into the judges' minds to be able to articulate clearly what I think their definitions of sensuality, sexuality, and femininity are.

I think it's clear that Bev was the one who challenged everyone's definitions of femininity. Her physical appearance is bulky and muscular - a physique most commonly seen with men. But she is certainly feminine and womanly when we're not looking at her as just an athlete but as a person (shown through her interactions with friends, etc.)

Rachel is undoubtedly feminine (she has the long hair, the makeup, etc), and is also the closest representation of sexuality. But sexuality doesn't play much of a role in the competition - which is why Rachel doesn't win.

Carla combines femininity, sexuality, and sensuality. She is in great physical shape (though not as muscular as Bev) and also looks like the typical "woman" that the judges seem to want to see (though she's not quite as feminine or "pretty" as Rachel). It seems like Rachel and Bev are the two extremes, and Carla is the safe middle ground.

I guess the problem from the judges' standpoint is how one goes about determining how important each of these aspects are in the bodybuilding competition. Like someone said before, it shouldn't be a beauty pageant. Bev was clearly the strongest of the women, but apparently the judges wanted to see more than just strength and muscle.

Name:  Faye McGrath
Username:  fmcgrath@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Question #3
Date:  2002-02-26 23:27:45
Message Id:  1237
I believe that the director chose to portray the directors in a rather bigoted manner. They were unbending, refusing to disregard oldfashioned views of femininity. The one female judge was shown shaking her head and shuddering at the sight of Bev. The judges are clearly not supportive of any change in their rigid definition of femininity.

I would define femininity as a sense of style, elegance, and grace in a female. Sexuality is the sense of sex, whereas sensuality is the combination of grace and sex.

Name:  Monica
Username:  mvanbusk@smith.edu
Subject:  Reactions to posts
Date:  2002-02-27 09:52:33
Message Id:  1250
Hello, I am a research assistant for Chris Shelton, one of the professors for this course, and was asked to read the forum.

I've seen most of Pumping Iron II, though not all. The most interesting thing to me in this forum, is that people have commented on Bev's femininity or lack therof, but only one person offered a definition.

Sussanah said that she was upset that the bodybuilding contest was more of a beauty pageant. Lelani said that she thought bodybuilding and femininity don't go together. What do we expect from bodybuilding? Is it impossible to be muscular and beautiful at the same time? Is it really impossible to be feminine and muscular as the same time? Why are the two in conflict with each other? (muscular vs. feminine and beautiful) And should we assume that feminine and beautiful are the same thing?

Dasen, Kelly, and Katie offered that Bev redefined femininity. She is gracious, graceful, kind, and Dasen and Co. suggested that these are feminine qualities that Bev has although she doesn't *look* feminine. Everyone on the post agreed that Bev *looked* masculine, but if she really challenges our definition of femininity, I don't believe that she challenges us to define it as a way of acting, regardless of look, I think she challenges it all around. Sarah Johnson posted that the way the judges were portrayed challenged us to think about how we judge bodies in sport. I think it goes farther. The combination of Bev's actions and *look* that she desired, along with the way the judges were portrayed, challenge how we look at bodies in general, and how we define feminine and masculine physical qualities.

Several times in the movie, people commented that Bev looked like a man. If she was obviously a woman, how can she look like anything other than herself? Just by the nature of her existence, she *had* to *look* feminine. She is s female. Maybe it's something for all of us to think about next time we look at a man or a woman and say that they look like the opposite gender. Maybe it's time we redefine femininity and masculinity on a physical and more uncomfortable level.


Name:  kate hoy
Username:  katesuperstar@hotmail.com
Subject:  3rd posting
Date:  2002-02-27 10:01:37
Message Id:  1252
well, as the crampy old fart of a judge that i am, i'd have to say that my definitions of sexuality, sensuality, and feminity are pretty narrow, limited, and most prominently influenced by my memories of my dear old mum, wrapped so elegantly in her caftan, serving me my breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, etc...
so, obviously sexuality is merely what one's sex is. women ARE women, and men are men. sexuality is science. there's no debating science. sexuality has to do with fact, and women, as a fact are an inferior species when it comes to weight-lifting and body building.
sensuality, obviously is a more debatable issue. (har har har, though not really...) so, anywho, sensuality pertains to the way in which a woman carries herself. really, i think that you can't discuss sensuality without discussing feminity. sensuality implies a soft, graceful, thoughtful, feminine persona. women, as feminine creatures, are naturally more gentle, caring, lets just say...maternal. so, we can gather that there is a notion of sensuality that follows from this. when a woman does not fill these roles (like our poor Bev!! har har har...) she loses all sensuality. i'll tell you, it's not just me who thinks this way. my dad was just the same.
Name:  Geeti Das
Username:  gdas@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2002-02-27 11:31:04
Message Id:  1254
As my Forum group had to be the judges, I don't really have a clear definition of these 3 terms apart from on a purely physical level. So I'm going to write what I think the judges thought.
It seems to me that in the movie, Carla represented sensuality to the judges. The swimming pool scene shows this, and so does the conversation she has with Bev, when they're getting massages, about the difference between sensuality and sexuality. Rachel, quite obviously, was the sexual element. And Bev was the antithesis of femininity, but I think on of the characters did seem to exemplify the conventional definition of femininity: Lori. Lori is shown, despite her strength, as being passive, submissive, babyish.
It almost seems like here we have a whole bunch of female stereotypes in bodybuilding, which is kind of amusing: the sister/mother [Carla], the whore [Rachel} and the good wife [Lori] and all of them despite the bodybuilding are seen as acceptable because to some extent they fit into these categories, and people find it easier to deal with them because they have categorised them. We never see Rachel being treated as anything but a sexual object. If she has parents, or siblings, or any nonsexual relationships, which I'm sure she does, we never get to see it. Lori is always being protected by her man--he helps her train, holds her up when she cries, asks her to marry him in Vegas...Carla is portrayed throughout with her family, or bonding with other women. She seems kind and intelligent and sensual. Bev doesn't fit any stereotypes, and throughout the movie you see the people she meets having a hard time figuring out how to deal with her. Her trainer is very awkward the first time he meets her in the airport, and then he gets used to her slowly because she has a great deal of charm, but she tends to confuse people when they first meet her. Maybe it's because she can't be categorised, and so she can't be dealt with?
Posting removed by request
Name:  Erin Murphy
Username:  emurphy@email.smith.edu
Subject:  Question #3
Date:  2002-02-27 20:17:12
Message Id:  1266
My groups character was Bev and I believe that the director was trying to say through the camera work that Bev was not like the other women in the contest. One major thing that I noticed was that the camera did not segment Bevís body like it did Rachelís. You never saw Bevís scantly clad body in the tanning booth. I believe that this was saying something about the priorities of the two women within their sport. I think that it is clear that Rachelís intentions are to win the beauty contest which is the underlying theme of the showcase. This is not to say that Rachel is not an athlete because she is still very fit and strong but I am reluctant to call her a body builder because I think that she ultimately just wants to be stronger than the everyday woman but still be considered desirable and feminine in the eyes of the judges and society. Bev on the other had is a body builder in every since of the word, she was in that competition not because she wanted to walk around on stage in bikini and flex but because wanted to show that women can achieve the same utilization of all the muscle groups that men can. So I believe that the camera work portrayed Bev in ďmasculineĒ shots rather than the segmented ďfeminineĒ shots.

I would have to say that Bevís sensuality is rooted in the pride that she takes in her muscles and the way that they make her feel. I also think that Bev brings her own definition of femininity to the competition. She presents the opinion that it is ok for women to be strong and to have muscles.