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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Student Papers
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Society and Sport

Aimee Petrosky

There are many repercussions that are projected upon both men and women when they enter into a sport that typically isn’t thought of as gender appropriate. Some of those cultural and social stigmatisms may be abandonment by your peers, and friends questions regarding your sexuality, and even in some cases criticism as to how you are living your life. In some cases, it may lead to you not being accepted by either group, theone whose norems you are not following, of as well as the one with whom you are trying to get involved. This paper will address all of these issues and how these seemingly negative situations can, will, and are, leading to growth. It will also discuss how this is a situation where repercussions are not just in the sports arena, but is prevalent in everyday life, in areas far beyond that of sport.

First, I would like to discuss some of the issues that were discussed in the WNBA article, “We’ve Got Next”. This was one of the best articles that we have read this semester. It shows a lot of issues, like stigmatization of women and men in sport, and how the media and the general population regard them so differently. The article made great comparisons between the different ways men and women play basketball, claiming that women play more for the team, and use great skill and tack, while the men are out there to increase their status, and are in essence putting on a show. This very well may be the fact, but it is the social reasons given for this that I find hard to believe. Society believes women to be more of the caretaker and the person who makes sure everything is even, before all other things. the person who is selfless in the face of a general goal. These rationalizations appear in the media to explain why men and women’s basketball are so different. However, I believe that it just the style of play that is different. Women and men have different physical abilities that allow them to accent different parts of their game. I will prove this by using an example from soccer. Men and women’s soccer both have a great following. However, the two games are played quite differently, not because the women are less self serving, but because their game is more about finesse, and precision, whereas men’s game accentuates more their power and speed. The distinction here is not that women are just naturally inclined to use the more feminine skills but rather that most don’t have the capacity to be able to use the power that a man does.

This all fits into the socialization argument well, but it fits in another way, too. I have found in my 16 years of soccer playing that if a man posses the ability to have finesse, he is admired, and looked upon as a great addition to any team. However, women who posses some of the traits more noted in men’s soccer are commonly criticized and encouraged to “have more control.” In soccer therefore, it is not as bad for a man to have some feminine traits, but for females, to hold masculine traits is a great detriment to their game.

There is one more point that I would like to raise about the WNBA article. In society and the media, there is hardly ever any mention about the male basketball player’s family. In the WNBA however, there is constant emphasis on the women’s ability to fulfill dual roles as athletes and mothers/wives. “media strategies provide what seems to be ironclad evidence of the players heterosexuality. They also establish the WNBA as a family oriented, moral game…”the family-oriented players of the WNBA offer wholesome good fun and healthy competition to their fans.”(Journal Of Sport & Social Issues 1999)

The second issue I would like to discuss is the idea of homosexuality in sport, which applies equally to men and women. And is as equally threatening to homosexuals as it is to heterosexuals. Women who excel in sports will always be haunted by the question: Is she gay? This question is more frequent in sports such as boxing, ice hockey, basketball, and softball, to name a few, but can be found in any sport. Unless the female is married, this is one that I think is just a given in our society. This is one of the stereotypes that has always existed and doesn't seem to be getting corrected anytime soon. A male, however, only deals with these questions when he is engaged in a sport that our society deems “un-masculine.” Some sports that carry this stigma for men are dancing figure skating, and field hockey. Not only is this a problem for those athletes that are gay, and for some reason or another would like to remain in the closet, but it is a problem for those athletes that are straight, but are drawn to in a sport that is not thought of as gender appropriate. This can cause many people to choose another sport that will not get them made fun of, or that will afford them the luxury of not having to answer or prove such personal facts about themselves.

Athletics not only have an impact on the individual who chooses to follow his or her dream, such as the little boy who wants to do ballet, or the girl who wants to try out for the all male wrestling team, but are also in a give and take relationship with society as a whole. I see them as mirroring each other. Neither one is very far from the other. And both take turns leading. Sometimes social change comes about through sports, such as when women had their own professional baseball team during WWII. While, other times, changes in sport are a reflection of the changes being made in society, like African Americans being allowed to participate in Major League Baseball.

Professional, semi-professional, collegiate, secondary, and youth affiliations --have all felt the impact of women and men’s diffusion into arenas that are not commonly their own. As shown throughout this paper, these effects are both negative and positive. What I have learned is that these hindrances and acceptances cannot slow us down. There are many areas that still need to be opened up to both sexes and ideas that athletes need to prove wrong. The struggle isn’t over, and I don’t think it will ever be over. Society and athletics go hand in hand in helping to equalize men and women in sports, as well as in society. Individual accomplishments, failed attempts, and suffering help to bring us all one step closer to being equal on all playing fields.

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