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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003


On Serendip

Cultural Ideas of Women

Christen Gore

Christen Gore
March 19, 2003
Gym Class
Women, Sport and Film

Cultural Ideas of Women

Throughout this course we have examined how female athletes are portrayed and perceived in films, the media, and in the minds of the general public. Overwhelmingly, we agreed that many times the perceptions people have about female athletes and the portrayals of female athletes from which people derive their perceptions are flawed and inaccurate. Female athletes and women in general are portrayed most often in roles traditionally held for women or as scantily clad sex symbols. While neither one of those portrayals are necessarily inaccurate they are still very dangerous because they are the only portrayals and visions of women to which the general public is ever exposed.

In today's society of equality and political correctness it is clear to see that women and especially women athletes have some barriers that have not yet been torn down and overcome. These barriers that remain can not necessarily be overcome with legislation or regulatory acts. The barriers that remain for women to overcome exist not on law books but rather in the minds of people in general. This task of reshaping the way America, and perhaps the way that the whole world thinks is one that is infinitely harder than getting equality laws to be passed. Women must find a way to change the way people think about women and athletes and what it means to be a female athlete. They must challenge the stereotypes placed upon them and must create a new version of the female athlete. The new female athlete does not have to exclude the current images of women but it must be broadened to include more facets than the current image of a female athlete does.

Female athletes are very often portrayed first as women and then as athletes. This means that very often a woman's athletic talent and ability takes a back seat to her sex appeal and physical beauty. On TV and in magazines women are portrayed with as little clothing as possible and most times out of the context of their sport. The danger of this practice lies in the fact that there is a fine line between heralding a beautiful athlete and making a mockery of an athletically talented woman, who just happens to be beautiful as well. Although an athlete may be beautiful it is important that athletes be recognized first for their talent and only then for their physical good looks. An athletes physical attributes should be an added bonus to her athletic ability instead of her athletic ability being an added bonus to her good looks. Currently in our society an athlete must be physically pleasing before they are accepted as an athlete.

This shift in the way people think can not be forced to occur through laws or decrees. Attitudes and perceptions are not changed simply because legislation such as Title IX is passed. Athletes must take the equality and freedom that Title IX awards to them and forcibly challenge the perceptions that many people hold. This will mean fighting for equal airtime for women's sports on television and radio. It will mean turning down lucrative opportunities that uphold the current misconceptions, and it will mean that athletes must decide that they are ready to face a new challenge.

Like the repercussions of Title IX, this change in image will take time to become the norm. The important thing to remember is that despite the time it may take to become effective the image o women in sport must be changed. Women must be given the same respect for their physical talent that men are given. To achieve this Women must demand the equality that they have been awarded by acts such as Title IX. It is important that our daughters and granddaughters know that they can be beautiful and be an athlete as well. It is also important for them to know that being a good athlete does not always mean they will be beautiful.

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