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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003


On Serendip

Women in Sports Essay #1

Johanna Segal

The media's portrayal of women in sports to me can be described by the saying taking two steps forward and one step backwards; this is to say that women are now allowed to be athletes, but that with this freedom comes the need for women to then also show themselves as domestic or sexual objects to reaffirm their femininity. It is saddening to think that women must prove their femininity by separating themselves from their athletic ability, and that we as a society cannot except athletic ability as something either that is feminine or as something that is separate and therefore not linked to our femininity. I found the movies we watched very interesting because of the differences in the way that women were shown when playing their sport. I felt that in "National Velvet", "Love and Basketball", and "A League of Their Own" showed women as athletes and women as opposed to "Blue Crush" which showed women as sexual objects while their sport was less important to the woman herself.

"National Velvet" was a sweet film that, to my surprise, portrayed women as capable athletes. Velvet and her mother were two very strong examples of women who could compete with men athletically; however the movie also presented the message that there was a time and a place for sports and for family. Velvet manages to win the hardest race in the equestrian world and yet she is a little girl, this shows that athletic talent is not limited to men and perhaps is also a jab at the equestrian world for not allowing women to participate. I felt that Velvet was shown as feminine, if only because she was such a pretty little girl. Her mother as well was shown as a strong and independent woman who in her time had accomplished something that few men and no other women had ever done by swimming the English Channel. I felt that this movie allowed for the women in it to be women and athletes without taking away any femininity from them.

Another film I thought really showed women in sports in a positive light was "Love and Basketball", instead of showing a bunch of women cooperating and having great team spirit it showed the true world of any pre-professional and professional athletics, that where there is fierce competition and drive to be the best. I liked that there was that aspect of life within the movie even if there was a happy resolution by the end. This movie really helped show the importance of title IX for women who play sports; without such a bill women would not be able to play sports. The movie did a good job of showing how far women have come in accepting their own athletic ability and how far the public must go in order to accept women as equals in the sports world. Another movie that I thought portrayed women in sports in a positive light, albeit a different light was "A League of Their Own". In this movie we can see the early development of women in the sports world. The film did a good job of showing the opposition and skepticism that these athletes were faced with; i.e. they had to wear skirts to play and had to have chaperons. The movie also showed the importance of playing as a team to win acceptance and that there was competition between teams; both of which were very true of their times and still hold true. I felt that both these movies did a good job of showing the less glamorous side of sport and also focused on the importance of sport to the athletes who played.

One film I did not like was "Blue Crush", I felt that it put very little importance on the athletic ability and meaning of the sport to the main character and instead was a love story that happened to involve a girl who surfed. Although the film was stunning visually there was very little substance or plot and even less involving surfing as an important part of the girl's life. It seems to me that this girl didn't care about her sport and that her perfect 10 was not something she had worked for but rather something that happened to her. I was very disappointed at the over-sexuality of all the surfing characters in their small bikinis and hyper-heterosexuality while they flirt with any boy who gives them the time of day. This movie shows me that it is still hard for the public to accept athletic ability as something feminine and something that women can possess without taking away both femininity and sexuality. This makes me very sad on one hand, but on the other I know that just the fact that there are women in sports is a step in the right direction.

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