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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003


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Cultural Ideals of Women in Sport

Munira Lokhandwala

Munira Lokhandwala
Women, Sport and Film
Final Paper

Question: 1. Through the readings, films, and discussions, we have looked at the image of women in sport. Discuss the images of women in sport and how they are affected by today's cultural ideal of women.

During our exploration of the roles and images of women in sport throughout this course we have seen female athletes in some very interesting depictions. Although all the films we watched this semester included images of women or girls in the role of athletes, it was not surpirising to find the films straying from the topic of sports from time to time. Often it seemed as though in order for there to be a film about women in sports, the film could not help but stray from sport slightly. However I could not always distinguish whether the film makers were doing this in order to entertain their audiences, or perhaps to prove a different point altogether. Several of these films did an amazing job at portraying female athletes as nothing more or nothing less then what they were, athletes. While I found that others attempted to fill in gaps that they thought might be important in answering questions about these athletes as being something more than just athletes, but female athletes. It became clear to me throughout the course that each of these films was in some way shaped by the culture that it came to exist in, therefore our present interpretations of them sometimes miss the true essense of these films.
I found it difficult to talk about National Velvet as a film about women in sports, because it was difficult for me to think about Velvet as a woman. It is obvious that a gender issue did take place in the movie because females were not allowed to compete in this race, however I do not believe that in the movie this issue of gender really erred Velvet. I believe that she was really too young to understand it and all she really understood was that she could not compete in the race. Because the issue of gender did not effect Velvet it did not effect me because then it did not seem to me a movie about gender inequality, but rather a film about a girl who really loves riding horses.
Love and Basketball was definetly the most interesting of all the sports that we watched throughout the quarter because it offered its viewer a parellel look at women and men in the same sport and the different difficulties that each has to face. Both the male and female characters in this film were equally talented in their own respect, yet because of societies different ideals of each, along with the differing paths set up for each, they both ended up in very different places. Often there were instances when aggression from the female character was instantly reprimanded, while the same actions from the male character were applauded because aggression was not outside the behavior of a man, but apparently outside the behavior of women. It seemed like Monica had to, along with maintain a high level of play, also had to maintain a certain composure on court that society seemed to demand of her. Most importantly there were different paths set up for both these athletes because of their genders. Q had the oppurtunity to enter the draft when he thought he was ready, however their was no draft for Monica to enter. If Monica wanted to continue playing she would have to stay in college and play college basketball then maybe play abroad. Unlike Q, she had no route to instant success. Her path was very different from his and some might say better considering what happened to Q;s character by the end of the film. However I think that regardless of having seen what happened to her male counterpart with his oppurtunities and all, she still would have preferred having to make the choice herself as opposed to having it made for her.
I also think the way the way in which Monica was portrayed in this film is most accurate and flattering of all the movies we've watched. First and foremost she was portrayed as an athlete who worked hard and was goal oriented. In the beginning of the movie it seemed that she was even more passionate then her male counterpart. Although she was portrayed as having a relationship in this film, she was not portrayed as being consumed by that relationship as the female character in Blue Crush was. It seemed to me that a movie like Blue Crush is as odds with Love and Basketball, because Love and Basketballs seems to address the exact problems with women portrayed in sport that Blue Crush seems to cause. Love and Basketball addresses the problems of how female athletes seem to have to advertise their femininity before their athleticism as evident by the ways Monica had to control her emotion on the court. In Blue Crush it seemed that what was being advertised was this idea that beautiful women can be athletes too which I thought took away from their athleticism. In Blue Crush the main character was more of a young girl looking for love then she was an athlete looking to succeed. I believe her character failed time and time again at fulfilling the role of an athlete that Love and Basketball was trying to set up. Perhaps a movie like Blue Crush is more entertaining, but I think it is the least bit accurate in portraying the difficulties that women face in competition. From this movie it would be difficult to understand the sexuality issues that accompany women in sport because the sexuality in Blue Crush is pretty cut and dry. Basically I thought that the way that Blue Crush portrayed the difficulties of women in sport was way too simple and lacking. However I think that in some ways it did promote women in sport simple by including women competing in the film. Perhaps in this case not so accurate publicity is, indeed, better then no publicity at all.
I believe that all these films are important to the advancement of women in sport is some form or another. They are important because the portray the role of women in a new light: as an athlete. This image is something that I think will take a long time to be fully accepted by all. Certain obstacles will always stand in its way, but I think that as long as women continue to participate in sport out of pure love and enjoyment, the movement of women in sport will continue to move forward and we will continue to pave more ground for younger generations.

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