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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003

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Natalie Merrill

Women, Sport and Film
Wednesday, March 19


3. Assume you are a screen writer in the year 2010. You have been commissioned to write a movie script about women's sports and current society. What is the theme? Who are the protagonists? What are the issues and how does the movie end?


This past few weeks, as we have been discussing some very important issues concerning women, sports and the media, I have frequently considered as I am sure the rest of the class has as well a possible solution to the current state of women in sports and film/media. That image of the sports magazine, with one page depicting a male in an athletic pose, while on another page sexualizing and domesticating a female athlete- will remain in the minds of everyone who participated in the class. How can we combat the clear discrimination in portrayal of women, the clear disregard for our athleticism and ability, the marginalization of our role as athletes? Title 9 was clearly a giant step forward but what this class has taught us is that there are still miles to be traveled until women and men are on entirely equal footing.

Part of this, I believe, is due also to the representation of men in the media as the opposite of women. Consider the role of them male: dominant, athletic, powerful exactly what a woman isn't supposed to be. Though men benefit from powerful imagery utilizing this social norm, they also stand subject to his harmful effects. By cornering identity into structured, regimented roles and patterns of behavior, we have created traps for our society's gender. In order to combat this we must challenge the concept of gender on both sides of the table. Instead of forcing women to try and exhibit male characteristics while insisting they maintain their femininity, why not ask men to move towards the middle as well? Men are not all muscle heads that grunt and play football all day long. They are not all dominantly willful and oppressive to women. Men and women have more in common than they realize. Until both genders become willing to stop bending their will to meet archaic norms of sexualized behavior, our society will not make any advancements in equalizing men and women's status in all facets.

If I were a filmmaker I would concentrate on challenging not only the stereotyped roles of women in sport and athleticism, but also the typical roles of men. I would portray women in roles they've never played before; I would do the same with men. I would try to utilize existing norms for film and TV- contradicting society's taboos for gender identification. My film would not concentrate on athleticism however. There are too many other arenas in which women and men are on unequal footing and by pointing out the absurdity of it ALL I believe you have more to gain.

I think my film would be more avante guarde. I can't think of a script or story line that would convey my message. Perhaps I would include a number of smaller vignettes with spliced in footage depicting gender roles in a montage with opposite images. An example of a scene might include a female character portraying a mobster. I would want to characterize her as the stereotypical mob head ie: Tony Soprano, or Al Pacino in the Godfather. This would be a difficult role for a woman to pull off because women have never been placed in this role before. To make it successful I would have to carefully pick dialogue, music, other characters, and instruct the actors to behave not as though she were a man but as though she held the power of previous mob characters.

Other scenes would include men in roles they've never played before on television or in film, and other roles for women in typically male roles as well. Again, this is a difficult thing to pull off, and it is exactly why men and women have 'typical' roles in the media. Society doesn't like to be challenged. If you were to produce a feature length film with a female mobster, it would be laughable. I pick that role only because I think that is a character a woman would be almost unqualified to play in our current society people wouldn't accept a woman in that role.

This class asked us all to question the dominant stereotypes concerning male and female athleticism in film and the media. It also challenged us to consider how we could combat the current problems that exist on a daily basis in our individual lives. It showed us how we all benefit from Title 9 and how far we have come, even though there is still a long way to go. I don't think I'll look through a sports illustrated again, or watch another film portraying athleticism (male or female) in quite the same way. I will always be asking myself what it says about the gender roles, and how that compares to the past, present and our expectations for the future.







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