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Women, Sport,
and Film - 2003


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Female athletes as female athltes

Sunmin Lee

Women, Sports, and Film
Sunmin Lee

Female Athletes as Female Athletes

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.

Traditionally, women have been viewed and have viewed themselves as sexual partners and mothers of men. If a woman loses her sexuality or sexual appeal, she is considered to be ¡°marginal¡± who is not really a woman. Marginal women are, for example, children, older women, pregnant women, aggressive women, and homosexual women. These women are categorized as ¡°sexless¡± kind. This kind of stereotype is often seen in any male dominant society where men are the patrons of any cultural activity, and sports are not exception.

Like other fields, men dominated sports. It was not until recent that women began to play sports professionally. However, even though these women are professional athletes, they cannot be just athletes. They have to be ¡°women¡± who satisfy the men¡¯s stereotypes; not aggressive, quiet, and sexually appealing. No matter how good they are, if she is not ¡°feminine¡± enough, she is a marginal woman. In fact, many female athletes had to choose between being a woman and being an athlete. In many cases, a woman who chose to be an athlete became categorized as a marginal woman. However, should they really be categorized as marginal women?

Should female athletes be what they "socially" expected to be? They are athletes who spend and must spend most of their time practicing. Apparently, they build muscles and look "less feminine" in most cases. However, they are asked to be "women" outside their professions. No matter how good they are in their own fields, the society tells them to wear skirts, put on makeup, and come back to stereotypical woman. Nobody asks a male athlete to be soft and quiet outside the field. In fact, people expect them to be active if not aggressive. They are men whether they are aggressive or quiet when they are not playing sports. Why is it that people cannot do the same thing for female athletes? They are professional athletes and the job requires them to be aggressive and give up some of their "feminine" characters.

I am not trying to say that female athletes should not be treated as women. All I am trying to say is that they are women who are professional athletes. They may not satisfy the stereotypical gender characteristics, but these stereotypes are outdated and ironic. Thus, one must discard this outdated stereotype and let female athletes be themselves whether aggressive or passive and let them just play their games.

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