Women, Sport, and Film Course

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Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend It Like Beckham
Date:  2004-02-05 17:03:30
Message Id:  7996

How does sport reflect the tensions between tradition and modernity, or the masculine and the feminine.

Which character do you most identify with? Why?

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Bend it Like Beckham
Date:  2004-02-05 21:37:01
Message Id:  8000
First off, I'd like to point out something that I think should have been brought up in class: The movie doesn't end when Jess (Jas?) wins the game and gets a scholarship. Apparently she's not REALLY successful until she has a boyfriend, too. Again, it's the stereotype - girls can play sports, as long as they keep their priorities straight and make sure they remain feminine and straight. I wish Juliette HAD been a lesbian. It would have added some nice balance to the movie. Although not all women athletes are dykes, some of them are, and like Jules said, it's not such a bad thing.

-end rant-

I think the movie did a good job showing the tension between the modern and the traditional, especially in immigrant/first generation families. There's real conflict about the idea of an arranged marriage, that's totally what is expected in a traditional Indian household, versus the attitude of their kids who grow up in Western culture - that they should marry who they love. So even though Jas' sister wanted nothing more than to marry an Indian boy, there was a problem, because that's not the boy her parents chose for her. That's before you get into little issues, like appropriate attire, careers, hobbies and footwear. It's like Jas' family has to go through the whole history we saw in the documentary last time - from not accepting women's liberation at ALL to having to accept that a female in the family is gifted at sport and can succeed at it and still be a woman - in one generation. Our society as a whole has had nearly a century to get used to this idea. It's noteworthy that Jas' family eventually comes to accept who she is. Had she been a white girl in 1900s America, they probably would not have.

... and I don't know which character I identify with. Probably one of the anonymous soccer players. Except I haven't played soccer since 7th grade, and I wasn't very good at it. Go defense.

Name:  Laura
Username:  lsockol@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  :/
Date:  2004-02-05 23:28:21
Message Id:  8001
Crap, that was my post, forgot to put my name on it!
Name:  Kate Tucker
Username:  ktucker@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend It Like Bekham
Date:  2004-02-07 12:44:24
Message Id:  8007
I actually disagree about what the ending symbolizes. I don't think its saying that Jess has to have a boyfriend. Her parents imply for most of the movie that she will never be desirable to a man if she continues to play soccer. Jess discovers that she is actually desirable, and finds someone that she wants to be with as well. Instead of settling for whatever boyfriend her parents find acceptable, she is able to follow her own wishes. Its actually one of the things that I really like about this movie. The women are very athletic and yet still portrayed as feminine. I don't mean that in the pejorative "weak" sense, simply that they are still viewed as fully women and not hampered in that respect by their athleticism.
I identify with Jess and really all of the female soccer players in this movie who go against what society traditionally tells them to do. While I have never encountered such obstacles from within my family, I have often been at odds with the female stereotypes.
Name:  Kelsey Smith
Username:  klsmith@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend It Like Beckham
Date:  2004-02-07 19:36:08
Message Id:  8019
It is interesting that Jess's family viewed academic excellence as admirable but athlect success as wasted effort. Both require much effort and motivation to do well.

According to Jess's family, it was unacceptable for her to be playing soccer because she should be focusing on being a good Indian housewife (Uggg!). Since Jess is a young woman, her mother views soccer as a male activity in which Jess should not partake.

One example of the tension between tradition and modernity is that Jess's father was not allowed to play soccer because of his culture but due to changing cultural values, his daughter was allowed to do so. This is why Jess's father was not initially eager to allow her to play sports.

I'm not sure which character I identify with, but most likely Juliette...at least I identify with her desire not to be a girly-girl!

Name:  Naomi
Username:  nspector@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend it Like Beckham
Date:  2004-02-08 14:52:25
Message Id:  8028
I think that reason why most of the characters in the film, except for the soccer players, were uncomfortable with the idea of women playing a sport -- professionally and competitively at that -- was because it's something new that they were not used to, and I think that they may have felt threatened by it to some extent. The men probably felt threatened by the fact that a woman, who is supposed to be "weaker" and subordinate, is in fact just as strong, if not stronger than them in the sport. For the older women, this idea was simply novel to "everything they knew" therefore making it "wrong" and unable to jive with their ideas and beliefs about femininity and masculinity that they had been taught and had internalized. For the younger women (i.e. the sister and her friends) there was probably the fear of being considered "too butch" if they played sports, an accusation which Jess and Jules did face. In essence, all the characters who were uncomfortable with the fact that Jess wanted to and was good at playing soccer, were most likely expressing their fears -- fears of the unknown (i.e. breaking from traditional notions of male/female roles), fears of name-calling, fears of being considered inferior.
Name:  amelia leonards
Username:  aleonard@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend it like Beckham
Date:  2004-02-08 19:40:41
Message Id:  8041
i feel we covered most of the response to this question in class- honestly, i don't think too many people are as opposed to women in sport in modern times as jas' parents were aside from heavily traditional families clinging to cultures that are not as accepting of the less feminine image portrayed by female athletes. All of the mothers and fathers i know are proud of their daughters for participating in athletics and haven't shown any desire for them to be 'more feminine'. the one traditional family i know from the middle east allowed their daughter to play lacrosse and fully supported her. jas obviously had much stronger opposition to face then anyone i personally know, and as someone else commented, her progress through the movie was very similar to the progress of women in sport in the documentary. the irish eye candy was a little too much- the movie was about her exceeding in sports, not getting together with her coach on the side. the hope that her family would eventually accept him seemed a bit extraordinary- how far can she push them?
i don't identify with any of the characters in the movie, though i'm sorry to say i've met a lot of mothers as embarrassing as juliette's.
Name:  Talia
Username:  tsquires@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  bend it like beckham
Date:  2004-02-08 23:01:46
Message Id:  8050
I found it interesting that one of the reason jess' mother protested her playing soccer so much was that it included her showing the burns on her legs. I liked that athletics allowed Jess to become less ashamed of something that she had untill then considered "disgusting" and take pride in her skills on the soccer field. The film showed how much more comfortable someone can become with their body when they excell or even just participate in a sport. I find that people who were involved in athletic tend to be more accepting of their bodies even if some would perceive them to be flawed. By going out in shorts and exposing something that others might consider ugly, Jess showed that she was more interested in being an athlete than devoting her life to creating an appearance of beauty. It wasn't that she didn't want to appear beautiful, but that it was no longer her primary purpose and she didn't want to lie in order to be beautiful.
Name:  Nicole
Username:  nwittig@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Bend it like Bekham
Date:  2004-02-09 00:07:43
Message Id:  8055
I was suprised by the negativity Jes received from her parents. Her father thought he was protecting jes from racial prejudice and her mother was just trying to make her into a respectful traditional woman. I am sure that such families still exist that would want to honor their religion above sports, but I think a lot of that is changing. Sports give girls a lot of opportunities, including scholarships to schools and universities. Perhaps the girl who is a bit average academically will get a second chance through her abilities in sports. And I think a lot of families recognize the opportunities for their girls to recieve funding for school. So much so, that you get another extreme opposite of Jes's parents, those parents who begin their children at a sport at a very young age. And not just the money, but also that sports keeps their kids occupied so they are not doing drugs, or drinking, or any other mischevious things the kids could get into. Especially with families on very different schedules.

I don't think I could completely relate to one of the characters. Though Joules father kind of reminds me of the attitudes my parents had. The whole as long as she is playing with a basketball instead of boys idea.

Name:  christina
Username:  ckim@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  reaction
Date:  2004-02-09 20:42:50
Message Id:  8077
I have to agree with kate here. The movie's ending was not about getting a boyfriend. Also, her having a boyfriend is irrelevant to how she played the game. Honestly, I don't see why the coach turned into a boyfriend, esp since it created a huge schism between Jules and Jess. Perhaps, that is all the director was trying to do. Show that teamwork in a team also means teamwork in life (as cheesy as that sounds).

I also have to note something we brought up in our discussion last week. I believe there are strong male characters in the movie. Granted the film is aimed at girls, but that does not mean male characters are necessarily weak. And if they are, so what? The coach was not only eye-candy; I assume we would not have said that if he was unattractive. He had a very significant role; if not for him Jess would never had the courage to play in America.

This movie was portrayed very well, I believe. I identify very much with Jess, myself coming from a very traditional family. I used to struggle with playing sports in junior high and high school because my mother preferred that I play piano and study hard instead. As a compromise, I did all of them. I understand what Jess must have gone through; trying to do what's best for yourself and keeping your parents happy. It's hard to find a perfect medium.

Name:  Amy Campbell
Username:  acampbel@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  next response
Date:  2004-02-10 11:22:15
Message Id:  8094
Great respones - hope you are enjoying thinking and sharing your thoughts with the 'team'!

Both Jess and Julie are passionate about playing soccer-and don't see their participation in gender terms yet their frinds and families relate to their participation through the lens of gender and in the case of Julie's mother, sexual orientation. Why does sport heighten the conversation re: gender and orientation for women and not for men? Are there other places in society this happens?

Name:  laura sockol
Username:  lsockol@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Response
Date:  2004-02-10 20:35:58
Message Id:  8108
I think anything that puts women in the spotlight brings up question of their identification with gender roles and their sexuality. Traditionally, women are supposed to be demure. Anything that goes against this - politics, acting, sports - can be used against a woman, both in terms of her sexual orientation and her role as a woman in general.
Name:  Naomi
Username:  nspector@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  bend it like beckham 2
Date:  2004-02-11 18:29:58
Message Id:  8119
In response to Amy Campbell's remark/question: I think it really is a matter of generation/cultural values that makes Jess' and Julie's views different from their parents. They have grown up in a world that has given them new views on what's "ok" and not in terms of gender roles and sexuality that is different from their parents. At the same time many of these 'new views' are also new to others of their same generation (i.e. the boys that Jess started playing soccer with) and in playing the sport, Jess and Julie are paving the way for future women -- they are still breaking down barriers in terms of people's views of women playing sports. In being "jet-setters" (i think that's the phrase) and continuing to pave the way for future women sports players, Jess and Julie have to face questions, not being accepted, being made fun of, etc., which in the end, I think, only makes them stronger in their determination to play the game and go further with it.
Name:  Talia
Username:  tsquires@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2004-02-12 00:26:02
Message Id:  8129
I don't think that it's exclusive for women to be sexually stigmatized based on athletics. Men in figure skating, dance (especially ballet), gymnastics, and cheer leading are often accused of homosexuality based purely on the sports they participate in. There was a male cheer leader in my school that always had to be the bear mascot because he was the only man and they didn't know what to do with him. Conversly, women in these sports aren't frequently accused of being un-feminine, because they are perceived as feminine sports. I think that almost every sport is stigmatized as being appropriate for a certain gender and it is hard for someone of either gender to break those barriers. I think that more sports are probably harder to access for women then men, but that the problem goes both ways and that all sports should be equally accessable and acceptable for both genders.
Name:  Nicole Wittig
Username:  nwittig@brynmawr.edu
Date:  2004-02-12 00:28:06
Message Id:  8130
IN response to the second question, I don't think that only females sexual orientation is questioned in sports. I think that men also fall into this subject. When we think of a jock we have a very defined image of a male in his prime form. There are very 'manly' sports such as football and hockey, and then there are sports where mens sexuality is questioned like ballet and figure skating. I think the issue of father and son come into this too. I am sure most fathers would rather take their sons to baseball practice than to ballet. That would be demeaning for the father to appear before his peers and share the fact that his son is interested in dancing, because his son is going to be precieved as a wimp. Of course I am using the above as an example.

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