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Women, Sport, and Film - 2004
Student Papers
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The Ripple Effect

Jen Colella

Section Nine affects all women, not just athletes or children young enough to benefit from equalized funding. Women of all ages, all traditions, and cultures, even/especially the older generations who are being confronted with the changing image of the woman as projected through their grandchildren and children who are benefiting and changing in correlation to section nine. This is seen in all the movies we've watched this semester, and I assume is experienced in most homes and families with young woman. The value system held by the older generation is being met full on by new values, and as Jessie mentions in Bend it Like Beckam, the closer she gets to being who she is now allowed to be, the further she gets from who her family expects and knows her to be. It's not just sports or the new generation benefiting from section nine that is changing; everything is required to change to adopt this modern woman into the family structure.

The first group most affected by the new young woman of today would be the older woman of yesterday. Family conflict concerning mothers and daughters in relation to sports was a theme throughout the films. In Love and Basketball, Monica and her mother finally have a confrontation, and her mother admits she gave up her dreams for her husband, children, and their house, but she also declares she would do again, that her family and their happiness became her purpose, and she wouldn't give that up. This notion of the family as the female sphere repeats especially in Bend it Like Beckham. The woman of the family seem to have a spy network of gossiping older women who actually make it their duty in life to learn about and derail inappropriate female behavior. Unfortunately for Jessie, this includes sports (or anything with her legs showing). Her mother teaches her to make a meal, and insists she learn other "wife" activities involving the home, but as with Monica, this casting of the old on the new never quite takes because of a complete difference in cultural upbringing and its significance for women.

At the end of both these movies, all the women essentially compromise. Monica's mother admired the "fight" in Monica, and she tells her to try for Q. Jessie learns to cook and play soccer, and the older women of the neighborhood become more lenient (although it does take the father, symbol of the patriarchy, to get the women to accept Jessie and her goals). The lives of the older women are profoundly affected by how their children come to define themselves and their role in the family and to their mother's and father's.

Even the men are hugely affected by Section Nine. Jessie's father learns to fight discrimination, and at the end of the movie, he takes up cricket again. The movie most profoundly related to this encroachment on the masculine by the feminine is clearly demonstrated in Girl Fight. Diana seems to stop fighting in school, but she clearly continues to fight the men in her life, especially her father who essentially beat her mother to death. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is the moment when the tables turn. Diana beat her father. While he is begging, she continues, asking whether her mother had begged, whether he had stopped. Diana, in a more dramatic way, is a mirroring of Monica; both saw the helplessness and subordination of a woman they identified with, and combined with new opportunities within the culture, both rebelled against that quiet, docile image. The fight is a constant motivator for these women, and it is admired by the other characters. It is the battle the women wage against, not only their mother's submissiveness, but their own potential subordination that propels the characters forward. Even Jessie in one scene is clearly ordered by her father, who is fed up with her, to do something, and it is clearly expected that he, more so than Jessie's mother, will not be disobeyed. The men in these movies are forced down a step, or in Diana's case, literally knocked out and knocked down. This makes room for the strong female characters. Diana is a boxing champion because her boyfriend wasn't; he had to loose, men have to loose, for Diana and the occasional women to be allowed to win.

Ultimately, sports becomes an allusion to agency; where are women allowed to go and where are they allowed to move themselves? Sports is a physical motion, an exhausting battle, ultimately illustrating the battle for self-agency. Everyone is affected by the metaphor because the women must move within her female as well as society, and as she moves through the value systems, stereotypes, and ideals, she sets off ripples and waves that touch the world around her in profound and meaningful ways. The older women are forced to take her into account. The men are forced to let her take herself into account. The whole relationship between the athlete, their family, and their relationships with people change as the athlete changes.

Section Nine gave women the opportunity to compete, to fight, and play for their dreams while being women. They can still have families, Jessis can still cook, but they are very different from their predecessors and their mothers. They are a different type of woman, a new sort of daughter, and a unique version of the sister with new requirements and demands. The family must change its demands and requirements. Everything in relation to gender must change to make room for the mobile, dreaming, fighting women.

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