The Evolution of the Image of Women in Sports
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.
All of the films that we watched provided different perspectives on how the image of women is situated in our culture. From the first movie, Dare to Compete, which highlighted the development of women's participation in sports, to Love and Basketball, which fully accepts women's participation in sports, we examined a range of views and opinions on the proper role of women in sports.
Dare to Compete presented images of women in sports over many years, highlighting the evolution of female athletes. At first female athletes still had to be dainty. They were women first, and athletes second. Women were believed to be too fragile for most sports and were told that they would have problems reproducing if they were too physically active. The women you see in sports early on were very feminine, both while participating in sports and in their personal lives. The women who were not as feminine suffered from criticism and felt great pressure to change their appearances to fit in with cultural norms.
As the century progressed, the physicality of women in sports became more acceptable. Women who were not as feminine still had to deal with prejudice, and were sometimes labeled "homosexual" as a derogatory statement. Although there are still stereotypes that many women feel bound to, we see at the end of the film that images of women as athletes, rather than athletes as women are now acceptable. The Nike commercials are a good example of this. These commercials extol the physical prowess of women. Dare to Compete demonstrates that the images of women in sports have changed drastically throughout the twentieth century.
The women in Bend it Like Beckham had to deal with cultural stereotypes against women in sport. Jess' mother had strictly confined ideas of how a woman should look. She did not approve of Jess playing soccer, but if she did it was important for her to keep her legs covered. The issue that comes up repeatedly in this movie is the popular notion that women will not be perceived as women if they are 'sporty'. Jess' mother is afraid that men will not be interested in her because of her athleticism and Jules' mother blames her daughter's lack of a boyfriend on her participation in the soccer team. Although the two mothers represent different cultures, both of their cultures state that female athletes are not feminine or desirable. They are certainly not normal. I think one of the important distinctions in this film is that, while there are certainly many who uphold that belief, there are many others who see and appreciate female athletes. Even Jess' father come to appreciate her athleticism by the end of the film.
An important moment in the film occurs when Jules' mother mistakenly believes...