For my final project, I decided to research the complexities of female athletes; particularly their coverage in the media. I examined some biases that exist in publicity, treatment based on gender, and the force to “feminize” the category of women in sports.
I was motivated to do this project when I recently learned about Title IX. “Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, Public Law No. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972), codified at 20 U.S.C. sections 1681 through 1688, U.S. legislation also identified by the name of its principal author as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act” (Wiki).
Title IX states (in part) that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. . .”
More specifically, this was a push to end discrimination in sports based on gender. This movement was over 40 years ago, and as a result the laws have changed, but the social, political, and ideals of this realm have not. Instead, the media has brought more attention to the women’s physical features, rather than their skills and/or performance.
I chose to start my short film by playing the audio from a Nike commercial that was released in 1995. The commercial was created in honor of Title IX. When I first saw the commercial in a class at UCSB, Feminist Studies 144 taught by Professor Bobo, I immediately fell in love with the content. I was inspired to create a motivational and creative piece. The commercial displays young girls who desire to play sports. The girls are continuously saying, “If you let me play,” with a follow up on how this could potentially change their life. (ie. If you let me play, I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me”). When I first watched this, I asked myself who “you” was referring to in this commercial. My interpretation was that it was to anyone who was against seeing women in sports, seeing women as competitive, strong, and having power. This is not just limited to men and the media; the “you” could be referring to a mother, father, teacher or governments. A mother or father, for instance, may not want their daughter playing a sport because they might feel that it is too dangerous or should not be a hobby for a “young girl.” A teacher might encourage the boys and girls in his/her class to play specific sports during lunch (ie All the young girls will jump rope and the boys will play basketball). The government might structure society in a way where they don’t feel intimidated by seeing women in dominate role because of systemic ideals. I felt this was a good introduction because as young girls, they see, admire and aspire to be like popular women in sports.
For example, if well-known athletes such as Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, and Natalie Coughlin are role models to young children, the manner in which they are represented in is extremely important. On one hand, if the media is constructing them to be positive athletes, children can learn from this and try to be like them. On the other hand, if media is making them out to be sexy or always dressing provocatively for every photo shoot, children too, may follow their lead. If the media continues to reproduce these negative stereotypes of women athletes, at what point will they focus on the message being sent out? These aspiring athletes may ask themselves: “Do I need to look like that to be successful? Do I have to dress like that to be noticed? Will my sexuality make a difference?”
In the beginning of the film, the viewer hears multiple sounds. These extra-diegetic sounds are a mix of the following: a ball bouncing, water splashing, and a woman yelling “yes,” and an a capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, singing, “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest.” My goal of the opening was to make the viewer feel that they were part of this film and to give it a live effect. It gives the viewer an introduction to the content that is discussed in the film: Motivation! Change! Grassroots!
Throughout the project, I chose to play multiple instrumental songs in the background of the interviews. I feel like music can either be a distraction or be powerful in a film. I chose these particular instrumentals to expose the interviewees’ feelings, actions, and the overall film’s tensions. For example, during an interview, one individual was discussing the difference between the support of the school during a basketball game, music was playing in the background, however when she said, “…at a women’s basketball game, we have like two students.” I silenced the music while she said that so the viewer was able to focus only on the seriousness of the issue.
The entire project is filmed at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Recreation Center. I chose to do it at this location because the media rarely portrays women in their craft. Often times, they are seen out of uniform, or with their family, or husband to feminize this category. For example, when Candace Parker (WNBA Los Angeles Sparks player) was pregnant, she received much more media coverage than she would have during her basketball season. There is an undertone that many ignore. This undertone also relates to women getting sponsorships and/or endorsements. The message behind getting them with a family and/or with a man can be implied that they are not lesbian and they too, are “women” outside of their professional work in sports.
I chose an all-women cast to break the boundaries of having men as the dominated commentators in sports. The costumes were too chosen to break the barriers of women being feminized and only seen as doing domestic works, and wearing skirts, dresses, etc. The costumes varied to show there are many different women, rather than what the media may push to portray as an ideal woman. Some viewers may not notice these purposely chosen costumes:
- one woman has on jewelry v. woman without any jewelry.
- Suit v. Informal attire.
- Heels v. Tennis shoes
These choices represent the diversity of women because they are a “silent majority,” as bell hooks would describe them. I didn’t want to ignore the existence of the fact that there are many ways to embody being a “woman.”
In the past years, YouTube has become a main source for not only entertainment, but many individuals are turning to YouTube for their news and current events. YouTube is popular because of the following:
- Its on the web
- Flexibility of time in which you can view it
- If you are tired of watching other people’s works, you can make your own (aka. User-created content)
- Its FREE
- Endless possibilities of creativity and content discussed
These reasons, amongst others make YouTube a perfect place to broadcast my project because it will be visible to many YouTube users and visitors. My goal of this project is to educate and bring awareness to this issue. With all of the elements, format and techniques I used, I wish for this to be entertaining and groundbreaking.
If I had more time, I would have added many more topics, which would have led to a longer documentary. The following topics would be:
- More speakers (professional female athletes)
- Female athletes in NCAA
- Women who might have extra chromosomes and their perspectives of this
- Large wage gap between men and women in sports
- Female coverage in Sports Magazines, ESPN, and other media for sports