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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Women, Sport, and Film
PAPER TOPIC 2: SOCIAL COSTS TO THOSE ENTERING GENDER-SPECIFIC SPORTS NOT THEIR OWN
I was part of the wrestling team when I was in middle school and in high school. While in middle school, the wrestling coaches were supportive of me and the other four girls on the team. We were trained as if we were men and competed with other team members. One girl was even cut from the team for not keeping up with the training that was expected of all team members. The other coaches in the school were not as supportive. P.E. teachers that were once friendly to the five of us became aloof and discriminatory. Students – other athletes, some on the wrestling team – taunted us. We five women on the wrestling team found we were no longer accepted by teachers and friends. We were never told that this change in attitude towards us was directly caused by our participation in a man's sport, but wrestling seems to be the only reason five women of different race, religion, and social grouping would have undergone such an experience.
My teammates and I were outcast by many of our peers and punished in our classes by some of our teachers for participating in a non-traditional sport for women. When I received a wrestling injury that ended my wrestling season, I was still outcast because I carried the stigma of being a wrestler.
In high school, I did not try out for the wrestling team until my sophomore year because I was afraid of the social implications that joining the wrestling team had. When I did try out with a friend in our second year of high school, we were accepted onto the team automatically so that our school could compete on the female level. We were not supported by the coaches or any of our teammates and were forced to sit out during trials. Off of the wrestling mat, we did not face any social repercussions for wrestling. Then again, we were not wrestling. We were not trained, we were not expected to weigh in, we were not a part of the team.
In both middle school and high school, the social benefit would have been acceptance of female wrestlers and propagation of competitive female wrestling. My friends and I failed in both situations and suffered socially in one way or another for our efforts as a group. I don't think we would have made it as far as we did – onto the teams – had any of us acted alone.
Conversely, my friend who is a female falconer is in this sport as an individual and a woman. She is one of the younger master falconers in the country at 26. She experiences greater success than her male counterparts in part because she is a woman. Sometimes her success is due to the novelty of seeing a woman handling and hunting with birds of prey. She is respected in her field as if she is a man and commands many birds that most men are afraid to work with due to size and/or ferocity. Her success as a falconer adds more to her ability than to her gender.
An individual who enters a sport not traditional to his gender might not further his gender as he might be seen as a fluke – an exception. When many, either at once or individually, participate in a non-traditional sport to their gender I think a difference can be made. That group can show that, as a gender, they can compete and excel in a non-traditional sport. However, my example shows quite the opposite. Is this the difference between team sports and non-team sports? Or obscure sports and popular sports? I don't know that answer to these questions.
Perhaps when a group enters a sport that is not traditional to their gender, they intimidate others that would rather not see the sport changed or expanded. Perhaps if one enters a sport not traditional to one's gender as an individual, more can be accomplished because there is no intimidation factor.
I don't know the best way for anyone to enter a gender-specific sport that does not match his own gender without creating social and cultural ripples. I don't know what the long-term benefits might be because I have never witnessed them to my knowledge. As women, it is difficult to change social ideas of women participating in sports. Some women fail in their attempts to propagate change while some women follow in the footsteps of other women that already changed social conceptions of women in a certain sport.
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