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Women, Sport, and Film - 2002
Student Papers
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Entering a Non-traditional Sport (Question #2)

Roberta Peters

There are both many social and cultural costs and benefits of an individual (male or female) entering a non-traditional sport for their gender/sex. First, there are a variety of benefits. When women and men enter non-traditional sports, they are showing society that sports donít have to be limited to one sex or the other. Women and men are setting an example for everyone around them that you people should do whatever you they want to do no matter what. The entering of a non-traditional sport may be easier for an individual when there is positive feedback from the people around him/her. For example, I donít think that Bev (in the movie Pumping Iron II) would have been able to continue to weight lift if she didnít have such positive and encouraging coaches and family.

Another benefit of entering a non-traditional sport may just simply involve the use of skill. Although a sport, may not be traditional for a certain sex, athletic capability may be enhanced by participating in these other sports. For example, many football players take ballet lessons to work on their balance, grace, and stability. This kind of situation shows that ballet can be used for just performing ballet or it could mean that ballet is useful for other types of performance.

Another way to look at entering a non-traditional sport as beneficial is by looking at upward social mobility. Participation in a certain sport can allow a person to better their chances of getting out of a situation or circumstance. An obvious example of upward social mobility is in the movie Girlfight. Diana has a chance to get out of her home and community through her participation in boxing. Because Diana is a women in a non-traditional sport, her chances of getting out are increased, unlike the many male boxers around her. Because other women boxers are rare, the demand for other competitors is high. Being an individual in a non-traditional sport shows uniqueness, and if that individual is good at what they do, this can bring in more attention and possibly help in achieving other things such as athletic scholarships.

Also, in regards to females entering non-traditional sports, there is the benefit of proving to themselves and others that women are just as capable, if not even better, as men in performing certain tasks. This would not be such a big deal if historically sports werenít established with men and only menís participation and skill emphasized.
On the other hand, there are also many costs of an individual entering a non-traditional sport for their gender/sex. Such costs can include things that affects oneís personal self. An individualís self-esteem can be lowered by the people around them - this can be provoked by comments or actions from men to women, from women to men, and even from men to men, and from women to women. Earlier, and still even today, women had to overcome labels and name calling from people around them and even now an example is men in dealing with comments being made about becoming cheerleaders. Another example of an action that affected someoneís self esteem was the match between Adrian and Diana in Girlfight. When Diana won the match, Adrian had a hard time
dealing with it. It seemed as if his self-esteem was lowered because he got beat by a girl. Unfortunately, Adrian may have to deal with people around him commenting on this outcome, but this could eventually lead to a benefit in that Adrian and society will learn about talented women boxers and give them the respect that they deserve.

In the forum, difference was discussed. Individuals entering non-traditional sports is a difference and this difference may be perceived as a threat by people. It could be perceived as a threat because it would mean things are starting to change. Some people may not like the idea of changing the established male role sports and female role sports. In my high school, the field hockey team had one male member. This member received so much insult from opposing fans, players, and coaches. Some people may have felt that he was taking away from the established female sport. Opposing coaches threatened to protest games if he was on the field and if a team did agree to play with a guy on the field and lost, blame was put on the fact the field hockey team had a guy participant (one guy).

Men may possibly be physically faster and stronger, leading to another cost, in regards to men entering non-traditional sports. It may be that if a guy joins a field hockey team and then others begin to join, outcomes of events may be due to the fact that men could get the ball faster, and this could lead to big conflicts in playing all girls teams. However, men should not be excluded from certain sports based on their physicality and
the same goes for women (such as bodybuilders).

So far, I feel that the benefits outweigh the costs. If someone is willing and able to overcome the comments and insults thrown at their self-esteem and continue to do what they do, this is an accomplishment in itself. The most amazing thing to me involving an individual entering a non-traditional sport for their gender/sex, is the way people around them react negatively. I have a hard time understanding why people wouldnít encourage this non-traditional participation. I feel as though most of the costs are fixable and that the solutions may not be that hard to come by. Maybe if people looked at the bigger picture and compared this participation to what else these individuals could be doing, people would be able to see why it is really okay for them to participate. Maybe if people were more aware that if these individuals were rejected or denied the opportunity to play in a sport that they like, the individual could turn to participating in no sports at all and be doing alot worse things with their time. People could look at any and all sports as an outlet for individuals, a way to stay out of trouble, a way to interact with others and meet new people and make friends, or as an opportunity to change oneís life for the better.



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