Women in Sports Week: The Roundup

Based on the opening scenes, the viewer might assume that this story is about Kenny, but it is not. This movie ultimately focuses on community, defining one’s own identity, and the grounding strength of women… This film privileges the indigenous perspective from the start and specifically shows strong women guiding the action either explicitly or implicitly.

I was a rebel. A grrrrl. And no cheerleader was going to get in my way or the way of feminism.
So imagine my surprise when partway into the movie I’d rented as a hatewatch I realized that I cared. A lot. I really, really wanted the Rancho Carne Toros to win that darn cheerleading competition. It made me deeply uncomfortable.

Over the past decade, however, a number of low-profile yet potent documentaries have arrived to stir up the rules. Here are five documentaries any fan of women’s sports—or sports in general—will not want to miss.
All of these films are as packed with joy and pain as any glossy Hollywood product, and through the passions of their filmmakers, convey a sense of humanity few fiction flicks can compete with.

Viola’s conquest of her gross ex is facilitated through this penalty kick, on a pitch where the winners and losers are clearly delineated. This isn’t a symbolic victory: Viola literally puts the winning point on the board…. Through her athletic talent, Viola gets to vanquish the boy who insulted and belittled her on a playing field where the subsequent victors are easily recognizable.

Boxing has always, of course, been the most traditionally masculine, most brutal and most controversial of sports. Female boxing remains a divisive issue around the world and only became an Olympic event at the London 2012 Games. It is all the more remarkable that girls from a land scarred by gender discrimination have taken up the sport. The girls’ coach, Sabir Sharifi, explains, “The Taliban were absolutely opposed to sports. They had an especially strong opposition to boxing.” A girl boxer in a hijab is an incongruous image for many–or most–Westerners. For the Taliban, female boxing is simply sinful. Boxing has also, however, been the sport of the marginalized and oppressed so it is perhaps unsurprising that these young Afghan women have chosen boxing. The sport for the trio is identified with self-empowerment and female self-worth.

In season four, Jess strode into that hyper-masculine domain with every bit as much passion as the male characters, and the extra savvy, self-awareness, and anger that comes from being a woman in a man’s world. She became a cheerleader because it was the only way for a girl like her to get close to the sport she grew up teaching to her much younger brothers, but as she gets older, that’s not enough for her. Helping her little brothers and running drills with her football star boyfriend isn’t enough; she wants to be involved for herself. She convinces Coach Taylor to let her be an equipment manager, with the intention of someday becoming a high school football coach.

Another particularly remarkable aspect is that these women are in no way portrayed as “butch,” highlighting the (seemingly little-known) fact that characteristics typically associated with femininity (physical and otherwise) and a genuine passion for sports are, in fact, not contradictory.

While it takes a sort of post-feminist approach to surfing, Blue Crush attempts to work in some subdued class commentary… Which brings me to Blue Crush 2. This straight-to-video “sequel” is just another movie about surfer girls, with no connection to the original film other than someone paying for the rights to the title. Here we have another white girl protagonist, although this one has the opposite amount of class privilege.

Every single woman on the league was ticked off about the silly uniforms that they were forced to wear, with the frilly skirts instead of pants. They point out how impractical they are, and we see the results of the terrible uniforms when one player gets a severe bruise after taking a rough slide into a base. The newsreels, which constantly try to reaffirm the players’ femininity, come off as a total joke because of how little attention they pay to the players’ athletic abilities. Marla is constantly overlooked by others because she is plain, instead of being celebrated for being the best slugger in the league. One sequence involves a snooty middle-aged woman decrying the “masculinization” of women on the radio, complaining that things like the girls’ baseball team will have longstanding effects on home, children and country. She even calls the league “sexual confusion” and wonders what kind of girls the men overseas will come home to. Well, there WERE longstanding effects on home, children, and country…but hardly the destruction of life as we know it.

Like most “women breaking barriers” films, especially those involving sports, Heart like a Wheel has a sort of against-all-odds feel to it that makes you want to like it, even if you know hokey story lines like that tend to be amped up by filmmakers for the benefit of paying audiences. This is no surprise. What is surprising, however, is that viewers are privy only to a watered-down version of the significant odds that Muldowney really faced.

Well, there it is. Now you see why this movie made 19 kajillion dollars and won an Oscar: it tells a heartwarming tale of white benevolence, assures the red state dweller that his theory that “there’s black people, and then there’s niggers” is right on, and affords him the chance to vicariously remind a black guy who’s boss through the person of America’s sweetheart. Just fucking revolting.

“A Review of The Fighter by Jessica Freeman-Slade

And they’re right to fear her: with her steely nerve, Alice is as brazen a coach, Mama Rose in the boxing ring, Joey LaMotta in a push-up bra. When Micky goes absent from her immediate purvey, she shows up on his porch with the sisters in tow, posing questions that put him right back in the place of the apologetic son. “What’re you doing, Mickster?” she asks, her eyes all hard with disdain and disappointment. “Who’s gonna look after you?” Alice knows that mother love—and filial obligation—is one of the most powerful weapons she has.