English 313 HON. M-W 12:30-1:45
9 December 2009
Women and Kinesiology
Kinesiology is defined as, “the sum of what is known regarding human motion; the study of motion of the human body; a system of diagnosis based on the theory that muscle dysfunction is secondary to sub clinical structural, chemical, or mental dysfunction in other parts of the body; using manual muscle testing to help identify the primary dysfunction and treating by attempting to correct the underlying state.” (Online Medical Dictionary) George J. Goodheart is given the credit for being the founder of Kinesiology in 1964. There are many debatable topics in the field of kinesiology and one of them is women and kinesiology.
I think a good place to start is by asking what contributes to a healthy woman? Dr. Goodheart’s approach is what is studied in the discipline of kinesiology. Dr Goodheart states that, “a good approach to health care involves three components: the structural, the chemical, and the psychological” (Parker 111) what he called the Triad of Health.
Today when our society thinks of what contributes to a healthy woman structurally, they will see something like this image in their head.
Women all desire the perfect size breasts and the toned, flat stomach, the little legs that don’t rub against each other every step that you take, and the glowing tan. I think that every woman is looking to have a figure as beautiful as this. I believe that many woman look to have this kind of body because of social identities, “the expectations and opinions that others have on us.” (Barker 215) In the discipline of kinesiology there are so many different perceptions of women. When a kinesiologist thinks of a woman, anatomically they picture something along these lines…
Another perception of women in kinesiology is women in sport. Women are supposed to have a thick body and something that is indestructible. Women in sports are perceived to have smaller breasts, a very muscular and toned body, and are seen as more masculine.
These few images show a variety of perceptions that women feel like they need to fulfill in the world of kinesiology and sport. In the Triad of Health structure is the foundation of the human body and of the Triad. “It includes the bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and nerves.” (Parker 92) A good example of this that most people can relate to is that we, human beings, stand on two feet and improper movements of the bones in the foot and ankle or the muscles and ligaments which support them can cause symptoms in more distal joints. This is due to our ability to adapt to a problem unconsciously and excessively stress other regions in compensation. This is only one third of the Triad of Health.
The next component of the Triad is the chemical aspect. Chemistry relates to the chemical make-up and balance of the body. This includes diet, vitamin, and mineral intake, as well as the function of organs and organ systems. Often, what looks and feels like a structural or emotional problem is actually rooted in the body’s response to a chemical imbalance.
The last part of the Triad of Health is the psychological or the emotional. This aspect of health is crucial. You don’t have to want to be healthy to get healthier. And you don’t have to believe something will work for it to work, but it helps! There are many psychiatric problems that have a physiological cause. The power of positive thinking can improve health and the power of negative thinking can trigger illness and disease; it’s a two way street. But, in either case, the mind holds sway over the body. Structural, chemical, and psychological components all affect and interrelate with one another, and when balanced properly combine to form a holistic person.
In all branches of kinesiology women are stereotyped. A stereotype is, “a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.” (Online Dictionary) The majority of gender related studies focused their attention on women. Very few studies involve male stereotypes. (SDSU) Everyday stereotypes that women have to deal with are being seen as passive, being dominated by men, governed by emotion, overly emotional or dependent. Women are also depict as less intelligent then men and generally weak. The roles which women are assigned tend to be marital and family oriented. In addition, women are rarely shown to be able to successfully combine marriage and employment. Women are typically younger then men on television and usually disappear between the ages of thirty-five and fifty.
In Kinesiology women are stereotyped in similar ways as listed above but there are also some differences. Women are portrayed as being more fragile than men, which leads to them being seen as being weak and not able to do the work that men can do. Women are also seen as being more passive. Some examples of these are when you go to a physical therapy session. Women are treated like they are very fragile and if they complain of any pain then the therapist is very lenient in proceeding to a different exercise and trying that one another time. When men feel pain the therapist will say it is ok and tell them to keep trying because men are supposed to be indestructible. When women can’t lift the weight of a leg press in physical therapy then the therapist immediately will take the weight off and put less on for the women. For men they sit there and push them to try to lift it and encourage them by saying you only have to do ten, come on! Women are also very passive and let therapists tell them what to do and they will listen to them. A lot of men that you see in therapy session they try to tell the therapist what they want to do. This shows that stereotypes of women in our every day life roll over into kinesiology and can be found as true. Of course, there are always the women, like myself, that don’t fit the mold. From my personal experience in physical therapy I was being stereotyped and came out surprising everyone because I didn’t fit the everyday mold. I wanted to do as many exercises as I could fit into my hour session and most of the time I would end up staying two or three hours because the therapists loved my motivation. I didn’t show any of my weaknesses because I feel like when you walk into a therapy session the expectation is that you are weak because you are hurt. When you exceed that expectation and show that you are strong it gives the therapist a totally different impression of you. I have talked with my therapist and he says, “When people walk in the door for the first time the expectation is always for them to complain about the pain and tell you how much they don’t want to be there. It is so great to have a client like you walk in the door who is motivated to get better and get back to doing what they love to do. It reminds me why I love my job.” (Personal Interview) I think that this closely relates to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I think that Maggie goes against the general stereotypes of women and that is why she is seen as radical, but I also think that because she goes against the stereotypes of women that she draws women close to her. When I was reading I couldn’t help but to love Maggie’s character. From talking to people in the class, many of the women in the class liked Maggie but couldn’t explain why and I think that this is because she didn’t fit the every day mold that we are supposed to fit.
In Sex and the City the women discuss their sexual desires and fantasies, and their travels in life and love. The show often depicts frank discussions about romance and sexuality, particularly in the context of being a single woman in her mid-thirties, which is a stereotype that most women fear. Carrie Bradshaw is one of the main characters in Sex and the City and most of the episodes are surrounded around her train of thought while writing for the weekly column. Carrie is not house-proud, her oven is used for storage; her one-room, rent-controlled apartment is in an Upper East Side brownstone, which is not part of the high class society. Carrie is a simple, open-minded girl looking for love, but also having fun in the process. She experiences moments of happiness in her independence and loneliness, and is probably the most relative to normal everyday females. Most women can relate to her, which we saw when the group resented on Sex and the City. Despite several long-term boyfriends, Carrie is entangled with Mr. Big in a complicated, multifaceted, on-and-off-again kind of relationship. This shows that Carries fits the image that women are supposed to have in their mid-thirties. When I interviewed my physical therapist he stated, “that Carrie Bradshaw would be the woman that he would want to be his client. Not just because she is beautiful but because she seems like a fighter and would break the stereotype of women in therapy settings.” (Personal Interview)
Miranda Hobbes, another Sex and the City main character, is a career-minded lawyer with extremely cynical views on relationships and men. A Harvard Law School graduate from Philadelphia with two siblings, she is Carrie's best friend, confidante, and voice of reason. In the show, Sex and the City, she is portrayed as masculine and borderline misandric, “hatred of men and boys,” (Online Dictionary) but this image softens over the years, particularly after she becomes pregnant by her boyfriend, Steve Brady, whom she eventually marries. The birth of her son, Brady Hobbes, brings up new issues for her Type A, workaholic personality, but she soon finds a way to balance career, being single and motherhood. Of the four women, she is the first to purchase her own apartment and later a home in Brooklyn. Media is the biggest problem to stereotypes of women. When movies and shows like, Sex and the City come out on television people love them and watch them and this is how stereotypes come about! In Sex and the City Miranda breaks all the stereotypes of women. She is seen as masculine because she is career minded and women are stereotyped to stay at home and take acre of the kids and prepare meals. This is shown when her image of being masculine softens because she becomes pregnant and finally marries a man, which shatters the idea of her being borderline misandric. Miranda is also stereotyped as being masculine because she is the first to buy an apartment and a home on her own. This is because men are the ones who are supposed to be in the work field and therefore bring home the money to pay for everything. When a woman has enough money to buy a home, which is seen as a man’s job, then she is viewed as being masculine. Women are stereotyped, as not being able to balance career and motherhood and this is a problem that Miranda has. She eventually breaks this stereotype by being able to find the right balance between her job and her son.
I think that women in the field of kinesiology could play a huge role. Women can bring awareness to men that not all women fit the normal everyday female stereotypes. They can help men understand women better. I also believe that women, who are strong, fight for what they are, and who break that mold that people have about women are great people to bring into the field of kinesiology. These women can help motivate other women to break the stereotypes and be their own person. This could bring about a huge change in stereotypes on women in the field of kinesiology. Women who don’t fit the stereotype can share their morals, “How you ought to live, about preferred values and behavior” (Kretchmar 186) and values, “Certain motives and personality traits” (Kretchmar 207) with other women and help to change their character in a more positive way. If women were not scared to come out of their shells and speak their opinions and break the image that society has put on us, I think there could be a big change.
Equality for Women in Sports and Society we call America “land of the free”, a place where dreams come true and discrimination is only found in history books. Would you agree with this? For years people everywhere fled their homes in search of freedom and more opportunities, but only a select few benefited; white men. We have come a long way since the nineteenth century but anyone can see the huge gender gap in occupations, society, and especially sports. Women unlike men have only had the option of playing sports for a few decades. Though they were frowned upon, women were permitted to play in their back yards and on playgrounds but it was not too long ago when they were finally allowed to join organized sports. Bills and acts were passed and amendments were added to improve the inequality of women, but we are still far from equality in job opportunities and even further in sports. “Almost sixty percent of female athletes featured on or in magazines were photographed in posed shots rather than shots revealing their athletic participation” (Whiting 163). I would like to think of America as the land of the free and without discrimination but the fact that I am a female athlete makes that notion nearly impossible. The fear that sport participation causes females to become lesbians is a primary reason that some parents tend to lead their daughters away from sports, and that others choose not to acknowledge women’s sports at all. Female athletes challenge America’s ‘patriarchal’ society, and because social constructions harbor patriarchal values and beliefs, when women challenge those beliefs they are viewed negatively.
It is not only in sport that women are discriminated against in the field of kinesiology. “In the US, more than four hundred thousand people get their knees replaced each year, and nearly two thirds are women. These numbers keep growing every year.” (Gender Knee) With more women undergoing knee replacement surgery, orthopedic surgeons began to notice the distinct anatomical differences between women and men’s knees. They found that they often had to make adjustments during surgery in order to make a traditional knee implant fit a woman. This shows that even in the surgical field of kinesiology there is discrimination between male and female. It was not until very recently that surgeons paid attention to women and realized that we are structured very differently from men. Surgeons are very recently making knee replacements structured only for women. Throughout history there has always been stereotypes, discrimination, and racism and it will continue to happen. It is all part of living in the society that we have lived in, are living in, and will continue to live in. This paper just shows one discipline that is affected everyday by stereotypes, discrimination, and racism but there are many more to consider.
1. Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies, Theory and Practice. Third Edition. 2008
2. Kretchmar, Scott R. Practical Philosophy of Sport and Physical Activity. Second Edition. 2005
3. Parker, Steve. Robert Winston. The Human Body Book. Peter Bull Art Studio and Kevin Jones Associates. 2007
4. Personal Interview with Robert Maccasset, December 1, 2009.
5. Whiting, William C. Stuart Rugg. Dynatomy, Dynamic Human Anatomy. 2006
6. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/kinesiology last accessed December 11, 2009
7. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stereotype last accessed December 12, 2009
8. http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/stereotypes/index.htm last accessed December 10, 2009
9. http://www.genderknee.com/micro/z/ctl/op/global/action/1/global/1/template/MN/navid/50 last accessed December 13, 2009