Teaching Gender Through Films on Sportswomen: Contrary Messages

Author: Ankita Chakravarty, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, India
Email: ankita.c@nujs.edu
Published: June 05, 2020

Citation: Chakravarty, A. (2020). Teaching Gender Through Films on Sportswomen: Contrary Messages. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.7.1.10


It is increasingly essential that teachers focus on media-based ways of teaching and learning. Hence, educators include films to provoke discussions and analyses of concepts. Scholars investigating women in films have shown the dominance of gendered constructions and representations. However, there have been few studies evaluating films on Indian sportswomen, although there have been numerous films on this, from Chak De India to Mary Kom, Dangal and, more recently, Panga. Specifically presented within the context of a developing country like India, these films have been heralded as life-affirming narratives for women, which will supposedly help in improving the life conditions of girls and women in society – the stark reality of our country being reflected in adverse gender ratios, female foeticide and infanticide, among other ills. However, in fact, many of these films actually reaffirm conventional notions of patriarchy and masculinity. This article assesses the utility of teaching gender and empowerment through two prominent films on sportswomen – Chak De! India and Bend it like Beckham, which continue to be seen as iconic films. By engaging in critical content analysis and a systematic reading of the narratives, the article highlights that these films, ironically, predominantly identify sports with masculine achievements, wherein women’s successes are reduced to supporting narratives. Hence, the gender order is upheld with the identification of the “masculine” with the aggression and vigour associated with sports, while the “feminine” is identified and marked as secondary and inferior, with “her” worth being determined by, and reflecting, “his” success on the sports platform.

Keywords: cinematic representations, Indian sportswomen, patriarchy, teaching