Monday, March 24, 2008

Movie Review: Kick Like a Girl

We received our copy of the new documentary, Kick Like a Girl, last week and popped in the DVD player right away. It was quite good. The star was definitely the daughter of filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie. She was quite precocious and very informed about issues of gender, as were many of the other girls on the team. Though she did admit she had to be convinced that her team, the Mighty Cheetahs, joining the boys' soccer league in Salt Lake City was actually a good idea.
The 24-minute film contains many interviews with members of the Cheetahs, their parents, boys they played against, and I believe one mother of a boy who lost to the Cheetahs. Many of the interviewees recounted stories of parents yelling at their sons "You're losing to girls!"but none of those parents seemed to want to be interviewed.
It was a very positive film. The girls knew exactly what was going on regarding the gender stereotypes they were breaking and most of the boys in the film got it too. There was no explicit message which actually became part of the problem I had with the film.
It did not seem to want to say outright that mixed gender competition is the direction we should be headed in. But by not making some statement about either (or both) the positives and negatives of mixed gender competition the message left open for viewers to take was that these girls are unique. That most girls do not desire the level of competition these girls sought and that most girls are not competitive and not as skilled. Though the movie did a good job debunking the stereotypes that have been placed on these girls--that they can't kick, for example--it fails to address how desire for competition and level of aggression or even the desire to play a sport like soccer are all affected by social norms placed on both girls and boys.
In the end it's a great story about a soccer team that changed some minds about the abilities of (some) girls. It's perfect for showing in classes because it's short, compelling and can inspire some good discussions about youth sports, mixed gender competition, and the ability of sport to alter gender stereotypes.