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Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?

Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?

by Jane Gottesman

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On playing fields and street corners, in backyards and gyms, the people in this arresting array of pictures are unselfconsciously exploring the physical and emotional pleasures of competition and play. Each image offers an affirming and satisfying answer to the question at the heart of Game Face: What do girls and women look like when freed from


On playing fields and street corners, in backyards and gyms, the people in this arresting array of pictures are unselfconsciously exploring the physical and emotional pleasures of competition and play. Each image offers an affirming and satisfying answer to the question at the heart of Game Face: What do girls and women look like when freed from traditional feminine constraints, using their bodies in joyful and empowering ways?

To show America what women’s sports looks like, Jane Gottesman searched through the work of our country’s best photographers, from the newest photojournalists to artists such as Annie Leibovitz and Ansel Adams. The result is a unique and inspiring document of the tremendous impact that the growth of female sports at all levels is having on society—and on women themselves.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A marvelous collection, in photographs and words, of women athletes.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“[Game Face] is designed to broaden, deepen and perhaps even transform long-standing perceptions of the female as athlete.”—The Washington Post

“Years before it even occurred to me that there might be different standards in the way we cover male and female athletes, Jane Gottesman was on the case.”—The New York Times

“Explodes the perception of sports as a male bastion.”—Time Out New York

“This book is terrific. . . . I am giving it to my granddaughter . . . and I hope it will inspire her to be whatever she wants to be.”—Philadelphia Daily News

“We see women large and small, slim, powerful, straining, graceful, awkward, in their prime and well past it. What we do not see is cheesecake.”—The Denver Post

The Barnes & Noble Review
This incredible collection of photographs and personal essays focuses on one crucial question: What does a female athlete look like? Journalist Jane Gottesman, frustrated by the lack of coverage for women's sports in major publications around the country, posed this question to photographers. Their responses, along with Gottesman's own selections, comprise Game Face, a visual record of the diversity, skill, and determination of female athletes.

In her introduction, Gottesman describes the political message embedded in Game Face: to highlight the importance of Title IX, the historic 1972 law stating that individuals cannot be excluded from sports on the basis of gender. The female athletes who run, jump, and soar across these pages are part of a continuing struggle -- for equal opportunities, equipment, and coverage -- that began long ago with pioneering women such as Babe Didrikson. Gottesman pays tribute to female athletes past and present in the final pages of Game Face, by including a timeline of important events in the history of women's sports.

But the heft of Game Face is made up of the unforgettable photographs. Each photo represents a moment that now lives on indefinitely. Gwen Torrence crouches on the track before a race at the 1996 Olympics, her face calm, her posture invoking a meditative state of perfect concentration. Brandi Chastain shouts with joy after the U.S. women's soccer team wins the 1991 World Cup. The winner of a race at a Memphis track meet wipes a tear from the loser's eye and embraces her. A young girl in bell-bottom jeans turns a lighthearted flip on a dusty road in Florida in 1974. Whether exuberant or exhausted, the women in these photographs embody the answer to the question at the heart of the book.

From the unknown to the famous, Game Face presents a wide spectrum of women in motion. Gottesman also mixes the historic, such as a snapshot of the first woman lighting the Olympic flame in 1968, with the contemporary. These juxtapositions -- old and new, unknown and famous -- hint at the amazing breadth of women's sports. Although flipping through Game Face is a powerful experience for anyone, it has special significance for the next generation of female athletes. For these young women, Game Face should be a source of inspiration, a glimpse of the opportunities that are now open to them. (Julie Carr)

Gottesman and Biddle identify the "best" in women's athletics captured in pictorial form by some of the world's best photographers. This winning combination pairs photos of stars, including Marion Jones, Chris Evert, Michelle Akers, Althea Gibson, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Lou Retton, Tara Lipinski and Martina Navratilova, with famous photographers and photojournalists such as Mary Ellen Mark, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Tina Barney, Lee Friedlander, Justine Kurland, Ruth Orkin, Eve Fowler, Andrea Modica, Charles Harbutt, Robert Mapplethorpe and Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Wells, April Saul, Melissa Farlow and Rick Rickman. With a foreword by Penny Marshall, director of the women's baseball movie A League of their Own (and self-professed "tomboy"), the authors celebrate women's athletics in their purest form by including anonymous women athletes as well as famous ones, accomplishing great physical and mental feats. Distributed throughout the book are profiles of significant accomplishments in women's athletics, including a profile of a women's football league and an international women's basketball conference. The pictures are symbolic and often tell their own story. A wide variety of sports is included—lacrosse, gymnastics, track, rowing, baseball, football. A comprehensive index, as well as a timeline of women's athletics from 1827 to 2000 that includes numerous references to landmark events in women's sports history (including the 29th anniversary of the Title IX legislation that required colleges and universities to fund women's athletics at acceptable levels), make Game Face an excellent reference source for school library media centers and publiclibraries. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, 223p. illus. index.,
— Tom Adamich
Library Journal
Former sportswriter Gottesman began this project in response to the dearth of photographs of female athletes in newspapers and sports magazines. Published in conjunction with last summer's Smithsonian photo exhibition (which will tour for five years), this book features 182 fabulous color and black-and-white photos of female athletes of various races and ages playing sports, from rodeo to roller skating. The images depict the historically significant (Navratilova and Evert arm-wrestling, Katherine Switzer wearing a dress in the 1974 New York Marathon), the well known (Tonya Harding, Brandi Chastain, Mary Lou Retton), and many nameless athletes giving their all for their sport. All pictures include dates, and many have explanatory captions. There are also 15 fascinating first-person essays by women such as the inventor of the Jogbra and those who broke down personal barriers in traditionally all-male domains, like rowing and hunting. However, the photos are the stars, showing the intense joys and sorrows of winning, losing, and just plain participating. Highly recommended for all school, public, and college libraries. Kathy Ruffle, Coll. of New Caledonia Lib., Prince George, B.C. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This collection of black-and-white photographs features female athletes-amateurs and professional; team and individual standouts; stars of the past and present; portraits and snapshots; and young and old-engaged in various physical endeavors. The theme is variety and progress in women's sports. Each photo is accompanied by an identification of the sport, occasionally with a quote from the player depicted. Interspersed throughout are one- or two-page narratives. One is written by Kristi Yamaguchi's mother. Another is by an athlete who is herself a mother, Carla Overbeck, captain of the U.S. soccer team that won the Women's World Cup in 2001 and the Olympic gold medal in 1996. The book's jacket photo is of the now-famous Brandi Chastain after her winning World Cup penalty shot. The vivid and sometimes inspiring photos are to be noted for depicting more unusual sports for women, such as weight lifting, wrestling, and the discus throw. Just as appealing are spontaneous scenes from households or neighborhood settings showing individual games or informal pick-up activities. A foreword by Penny Marshall, film director of A League of Their Own, and the introduction stress the long way women's sports have come. Throughout the writings there is an emphasis on the freedom and progress that has been achieved since the passage of Title IX in 1972. Although the final segment, "Snapshots from Women's Sports History," begins in 1827, it is particularly interesting to follow the highlights from the past 30 years. A welcome and timely addition for sports' collections.-Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
8.49(w) x 10.24(h) x 0.61(d)

Read an Excerpt


"Women's sports is second-rate." This was the wisdom of the sports department where I worked in the early nineties. I was not long out of college, and I was the only woman on a sports writing staff of nearly twenty on a big-city newspaper.

To understand the departmental attitude toward women, I began a casual tally of the pictures that ran in the section. mostly, there were no pictures of women, so the count was simple: 15-0; 11-0; 12-0. A "good"day was a 9-2 day, an 11-1 day. Those were rare. As I counted, I saw that these seemingly inconsequential and repetitious pictures of able-bodied men hitting baseballs, throwing footballs, and rebounding basketballs actually had a cumulative effect on the way females saw themselves in relation to males and vice versa. When stories and pictures about women did find their way into the paper—a U.S. Open tennis report, an LPGA story, a column about Jackie Joyner-Kerseee—such items about outstanding female athletes would clash on the page with the "escort" ads, always featuring women, that were relegated to the sports section.

Wanting to fit into that all-male environment, I learned to keep up with Sports Illustrated. But in 1994, when the "Swimsuit Issue" arrived, as it did every February, I worked it into my picture tally. It was, after all, the only issue each year when a woman was guaranteed to grace the cover of America's premier sports magazine. I reviewed all the covers since the previous "Swimsuit Issue" and I discovered that from the "Swimsuit Issue" of February 1993 to the one of February 1994, the only female athletes on the cover were featured at their most vulnerable: Monica Seles after being stabbed; Nancy Kerrigan after being hit; and Mary Pierce, whose father lost control at her matches.

I wrote an essay called "Cover-Girl Athletes" about the fact that women athletes were invisible in the sport media until they made news as victims—or as vixens—as was the case then, in February 1994, when the Tonya Harding scandal was monopolizing the media's attention. The response to "Cover-Girl Athletes" held the seeds of Game Face. I got calls from people I hadn't spoken to in years. I got the thumbs-up from some colleagues, and I got sneers from others. I got, you could say, a calling, because for the first time I asked myself, What does a female athlete look like?

Based on my own life experience, both in sports and reporting, I had a vision of the answer. In the media and in bookstores, however, I found nothing that reflected the beautiful and complicated relationship women have to sports in a world where prescribed feminine behavior does not include the muscle, sweat, and passion that are ingrained elements of sport. I circulated my question "What does a female athlete look like?" to photographers by flyers, e-mail and word of mouth.

As I studied their responses and continued to look for more, the culture shifted. Though often misinterpreted as anti-male, Title IX, the 1972 law largely responsible for creating opportunities for females in sports, was vindicated at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. There, mean and women celebrated the gold medals U.S. women's teams won in basketball, softball, and soccer. The point was driven home two years later at the Winter Olympics in Nagano with another U.S. team victory, in women's ice hockey. Then, in 1999, in a sold-out Rose Bowl, while some forty million U.S. households tuned in, the U.S. team won the Women's World Cup. Men and boys celebrated right alongside women and girls. Some celebrated sheet athletic master; others cheered women's gains in society. Some cheered their daughter's ambitions; others cheered for the opportunity to play they never had.

"You know what this picture did? It gave a voice to the people who were voiceless." This is how Brandi Chastain decsribed for us the impact of the photograph on the cover of this book, an image that captures her famous reaction after scoring the point that clinched the Women's World Cup. We recorded some of those voices—from Olympics to elected officials, from coaches to corporate honchos, from schoolgirls to retirees. In these stories, which appear throughout the book, a few essential truths shine. As athletes, girls and women learn, without inhibition, the pains and joys of putting themselves on the line. As athletes, at any age, they discover the body and its gifts. Sports is a forum to gain insight into relationships with peers, family, and teachers; it is a place to discover personal and physical freedom.

Game Face's mission is big: to convey that athletics is a catalyst for girls' and women's self-creation, self-knowledge, and self-expression. It has a political mission as well: to reinforce the importance of Title IX by reflecting girls and women at play. To achieve these elaborate goals, we turned to the arc of the athletic experience as an elegantly simply organizing principe, and we divided the pictures into five sections: getting ready, start, action, finish and aftermath. The arc is organic to sports, has built in dramatic movement, and is rich metaphorically. When considered in terms of life stages, the various phases of the athletic experience symbolize determination, dedication, effort, completion and satisfaction. They represent the phases we all experience in big and small ways throughout our lives, and parallel the stages women have had to pass through to get to the level of involvement in athletics we now enjoy.

Today the sports section had twenty-three pictures of men and one small picture of women playing basketball. Game Face carves out a different space, a niche where women's athletics is firts-rate and women's abilities are the camera's delight. We hope readers see themselves in this mix and understand that they are part of the story.

What People are Saying About This

Anita DeFrantz
A powerful image seizes a moment in time and yet tells a story of a lifetime. There is no better proof of this then Jane Gottesman's Game Face. Game Face captures the essence of being a female athlete. And it also does much more. It shows that sport unites us all because it belongs to us all.
Dick Schaap
Game Face is a tribute to the beauty of competition, to the dedication, skill and enthusiasm female athletes are finally encouraged to display. Every one of these women is a winner and so is each of the photographs.
Gloria Steinem
Whether you're from the generation of drum majorettes or Title IX, the athletes of Game Face will inspire you. For women to become strong is a deep part of the revolution.
Bud Greenspan
A book honoring women athletes has finally arrived. Jane Gottesman's Game Face, in gymnastics terms, is a perfect 10. The photographs are riveting and the text dramatic and informative -- a timely tribute to a major part of the sports scene that has too long been ignored.
Robin Roberts
Inspiring! Game Face is proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. This book looks at women's sports from a refreshing perspective. Talk about feeling empowered -- I've got my Game Face on!
Bob Costas
These images are striking, distinctive, and evocative. Over the past generation, many of us have arrived at a better understanding of what athletic participation can mean to girls and women. Game Face heightens that understanding.
Billie Jean King
Game Face is a first. Together these photographs give a face to the critical mass of people who have made women's sports part of the popular landscape.

Meet the Author

Jane Gottesman, Game Face project director and co-curator, was a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, a contributing writer to Women's Sports & Fitness magazine, a writer and associate producer for ABC Sports, and co-editor of the book Play Like a Girl. She lives in Berkeley, California, and New York City.

The Game Face Collection was co-curated by Geoffrey Biddle, a photographer, educator, and author of the book Alphabet City.

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