It’s not your mom’s Title IX any more.
Even I, who used every excuse to avoid the miserable girls’ gym classes in my pre-Title IX high school days, and rarely read the sports page now, couldn’t avoid noticing this past week how in the world of sports & gender equity, women athletes are visibly ramping up the action and reaping the results of almost four decades of access to competitive sports.
I learned and wrote about the importance of competitive sports to girls’ development of a sense of their own power in No Excuses. It’s one result of a crusade by Bernice Sandler, to get girls and women equal access to all educational opportunities.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” – Title IX
That’s key language in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The landmark legislation celebrated its 39th Anniversary June 23. It has brought sweeping legal changes that leveled the playing field for women’s access to educational programs as well as their own spot on the team. Tennis great and founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Jean King says that while Title IX has come a long way, there is still work to be done.
“Title IX has been and continues to be the driving force behind providing women and girls more opportunities in sports, but as we enter Title IX’s 40th year, the gaps between boys and girls are still substantial.’’ – Billie Jean King
Boston.com — “Title IX has worked, yet a gap remains”
King was also celebrating an anniversary of her own – this year marks the 50th anniversary of her first win at Wimbledon. (No wonder she’s now a spokesperson for a brand of knee replacement technology.) NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday’s Guest host Susan Stamberg spoke with the tennis legend her days at early Wimbledon and the changes she has seen since then.
Last Sunday’s New York Times Sports page looked like something out of Ms. Magazine with articles about female athletes dominating the page that’s usually dripping with testosterone. But tucked away inside the section was this touching piece about Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zahariass who was a trail blazer way before Title IX opened the path.
Didrikson Zahariass excelled in so many sports that she was considered “America’s greatest all-around athlete, male or female” and in Don Van Natta Jr’s story in the NY Times highlighted her accomplishments as well as her uphill battle to be accepted as an athlete.
Since women’s place is in the (White) House, even President Obama took note of female athletes. This week he invited the women’s professional basketball champions, the Seattle Storm, to the White House to celebrate the WNBA’s 15th anniversary and the announcement of a Presidential Delegation to Germany to attend the Women’s World Cup match between the United States and Columbia on July 2nd.