The Fight for Women and Girls in Sport Did Not End With Title IX


This Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a piece of legislation that has done more to open up sports and athletics to women and girls than just about anything else. Despite the progress, there is still a long way to go. Women’s sports have yet to achieve parity and discrimation still exists in many areas.

Although girls and women did play sports prior to the passage of Title IX, those who prevailed had to be extraordinary to do so.  A lack of institutional support manifested itself in ways that  girls today take for granted, like not having a dedicated facility to practice or even a women's locker room.

Many believe the work stopped once June 23, 1972 hit but that's simply not the case. There are still compliance issues and debate continues over whether the federal law has a negative impact on sports programs for boys and men. With the spotlight on the landmark legislation this week, here's a round-up of what some of the Women Talk Sports bloggers have to say about Title IX:

Girls sports image via Shutterstock

NACWAA CEO Patti Phillips had this to say on the occassion:

I personally am both proud and grateful to be a product of Title IX’s benefits. I have been fortunate enough to work my entire career in the business of sports, which would not have been possible were it not for Title IX. I received a scholarship to play basketball in college, coached volleyball and basketball at the collegiate level and before my current job at NACWAA, worked for an organization whose mission is to “empower girls and women through sports and fitness.” My experiences in sports have shaped me, my attitudes, and my beliefs more than my degrees or any leadership training I have received. We have come a long way, and although we still have work to do, this anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to reflect and celebrate our progress and collective benefits!

 Caitlin Constantine of Fit and Feminist writes:

Sadly, there seems to be a belief among my fellow feminists that the passage of Title IX means women have full access to sports and athletics and nothing more needs to be said or done on the topic.  It's as if the statute became law and women's rights activists crossed it off their list and said, "Okay, what's next?"  I regularly read a lot of the major feminist blogs, and the topic of women's sports almost never surfaces, and when it does it's almost always in conjunction with Title IX.  I understand that a lot of feminist bloggers, writers and activists have their hands full, what with lawmakers who think "vagina" is a dirty word and officials who are slowly but surely trying to lay claim to the nation's uteri and the defeat of equal pay legislation and so on and so forth, and I also imagine that quite a few feminists consider sports to be frivolous and not worthy of attention.

Pat Griffin, who comments on sports news, sports competition, media, research and people related to addressing homophobia, heterosexism, sexism and racism in sport, says to this to detractors who feel no need for Title IX.

My favorite test of assessing equity between men’s and women’s sports programs in a school is this: Would the participants and coaches in one gender’s athletic program happily trade places with and participate in the athletic program of the other gender.  If all resources, media coverage, scheduling, support mechanisms, etc. are equal, this would be an easy decision.  Unfortunately, in many schools the truth is that boys and men would never trade because they know it would be a step down to accept what the girls and women have.

Title IX Blog references a recent article in the New York Times that indicates the law created more athletic opportunities for white women and girls than it has for women and girls of color.

Because Title IX leaves so much discretion up to athletic administrators on how to structure their programs, many of the issues that explain the racial disparity in athletics are outside the law's scope.  But what Title IX can do is expose racial disparities and provide the context for discussions that can serve as the catalyst for change.  For example, advocates should encourage athletic officials to accommodate interest levels that may vary by race when it comes to certain sports.  At the same time, schools should not limit their diversity efforts to just including sports that are already popular among girls of color.  They should, to use two examples in an admitted oversimplification, consider adding bowling AND examine why there are no black girls on the ice hockey team.

As a result of Title IX, there is no doubt the sports landscape for girls and women in the United States is much improved since 1972. The vast increase in athletic participation (a 622 percent increase in women's participation in varsity collegiate sports and a 1,079 percent increase in high-school participation according to ESPN)  has resulted in more equality across the board, but the fight is not over. Whether or not you're an athlete, being educated about the law can help bring about the necessary changes:

Stephanie Perleberg, graduate student and All-American cross country runner, admits she took her rights as an athlete for granted.  She writes

I didn’t fully understand what the law demanded of institutions. I probably missed a few things along the way. But, [Mariah] Burton Nelson’s story inspired me to learn more about Title IX today so I can spot the blatant and not so obvious issues within the institutions I am now in contact with. I urge you to understand the basics of this law too. When you know, you can share. When you share, people know. That’s when we will see action. That’s how Title IX started and that’s why we're celebrating its 40th year.

Read more Title IX coverage and be sure to share your personal experiences.


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