Title IX Inspiration & Invitation

Happy National Girls & Women in Sport Day!

This year is the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, landmark federal legislation which dramatically increased sport participation opportunities for females in educational contexts. We have many reasons to celebrate this day, and part of that celebration is learning from the pioneering women who have been instrumental in fighting for implementation and preservation of this important law. I want to share with you some of their wisdom.

  • Dr. Mary Jo Kane, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota often states, “In one generation we’ve gone from girls hoping there WAS a team, to girls hoping they’d MAKE the team.”
  • Merrily Dean Baker, former Athletic Director at the University of Minnesota & Michigan State who also sat on the original committee that helped write guidelines for Title IX in 1972, told us this morning at a NGWSD celebration breakfast about her first foray into marketing women’s sport in the late ’70’s (there was no marketing and promotion of women’s sport at that time). She went to a marketing firm and got them to a campaign pro-Bono, and the theme of their campaign was “Not All Jocks Wear Them.” For obvious reasons, Baker told them that wasn’t quite the right tone.

Kane & Baker’s words highlight the progress that has been made, but gender equality in sports is still not a reality. Drs. Vivian Acosta and Jean Carpenter just released their 35 year update of the Women in Intercollegiate Sport report, in which they detailed that although 100 more female coaches of womenʼs teams are employed than in 2010, the total % of women coaching female athletes barely increased as is currently at 42.9% (in 2010 is was 42.6%).

Female boxers are fighting The International Amateur Boxing Association officials who are discussing whether women fighters should be urged to wear skirts in the ring at the 2012 Games. Many high level organizations around the globe rallied to write a position statement denouncing this rule. It reads:

This position is in line with our organizations’ overall mission of empowering women and advancing sport with the aim of catalyzing a sustainable sporting culture that enables and values the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport. We maintain that uniform guidelines for women athletes should not detract from respect for their dignity and professionalism, nor should they hinder athletic performance. Limiting women’s competition attire to skirts for the sake of accentuating gender or sexuality would detract focus from the athletic abilities and skills of these individuals and mark a step backwards for the sport of boxing and the sport movement as a whole. Women should be actively involved in decisions concerning changes in uniform rules, and these changes should take into consideration issues of gender equality and inclusiveness.

In the Sudan, the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (religious order) saying that it is forbidden for the country to create a women’s soccer team, deeming it an immoral act.

Today we should join together to celebrate advancements, but remain committed to fighting for social justice and gender equality for girls and women in sport around the globe. The winds of change prevail, but the direction it blows is largely up to us.

Gloria Steinem in a recent lecture for the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford invited everyone in the audience to do something outrageous for the cause of social justice. My invitation and challenge to you is to do ONE THING in the next calendar year that creates change for girls and women in sport contexts. Steinem closed her lecture by stating: “We must not hold our fingers to the wind. We must be the wind”

To read all the blogs in the 2012 National Women’s Law Center #NGWSD blog carnival, click HERE.

One thought on “Title IX Inspiration & Invitation

  1. Wow, skirts? Seriously? I suppose I should wear that when I play football….oh wait that’s what the LFL is for. How ridiculous to have to define women athletes this way.

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