Title IX: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education for 40 years

[youtube]http://youtu.be/3Jqj40dybSQ[/youtube]By Armelle Djoukoue

This year Title IX celebrates its 40th anniversary. Signed into law on June 23, 1972, Title IX guaranteed gender equity for girls and boys in every educational program that receives federal funding.  Most known as the law that gave girls equal opportunity in sports, it also applies to access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology.  Here are some quick facts from the National Women’s Law Center:

  • Title IX is best known for creating more opportunities for women and girls to play sports. Title IX requires schools and colleges receiving federal funds to give women and girls an equal chance to play sports and to treat women and men equally when it comes to athletic scholarships and other benefits like equipment, coaching and facilities.
  • Since Title IX, the number of female AND male student athletes has greatly increased. The number of male college athletes has increased from 170,384 in 1972 to 208,866 in 2001; the number of female college athletes has increased from 31,852 in 1972 to 150,916 almost a five-fold increase. The number of high school girls playing competitive sports has increased from fewer than 300,000 before Title IX to 2.78 million in 2001. This shows that women’s and men’s interest in sports grows with their increased opportunities to play them.
  • Even so, Title IX’s role in athletics is not yet finished. Resources for women’s athletic programs continue to lag behind men’s. While women are 53% of the student body at Division I colleges, they are only 41% of the athletes, receive only 32% of recruiting dollars and get only 36% of overall athletic operating budgets. At the high school level, the inequitable treatment, budgets and equipment girls receive can be far worse.
  • There are important things that Title IX does not do. It does not mandate “quotas.” The use of this hot button word creates the impression that schools, especially in the area of athletics, must set aside a certain mandatory number of slots for women. In fact, every court that has heard this argument has said that Title IX does NOT require quotas. A school can comply with Title IX by showing that it is trying to expand opportunities for female athletes or that it is accommodating the interests of female students at the school.
  • Nothing in Title IX requires colleges and universities to cut men’s teams. Most schools comply with Title IX by adding athletic opportunities for women without cutting teams. A March 2001 General Accounting Office study found that 72% of those colleges and universities that added women’s teams did so without cutting any men’s teams. Football and basketball continue to consume the majority of men’s total athletic budgets in Division I-A schools 72% forcing the other men’s programs to compete for the remaining funds, with the women’s program also getting only a small share of the total athletics budget.

For the past 40 years, Title IX has had a significant impact on women and girls in America and changed the way they see themselves. For more information about Title IX visit http://www.titleix.info/Default.aspx and to find out about how Title IX continues to be a champion for women and girls in America, check out the National Women’s Law Center Blog.

All Girls are Winners: The Importance of Equity in Sports

By Devon White

Image from Flickr.com

Recently, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) launched a campaign to end the violation of Title IX. The NWLC filed discriminatory complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, “against twelve school districts across the country for failing to provide girls with equal opportunities to play sports, in violation of Title IX.” Title IX is a federal law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded academic and athletic programs. The NWLC’s brief highlighted the benefits of sports, which include a decrease in health-related problems, higher self-esteem, and academic improvement amongst female athletes (PDF).

Female athletes are considered all around more successful according to recent research: “two studies suggest sports are the causal factor: girls who play sports are more likely to go to college, be employed, and grow up to be physically active, non-obese women. In one study, Dr. Betsey Stevenson found that more girls playing sports leads to more women in college and more women in the workforce.”

On December 8th, Blog to Rally for GirlsSports Day challenged bloggers to answer: What did you win by playing sports? A Change.org columnist reflected that being the sole female player on an all-male soccer team brought out her inner feminist. Another blogger shared the lessons she learned while playing team sports: “Sports taught me perseverance, resilience, healthy conditioning, self-reliance, teamwork, and most importantly, the love of being active.By writing or tweeting about their personal experiences, bloggers helped advocate and spread awareness about the importance and benefits of girls in sports.

Before Title IX, the participation level of high school girls and college women in sports was dismal. There has been considerable progress in women’s athletics since the 1960s, and secondwave feminism is largely to credit for that rise. But what about the generations of girls who still need access to equitable athletics that prior generations lacked?  African-American female athletes are experiencing double the obstacles–their gender and race: African-American females represent less than 5% of all high school athletes, less than 10% of all college athletes, less than 2% of all coaches and less than 1% of all college athletics administrators.

Campaigns like Rally for Girls’ Sports Day remind us to celebrate and advocate athletic participation in girls. Breaking down gender barriers in sports can help raise awareness on other key issues that affect girls and women on and off the field. If you want to get involved in advocating for girls in sports, check out:

WIN for KC


Black Women in Sport Foundation

Women’s Sports Foundation

National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Reviving Baseball in the Inner City (RBI) at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City

ESPN Makes A Play For The Ladies

By Emily Mathis

ESPN has just recently launched a new blog called ESPNW for women. The blog will feature news about the WNBA, women’s college sports and of course news from the NBA and NFL. And before you ask: no pink will be in the color scheme of the blog.

So it seems that ESPN is trying to open up their base to include the multitude of sports viewers that are women. But is the blog really the answer?

I read an article about the new blog on the NY Times site and from the looks of it a lot of people are mixed on whether this is a step in the right direction. It seems some worry that it will create more segregation while others think that it will be an excuse for ESPN to not cover women’s sports, more so than they already do. According to the article only 8% of ESPN’s sports programming is devoted to women’s sports and last year only 1.4 % of Sport’s Center included women’s sports.

While some wonder if this blog is just a stepping stone for a new ESPN channel, I have to say that I agree that it might not be the best step for women’s sports. I think that if ESPN wants to cater to their female audience then they should simply give women in sports more airtime. Maybe ESPN just needs to stop thinking that ESPN is a boys’ club and recognize that women not only enjoy sports but play them too.

Is Cheerleading a Sport? That is the Question…

Image from creativecheerleader.com

Recently a women’s volleyball team at Quinnipiac University was cut and replaced with a competitive cheerleading squad. The volleyball players sued the school saying that it was in violation of Title IX. This past week a Connecticut judge decided that the volleyball players were right because cheerleading is not a sport, therefore the University was in violation because it didn’t have equal funding for female sports.

This case brings a lot of good questions in to focus. Is cheerleading a sport? And if it is, is it fair to fund it and cut a female volleyball team? I have to say that if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have to say that cheerleading may have athletic attributes but is not nearly the sport that volleyball is. I doubt I would have been that nice about it either.

However, chalk it up to growing up and broadening my views, I would say that my opinion has changed. This past year I lived with a cheerleader. She was a freshman and had managed to nab a spot on our school’s squad. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have prevailing stereotypes about cheerleaders and cheerleading as a sport but my roommate helped me open my eyes to the fact that Bring It On got it wrong.

My roommate had a 4.0, didn’t like to party, and worked her butt off. Through her I met other cheerleaders who were tough, smart athletes. She talked about the 6 am practices, the cardio, the weight training, the dangerous tumbling, and the constant throws and tricks. It seemed like every week a new member of the squad suffered an injury, from concussions to broken bones. These girls were tough.

So when I heard about the judge’s ruling that cheerleading was not a sport, I completely disagreed. Granted I was just as upset that volleyball was getting cut, since I used to play, but that doesn’t mean I think it was right that the court got to make a ruling about whether cheerleading is a sport or not.

Go to a competitive cheerleading event and I think you will change your mind. Not many people could do what those women and men do all the time.  In the end, in a happy world both the volleyball team and the competitive squad would get to stay on at the university, but apparently only one more female sport can stay and the University isn’t saying what women’s athletic team gets to stay. Makes you wonder if all this would happen if it was men’s golf and men’s lacrosse fighting it out for funding? Would they say that either of those wasn’t a sport?

July Celebrates Women’s Motorcycle Month

In May, Harley Davidson celebrated Women Riders Month and now during the month of July, Nationwide Insurance has teamed with the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum to celebrate Women’s Motorcycle Month. The month is to celebrate women motorcyclists, both present female riders and women riders of the past who paved the way.

While this sport has been male-dominated in the past, women are taking to the open road on a motorcycle now more than ever.  In fact, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, there are nearly four and a half million women motorcycle riders on the road today.  Actually, one out of every 10 motorcycle owners is a woman, and that number continues to be on the rise.  These ‘motorcycle women’ continue to break down barriers and stereotypes.  For example, women motorcyclists tend to be much more affluent, mature, and highly educated women. In addition to being well rounded women, they are also safety-conscious and are very knowledgeable about their motorcycles.  About one-third of women motorcycle riders complete a Motorcycle Safety Course (MSC), which is an intensive training that teach both women and men about motorcycles and how to ride safely.  According to MSC, more women than men complete the training.

Motorcycling is another great example that women can do anything men can do and that prevailing gender stereotypes don’t have to continue.


Sex Sells in Women’s Sports

A few weeks ago, the Women Center hosted the event, “Throwing like a Girl Since 1972.”  The event focused on Title IX and what it did for women’s participation in sports.  Although Title IX helped equalize the playing field for women’s participation in sports (pun intended) and provided opportunities for girls who wanted to play sports in school, I’m still not convinced that women athletes receive the same respect or regard as male athletes. 

In a recent article I read, I found that when it comes to women’s sports, sex sells.  Men’s sports still garner more attention and higher regard than women’s sports, and according to the article, in order for some female athletes to draw the same attention to their sport, they’ve had to resort to adding some sex appeal to their athleticism.  But does this attention equate respect?  I don’t think so, and I find it unfair.  Just because men are still the largest portion of sports fans, does that mean that women have to compromise their reputation as a serious athlete and pose half naked in a men’s magazine to get their attention?  And once she’s done that, she may have gained some attention, but I’m afraid she’s lost quite a bit of respect.  The article mentions Anna Kournikova, an okay tennis player several years ago who was talked about more for her supermodel looks and sexy TV ads, than for her ability to play tennis.  When sports fans tuned in to watch Anna play tennis, were they really there to see the sport, or were they just there to see her in her itty, bitty tennis skirt prancing around the tennis court?  I love to watch women’s volleyball, but each time I see a game, the female players get even more naked.  What are sports fans really tuning in to watch here? 

I think it’s difficult for women in sports to be respected as athletes while they are being objectified at the same time.  But unfortunately if some female athletes are looked at only for their athleticism, they can go unnoticed no matter how good they are.  According to the article, the championship female cricket team in England took the route to not portray themselves as sex symbols and keep their dignity and their clothes on.  Despite their winning record, no one knows who they are; nor do they know that the captain is one of the most successful captains in English sports.  In America, that would be equivalent to most people not knowing who Brett Farvre was. This objectification goes too far sometimes among some of the men I know.  On the rare occasions that my male friends watch women’s soccer with me, their comments are almost always about the female athlete’s physical appearance and seldom about her abilities to play soccer.

Sports Illustrated hasn’t done women any favors either.  As one of the top, if not the top, sports magazines in circulation, their covers are mostly occupied by male athletes.  The one time each year that they guarantee a woman on the cover, which also happens to be their best selling issue each year, they don’t feature a star woman athlete, but a bikini-clad supermodel.  How’s that for respecting the female athlete!  Even Sports Illustrated is telling its readers that it’s okay to see women as objects to be ogled at and not taken seriously in sports.

So what is it going to take for female athletes to gain the respect and attention that male athletes get?  Some women have come very close, such as the Williams Sisters, Sheryl Swoops, and Mia Hamm.  But when it comes to fan base, men’s sports still far exceeds the women. And does it really matter that some female athletes resort to showing a little skin to get people to pay attention to them?  Maybe this is not an issue for many people, but I think it is.  Women have been fighting for decades to be regarded for more than just their bodies.  We have brains and talents and, in the female athletes among us, we have exceptional physical prowess too.  That is what sports fans should be paying attention to.  Title IX gave women the opportunity to participate in the same sports as men, which in turn allowed some female athletes to excel to levels that deserve to be notices. But Title IX did not guarantee that once women showed up in the sports arena, things would be equal.  I think that in order for female athletes to get the same respect as male athletes it’s going to take a fan base that pays more attention to a woman’s athletic abilities and less on her physical appearance and sex appeal. It’s also going to take more female sports fans so that advertisers and sports magazines can stop trying to appeal to only a male audience.  Unless these things change, our female athletes and women’s sports will never get the respect they deserve.

1972 Wasn’t That Long Ago

Sports in my house only meant one thing, hockey. I grew up with it. I watched my brother play from the time I was a baby until my high school years. My dad and my brother still are involved in hockey in some way or another. Even though hockey was the sport in my house, I played soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Not hockey. I chose not to play hockey because my brother was so good and also because I didn’t want to be the only girl playing hockey. But a lot of girls play hockey, something I wasn’t aware of when I was 10.

In today’s world girls play all kinds of sports in school, in college, professionally, and the Olympics. My generation grew up with Serena and Venus Williams, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Dominique Moceanu and the 1996 Olympic Gymsast Team. We grew up with all these amazing female atheletes, a tradition that carries on today with people like Shawn Johnson, Lindsey Vonn, and Danica Patrick. In our time women athletes still fight sexism, but for the most part ,women have won the right to compete in the same sports as men and also the right to have girls teams all across the nation.

Many girls today don’t think about the history of female athletics when they are trying out for their school’s basketball team or soccer team, they just do it. But it wasn’t that long ago that there weren’t girl’s teams in most schools. Title IX changed that. Title IX was passed by Richard Nixon in 1972.  Title IX is not only the amendment that allowed girls to play sports but Title IX also has 10 other key areas that include things like Access to Higher Education, laws about Sexual Harassment, and Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students that don’t have anything to do with sports. Title IX in essence requires gender equity for girls and boys in all federally funded educational programs, which are most commonly seen in the creation of girl’s sports programs.

It’s amazing when you think about all the things that many of us girls take for granted, like sports teams and the right to equal educational opportunities, that were made possible by Title IX. A recent editorial comments on how many of the Olympians like Lindsey Vonn owe their opportunities in sports in large part to Title IX. All of us owe something to Title IX. I know that playing sports in school was defiantly one of the only things I enjoyed about school growing up. I never had to fight for my right to play on a school team and by the time my brother was finishing up his high school hockey, there was a girl goalie on the team.

Title IX gave girls so many opportunities, some that many of us didn’t know came from it. I see it here at school where girls get scholarships to play sports just like the boys. I see it when a woman is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and not in a bikini. And of course like anything else that changed society, there are still people who need convincing, even 40 years later.

Tonight at UMKC, an intergenerational panel of men and women will discuss Title IX at the event “Throwing Like a Girl” Since 1972.  Please come be a part of the discussion that will address sports participation before and after the passage of Title IX and what the future holds for female athletes.