Picture this: a high school in a mid-sized city in - Anytown, USA. The time is mid-twentieth century. The boys have their sports - after all that's what boys do, they play sports. The girls have - sewing, and cooking. After all, that's what girls do. Right? There they are in the halls - boys swaggering about in their sports jackets, girls standing at their lockers, giggling.
Everyone in his or her place, right?
No, not right. Girls play sports, too. In fact, since the passing of a little known law called Title IX in 1972, girls have had the 'right' to play sports right alongside the boys. To put this in perspective check out this article at Women's Health Magazine that shows how powerful this little Title IX law really is,
"The consequences of Title IX have been nothing short of awesome. In 1971, the year before the law was passed, just 294,000 girls played high school sports. Today that number is almost 3 million. And female college students now receive roughly 45 percent of the $1 billion in athletic scholarships awarded every year, which were virtually nonexistent for women before Title IX."
Truth is - while numbers do talk - after all, heads go up and ears perk up with you talk big numbers like that - the reality is sadly different. Title IX is being threatened. The report noted here talks about a loophole in the law and how that little hole is giving some schools the means to deny equal rights to their female students. I agree with Dominique Dawes, member of the 1996 Olympic gymnasts' gold-medal winning team, when she says, "I don't think the average citizen really understands what's at stake." Dawes couldn't be more right. What's at stake is more than having the right to swing a bat, or row a boat, or tumble across a mat. What's at stake is being educated to be part of the world culture - in a way that benefits not only the world, but the individual.
Here's why I say that...
Before Title IX, this is what kind of mindset the country operated on:
In 1971, New Haven judge John Clark Fitzgerald ruled that high school girls could not join the boys' track team because, even though athletic competition builds character, in his opinion, "We do not need that kind of character in our girls, the women of tomorrow."
I titled this post, To My Daughters: Mom Fought for You - Now, Fight Back! But the truth is, I didn't fight. I wasn't part of any rally or group or feminist movement. I was in the background,observing the turmoil, not sure how I felt about it. Not sure what I could do about it. When Title IX was passed, I don't think I was even aware of it. I was concentrating on equality in the workplace, equality in the home, equality in medical care. Little did I know that this law included all of those things.
Team sports are the basis for being a solid citizen. Even sports that are labelled individual sports, get benefit from team play, now and then. Gymnasts are individuals...but perform on a team. Tennis players are individuals but...practice with others, and learn the value of team play. As the article at Women's Health shows, girls who participate in atheletic programs have a higher self-esteem and manage to stay away from drugs, alchohol, and sex.
Are boys' teams suffering as a result of this? Puh-lease! That old whine is so last century! Not only aren't boys being left behind in the classroom (that's fodder for another post, another day), they certainly aren't suffering because girls want to play sports, too. Here's what one Dad has to say about it, from the article,
"Oklahoma firefighter Ron Randolph, 48, felt back in 1996 when he went to his daughter Mimi's softball games and saw that "everything the boys got was top-notch, whereas the girls got a badly maintained playing field, secondhand uniforms, and game times that forced them to catch up on missed classes. If I spent money in taxes, I felt my daughter should get just as much of it as my son." Randolph is a registered Republican."
Randolph took action. Read the article to see what he did.
Meanwhile, the girls of today - those stalwart, healthy, aggressive, outdoorsy, girls we boomers raised to be independent and smart - and taught how to play on a team (because, in the end, that's what they have to do - become a team player in the game of life), are sitting on our laurels. They're ignoring the current threat to Title IX. They don't get it. They feel entitled - rightly so. But, in this case, that entitlement will disappear - if some men (and a few women, I suspect) have anything to say about it.
So, girls - it's time to fight back. I'll bring the posterboard, you bring the markers. Let's give city hall a wake-up call. Let's join the Women's Sports Foundation, The National Women's Law Center, and Save Title IX, and shake up some dust!
Watch for more about this in coming posts.