This week marks the 50th anniversary of signing into law a unique legislation with a wobbly sound title: Title IX. The law has prohibited anyone from excludeting or discriminating on the basis of sex. This was, simply, enormous.
Because of this fact, colleges and universities used to dismiss female applicants in ways that were not women. High schools said it was more important for boys to receive an education, and athletics? Forget it. When schools did provide womens teams, the options and funding were extremely limited.
Title IX was first introduced on June 23, 1972, and it has expanded to include both educational and professional opportunities for girls and women. It has become the most famous sport in this country, after gaining a strong reputation for bringing women''s sports together, offering millions of women and women benefits that boys and men have long enjoyed from life lessons learned through team sports.
In 1971, less than 300,000 girls participated in varsity high school sports, and today, the number of people is around 3,5 million. As we did, we revised gender guidelines and gender codes, according to Elizabeth Sharrow, an associate professor of history and political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
How did Title IX have lead to this massive social and cultural shift, and where has it fallen woefully short?
The way we were when Title IX was passed.
Many girls and women grew up being taught by parents and authority figures not only that excessive physical activity and sweat were unladylike, but it could even ruin their fertility or even make their uterus fall out. For decades of the twentieth century, women were discouraged from competing against each other, or even acknowledging an inner competitive spirit.
A very severe concern posed by sport, whether it be competitive, would masculinize women or less in part affect their role as mothers and nurturing partners. Anne Blaschke, an associate lecturer in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, believes that sport would also impact the sexual identity or gender identity of women.
Sport provides girls (and boys) a variety of physical and psychological benefits, including higher confidence and self-esteem, as well as lower depression levels than girls who do not play sports. Before Title IX, women who tried to compete on road longer than two miles were banned from competing, and women who wanted to compete on the court were forced to use only half the court, as the whole court would be too taxing.
For all of this, a substantial percentage of college athletic expenditures went to womens sports in 1971, and male athletes outnumbered female athletes from the top of the school 12.5 to 1. Many school officials believed girls and women were simply not as interested as the boys in sport.
They were on the verge of becoming a victim.
1972: When Everything Changed
In today''s polarized political climate, the notion that Congress once convened to pass truly meaningful legislation may seem mind-boggling. Even in 1972, a small group of feminist legislators stealthly tucked the Title IX onto the final of a much larger educational instrument aimed at school bussing and desegregation. They kept the language brief, and they kept it silent.
According to Sharrow, sexual discrimination wasn''t the only concern in most legislators. But [the architects of Title IX] understood that the limitations were manifest.
Eventually, the overwhelmingly white male Congress learned about Title IXs'' existence, and it sparked a hefty debate, but it remained constant.
Legislators and government agencies have dubbed out its specific terms and dispositions in the years following the legislation''s passage. Finally, in the second half of the 1970s, federal officials began to signal that they would enforce it, warning schools that they would not comply.
Students were told that, in order to meet at least one of three requirements, they had to offer its men and women roughly equal opportunities to compete in sports, demonstrate a history of improving opportunities for girls and women, or demonstrate that it was meeting the demands and interests of its female students.
In Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, schools might spend more on boys sports than on girls sports. However, girls had to have a chance to play. Even the actual money spent on males and females wouldnt matter, except in scholarship money. If women were half the athletes, then they should receive half of athletic scholarship money.
The athletic departments of California argued that the law would crush mens sports activities, all for opportunities they imagined only if they were eliminated. Yet, women emerged in droves, according to Neena Chaudhry, a general counsel and senior advisor for education at the National Womens Law Center.
Blumenthal argued that budgets for girls sports were slipping by the end of the 1970s, although they were still a fraction of what they were spending on boys sports.
Proud to play like a girl.
Despite repeated legal challenges, Title IX changed American culture and academic life. Before the law, only one out of 27 girls played sports, but today, the number is two in five.
According to Blaschke, it has evolved our vision of what an active girl or woman has to be, and it has enabled women and girls, trans people and non-binary individuals, to unapologetically and aggressively and assertively expect the right to play and to win.
Title IX has helped steady growth of female Olympians by increasing literal training grounds for women athletes. In 1972, 84 of the 400 athletes representing the United States in the summer Games in Munich outnumbered men. In the second half, women outnumbered men on Team USA, putting 329 women against 284 men.
Title IX has given rise to women''s professional sports and increased the opportunities for women to play football. Blaschke claims that before Title IX, there was very little chance for women to play professional sport. The Women''s National Soccer Team was founded in 1996.
Title IX has perhaps been instrumental in resolving the sexist misconception that women are both weak, fragile, and physically inferior to men.
But the mission isnt accomplished, yes.
The passage of Title IX has resulted in exponential growth in womens athletics, but the playing field is still far from even, partly due to a lack of enforcement. Despite the fact that no school has ever lost its title IX funding, says Blaschke. This is, in part, a significant problem.
According to the Womens Sports Foundation, girls have more than one million less opportunities than boys to play sports. Although women and girls do have a chance to play sports, they often get worse equipment, uniforms, and equipment, poor experience coaches, and inadequate support and publicity from their schools, all of which send the message that they are less than their male peers.
It isn''t just about the raw numbers, but rather about what is being discussed about the value of spaces reserved for girls and women, according to Sharrow. It is important to look at what equity implies, especially if women accept less often and calling it even.
As women''s collegiate sports grow in profile and funding, women''s coaching and administrative positions have become more attractive to men, and as a result, the proportion of women in leadership over women''s sports has actually decreased since the passage of Title IX.
According to the Womens Sports Foundation, womens high school and college sports have a significant racial disparity. Despite 30% of all college athletes being white women, only 14% of all college athletes are BIPOC women.
The most significant of the discussions over Title IX today might be the ability to allow trans girls and women to play on girls and womens teams, opportunities that a growing number of states are denying trans youth. When we say to kids, if you come out as gender diverse, you have to give up [all of the benefits sports can bring], we do enormous damage to our dignity, and our society.
So, 50 years after Title IX, it may be subjective. I think where we are, therefore, depends on where you are an athlete. If you''re a trans athlete who wants to find a place to compete, then [things] look a lot different than if you are a normatively gendered white girl from an upper middle class home who joins these teams and doesn''t stick out.
For some, Title IX has lowered the playing field. But it''s not the whole thing.