Those disappointed faces have long disappeared from our memories and their uncultivated talents, acute intellect and physical prowess will only be revisited in fleeting recollections.
They lived in a conscious nightmare the nightmare of stolen dreams.
Women were herded into the kitchen and the labor room, left to fade into the backdrop of Tupperware parties and baby food. But soon a day would come when they would shed discrimination and put on graduation caps and running sneakers.
That day was June 23, 1972. On that day, President Nixon signed a law that prohibited sexual discrimination in education and sports. That law is Title IX. It states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.”
One sentence hasn’t so accelerated the women’s movement since women obtained the right to vote in 1920. “It has a great affect on women’s sports,” said Rodger Murphey, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education, “because the women who compete in the high school and college level are often contenders in Olympic events.”
Murphey said that in 1997, two and a half million high school girls participated in athletic programs compared to 300,000 in 1971. Murphey said that today 100,000 women are participating in intercollegiate athletics, up from approximately 21,000 women in 1971.
“It’s not a law to protect women it protects all men and women,” Murphey said. Murphey pointed out that men couldn’t apply to nursing school because it was considered traditionally a woman’s role, but with Title IX that restriction has been removed. Murphey said that women who participate in sports have experienced many benefits, such as: being less likely to experiment with drugs or drop out of school, and lower teen pregnancy rates.
Donna de Varona, 1964 Olympic gold medalist swimmer, said that when Title IX was first passed that “it opened the door to all educational opportunities.” Women now had the opportunity to be doctors and lawyers. De Varona felt fortunate because she was in a sport that actually pioneered for the equality in women’s sports. Women had two-thirds less medals than men did in the Olympics.
“Your gold medals weren’t as valuable as men’s,” de Verona said. She couldn’t get a swimming scholarship for her talent and she couldn’t take her talent to another sport such as water polo. De Varona was an Olympic champion and still suffered from discrimination.
De Varona said that Title IX has forced people to change how resources are distributed among men’s and women’s sports. Even with these changes, she said that women receive $160 million less in athletic scholarships then men and that men’s sports has 30 percent more participation then women’s.
She also doesn’t like the fact that Title IX has been labeled as the law that eliminated minor men’s sports. There is a stipulation in Title IX legislation that requires schools to be in accordance with Title IX and if not, men’s sports have to be cut and replaced by women’s sports. De Varona concluded that it is not Title IX that is responsible for cutting men’s minor sports, it is the athletic directors who have opted to cut men’s minor sports and blame it on Title IX.
“All athletes in minor sports have to come together,” she said.
De Varona sees a future where most minor sports will not be supported. She said once you cut out the men’s minor sports the women’s sports are next. She hopes that professional leagues that recruit college players actually put money into the college programs.
A little over 30 years ago it would have been impossible to imagine a world where women were professional basketball players instead of professional cheerleaders, where soccer moms would proudly cheer for grass-stained daughters or where a 10-year-old girl was a town’s champion little league pitcher. These things would be either a reality of a parallel dimension or a dismal hope had it not been for Title IX.
Alma Cosmeus can be reached at email@example.com