Title IX passed 50 years ago. Here’s why it still matters.
I was born during my father’s senior year of college. I have a picture of him holding me in his cap and robe after finishing his last football season. Growing up, he taught me how to throw a soccer ball, hit a baseball, and shoot a basketball. He coached my first football team. It was almost inevitable that I would be a tri-sport athlete and be voted “most athletic” by my high school class.
What I didn’t know was that just seven years before I became a college goaltender, my high school didn’t have a women’s soccer team. Seven years before I was recruited to play at Xavier University, there was no women’s soccer program there either. Both teams were created amid the wave of programs created for girls and women in the late 1970s and early 1980s as educational institutions struggled to comply with Title IX of the Amendments. on Education of 1972.
When Title IX was enacted on June 23, 1972, I was 1 year old. I wrote my upcoming graphics memory, “The Goalkeeper: Football, Me and the Law that Changed Women’s Lives”, because I wanted to know more about the law that shaped my life. I wanted to know more about how and why Bernice Sandler and former Reps Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), Shirley Chisholm (DN.Y.) and Edith Green (D-Ore) — with others – crafted this 37-word bill. I wanted to know more about the connection between women’s sport and women’s rights.
A hundred years ago, as women fought for the right to vote, they also fought for the right to play football. For a time they succeeded. During World War I, competitive women’s football teams formed in England and Europe. One of the most successful teams, the Dick Kerr Ladies, played to a combined total of 900,000 spectators in 1921, often having larger crowds than the men’s teams.
Can you guess what happened next? That year, the British Football Association banned women from playing, calling the sport “unsuitable for women”. The association, in addition to wanting to regulate women’s bodies, did not want women to be paid fairly for their time and labor.
The ban remained in effect for 50 years and was finally lifted in England at the same time as Title IX was enacted in the United States, but the Dick Kerr Ladies showed a skeptical world that women were quite fit for sports. I wish I had known about them and known Title IX when I was a young girl on the soccer field.
Notably, Title IX was never intended to affect sports. The central figures working on the law had all been denied admission or jobs at universities and aimed to tackle gender discrimination in higher education. But as the barely unique law has been interpreted, extracurricular activities like sports have become an important aspect of the fight for equal opportunity. As a result, girls’ participation in high school sports increased by more than 1,000%, from 300,000 in 1972 to well over 3 million today.
We continue to fight for the interpretation and application of this law, which also covers sexual assault and gender identity, and there is still much to do. Although Title IX was designed by a diverse group of women, it has disproportionately benefited white women, like me. This is true of academic and athletic opportunities as well as protections against sexual assault. And the law remains under attack from administrations seeking to weaken it, as former education secretary Betsy DeVos successfully did. Rules 2020 that reduce the rights of victims in sexual assault cases on campus.
New Title IX rules are set to uphold the rights of transgender students
The history of women’s sport has always been inextricably linked to the history of women’s rights. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, we must also renew our commitment to upholding its protections and fighting discrimination in all its forms. In doing so, we can take inspiration from the creators of Title IX, whose efforts and advocacy changed the world. This comic is about this fight: past, present and future.
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