Wednesday, June 10, 2009

let me play

Twice in the last few weeks I've heard women complaining about men's baseball getting cut from colleges--both times women (one, very old, the others, college aged) asked, "Why not cut girl's sports--why do they keep girl's volleyball but cut men's sports?" Then they scoffed dismissively: "It's because of that stupid law I bet."

Both times I spoke up--uninvited and with my hackles raised. I couldn't help it--I'm a feminist and I despise ignorance. Both times long silences followed my gentle but direct explanation of Title IX and what it does. Both times I watched these women gawp at what I thought were commonly known facts about equal rights--but the older woman was born well before these laws took effect and the younger women take these laws for granted because they've known no other way.
Disclaimer: these 2 colleges had their reasons, financial or otherwise, to cut men's baseball. Their decision to cut men's baseball instead of men's golf or women's soccer might have been based on travel expenses, attendance, participation or coaching. I don't know. What I do know is this:
Ladies, we owe a LOT to Title IX and a lot of women don't seem to understand what it is.
In 1972 Title IX was added to the Education Act. It bans any institution receiving federal money (public universities, public schools) from discriminating in any of its programs on the basis of sex. Title IX covers a lot more than sports. It lets girls participate in shop class and pre-med programs.
But the NCAA opposed Title IX in 1972 claiming it would doom college sports. Back in 1972 at University of Washington in Seattle men's sports received $2,582,000. Women's sports received $18,000. That's a typical example of what college athletic programs looked like before Title IX.
Once passed, universities spent more money on better equipment, facilities, uniforms, travel and scholarships for women's athletics. And yet in 1994, male head coaches for basketball teams earned an average $76,566 to female counterparts who earned $44,961. Progress, but not total equality yet.
Lawsuits took place and colleges started correcting the inequities. Sometimes the hallowed ground of men's college football came under fire, adding to Title IX's bad press. Yet the law states that spending on men's and women's athletics must be proportional to enrollment. And if a college opts to run a football program with fifty players, that might mean fewer men's sports overall and more women's sports overall since no women's sport offers as many positions as football does. But that's a college's choice to run an expensive football program. They have an obligation to run equitable women's programs if they're publicly funded.
Title IX is NOT repsonsible for "eliminating men's programs." It's responsible for leveling the playing field so women get to play. It's responsible for opening doors in higher education, science and technology. Title IX helps make sexual harassment illegal and scholarship money available. Title IX means girls can play softball instead of sitting on the sidelines cheering for the boys playing ball. Title IX is Feminism and Feminism means equal opportunity for EVERYONE regardless of gender.
To the women who feel Title IX is responsible for eliminating men's opportunities, I have to speak up. Their freedom to learn and play is partly because of Title IX and that's only fair.




Learn more about Title IX here. Tell your friends, teach this to your daughters. Don't take Title IX for granted! Leave your comment: what did Title IX let YOU do?

21 comments:

  1. Thanks for putting the truth out there! It's so important!
    (Spoken by one of the most nonathletic girls around--but I want the opportunity for my daughter!)

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  2. I was able to play high school soccer starting in 1980--the first year it was available at my high school. Thank you Title IX.

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  3. I was not quite a twinkle in my Daddy's eye when Title IX passed, but as a result I played basketball, ran track, competed in gymnastics, and had a friend who wanted to play tackle football and did so successfully on the boys' team. This Fall, my daughter will join a long line of young women who participate in athletics. Woo-Hoo!

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  4. Absolutely! Title IX also affects P.E. classes. Those classes used to be gender-specific, and the girls would use less equipment and see fewer opportunities. My daughter played basketball and softball; now she photographs sports for her college newspaper, and does it very well. Her knowledge of the game makes her work that much better quality.

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  5. Amen, Sister. The Matron wasn't much of an athlete but is stands solidly behind Title IX.

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  6. well, I'm not athletic in the athlete sense of the word, but I rocked the sidelines as a cheerleader, in a school that considered cheerleading a SPORT and not an extra-curricular. We recieved as much funding as the football team did, in accordance to our participatory numbers.

    But my two best friends benefitted directly...HS Volleyball and Soccer.

    Amen Sister! You tell it!

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  7. Awesome post! Thanks for writing this. I may be the furthest thing from an athlete, but I do come from the land of women's college basketball. We know that no Title IX would mean no Lady Vols. And that would be a tragedy :)

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  8. Thanks for educating me on title IX, Greenie...and good for you speaking up to those other ladies too!

    Ever see the movie "A League of Their Own"? A great film about womens' baseball leagues during wartime!

    Women need athletic opportunities.

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  9. Things are still far from equal I think, but at least the opportunity is there. I mean, how many people attended women's basketball games at the UW? How often were the men's sold out? Exactly. But at least the women get to play and get a budget. That's what is important. The rest is up to the people.

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  10. Yes, I agree whole-heartedly that women need athletic opportunities. But what the public needs to also understand is that these women's sports also need spectators. And that is something Title IX doesn't not take into account is the revenue that a men's sport ie football takes in vs a women's sport ie. volleyball. So, if women are really supporters of Title IX, don't just verbal support the sport..go and WATCH

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  11. Several years ago I worked with the leaders of other women's organizations to bring the exhibit "Game Face: What does a female athlete look like?" to our city. Many discussions of Title IX and its importance went on during our planning sessions. There is a great book attached to the exhibit, if you have daughters check it out - http://www.gamefaceonline.org/

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  12. Well said Green Girl.

    PS. My boys were freakin' going crazy when the UW women won the NCAA Softball World Series. So was I.
    Go DAWGS.

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  13. Title IX was a new one on me....we don't have anything like it here.

    Girls sports are for Girls and vice versa for Boys...there isn't much crossover.

    Some schools just forget girls sports altogether - especially the ones which were boys schools and are now mixed.

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  14. Melissa, this is awesome! (You should submit it to Divine Caroline.)

    I *definitely* benefited from Title IX. In h.s. I was a swimmer and a soccer player. I also participated in a VICA program where I took classes in a skilled trade ("men's work" like shop, printing, etc.) and got to do a co-op my senior year. I went to school in the mornings and worked a print job in the afternoons. Was a HUGE experience for me!

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  15. Bravo! I didn't realize either, that Title IX covered more than sports.

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  16. Run girls run. Sarah is right. Go watch.

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  17. I always wanted to play soccer, as I grew up with a bunch of soccer-playing boys. It really never occured to me to ask if I could join the team! It just wasn't done. I did ballet instead, and hated it. When I see girls playing on the team now, I am glad.

    I have some bling on my site for you!

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  18. Yes, and Thank God 'cause my daughter plays college basketball!!!

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  19. I'm a little late in getting my comment on this, but you totally rock. This is an awesome post. I don't think I've ever read a more right post in my blogging life, well, except everything I've written.Incidentally baseball should never be cut. Colleges should start getting rid of idiotic majors and the "professors" that teach them.

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  20. I owe my graduate assistantship to Title IX. I would never have had the opportunities I had (to work college football) had it not been for it.

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Spill it, reader.