PolicyMic pundit Aleksandar Deejay recently published an article on the new law in Saudi Arabia that will grant women the right to vote and to run for future municipal elections. I found it quite intriguing that while we call traditional societies backwards, just 40 years ago, women in the United States lacked many rights which we take for granted today, especially in terms of sports participation. Title IX has been critical in providing progress to women’s rights.
The American women’s movement, which commenced in the dawn of the 20th century with the Suffrage Movement, did not fully realize itself until the passage of Title IX as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. The law provided that, “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 receiving federal financial assistance." Similar to its predecessor the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX was a product of a social revolution which engulfed America in the post-WWII years breaking down numerous boundaries and opening up a path towards upward social mobility which women did not formerly enjoy.
Contrary to popular belief, Title IX does not only apply to sports, although athletics is one of several areas covered by the law. These areas include access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, and employment, among others. Since its passage much of the controversy surrounding the law has centered on athletics. Since its enactment, many have argued that the proportionality test (which requires a school’s athletic programs’ gender ratio) is proportionate to the overall student population. For example, if 57% of the students are female, then 57% of athletes must also be female. This has led colleges to defund some of their men’s sports programs.
Moreover, before Title IX, college sports for women were restricted to intramural competition. The NCAA shunned the idea of establishing women’s intercollegiate athletics programs due to several reasons including its presumed inability to generate revenue, lack of federal funding, and a seeming apathy towards women’s rights in general. Women who participated in collegiate sports were barred from scholarship opportunities, faced discrimination, racism, and prejudice. There were no incentives encouraging women to participate in sports and as a result, there were not many role model female athletes and the ones who were around were constantly fighting against a system that frowned upon their attempt to change the status quo.
Whatever the opposition to the law may be, it has proven itself as one of the most successful and influential legislation in the history of education in the United States. Looking at the numbers, in 1966 some 16,000 females competed in intercollegiate athletics; by 2001 that number had nearly doubled, accounting for 43% of all college athletes.
Women have proven their ability to equally compete in athletics alongside men. Long gone are the days when scientific dogmas were manipulated to exclude women from the court, the field, medical schools and law schools. Title IX allowed women the opportunity to maximize their full potential and demonstrate their capacity to excel both on the playground and in academia.
Photo Credit: Phil Roeder