America is the land of opportunity, parity, and liberation. It is a place where people are capable of doing the things that they chose to do and being who they chose to be. The playing field for men and women in competitive physical activity was unequal in America until the federal law known as “Title IX” came into play. Title IX was an amendment passed in 1972, that prohibits the discrimination against girls and women in federally funded education, including in athletic programs (Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014). It simply 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 receiving Federal financial assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2015)”. Before Title IX came into play, women were allowed to play sports but it was more recreational and not competitive in nature. The main physical activities for women were cheerleading and dancing. This law allowed women to receive the same athletic opportunities as their male counterparts. Although Title IX has had many positive effects on sports, women in minorities are still being oppressed. This paper will present the impact Title IX has had on women’s sports in America and the strides that are still needed to achieve gender and racial equality within sports.
With all the good Title IX has done, the question still arises, “how did Title IX come about”? Title IX is derived from the beliefs and concepts of the civil rights movement. In the 1960’s, which was the height of the civil rights movement, many people especially women started to express concerns that girls and women were not receiving the same opportunities as their male counterparts in high school and college. Women were limited to domestic roles, such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the house. During those days, “many people believed there was no discrimination against women. The feeling was women didn’t need to go to college because they were all going to get married and have children and therefore they didn’t need a college education. So we had better give preference to the men because they’re going to be working, and the women will be just sitting at home with their degrees” (Morrison, 2017). The enrollment rates for girls were lower in college despite having higher high school grades. Many thought this was unfair and this idea was developed to stop gender discrimination in schools.
In the 1960’s, gender was not included in civil right laws. It was not until a woman name Bernice Sandler, who is known as the “Godmother of Title IX”, for helping draft Title IX. Sandler pushed for federal laws to be established based off gender equity. Sandler says of why and how she got started fighting for woman’s rights, “First, we realized that women did not have the same protections against job discrimination and education discrimination as people of color and different national origin and race. So race was covered and sex was not covered. You could discriminate on the basis of sex” (Morrison, 2017). Sandler, who had experienced gender discrimination in her own career, worked with many representatives and President Lyndon Johnson to have Title IX come into effect in 1972.
In the twentieth century, there were many physical educators who defended the traditional roles of women as being caregivers and wives. These educators were determined to not let women’s collegiate sports reach the equivalent of men. Their belief was that “women athletes were to engage only in physical activity that allowed them to walk a fine line-exercise was to make them better women without imbalancing their delicate physiques” (Olson, 1990). The theories from these educators stemmed from the idea that women cannot excel in sports because they lacked the physical capabilities. “The focus for women’s college athletics was to be the pure pleasure of participation; women athletes were not to be “merely a means to a commercial end”” (Olson, 1990). However, over the years women physical educators views on women’s athletic began to change. By the 1970’s, a foundation referred to as the Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was built. This foundation provided female athletes with elite training and coaching, to end the theory that women lack the physical abilities to compete in sports. In addition, because of this foundation women collegiate athletics began to be looked upon as high-level sports.
Due to Title IX, many athletic opportunities for girls and women in academic institutions have been provided. The one major impact to Title IX is that more and more girls are growing up playing sports. According to authors R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter, “female participation at the collegiate level has increased six-fold, from 30,000 in 1977 to more than 180,000 in 2010” (Cooky & Lavoi, 2012). The goal of collegiate sports is to reap the benefits after the playing days are over. These benefits include becoming CEOs, politicians, or lawyers because sports will open doors for these leadership roles. With increased female participation in sports, there has been a change in the way society views the abilities and strengths of women.
Even though Title IX has translated to an increase in female participation in sports, there are still limited athletic leadership opportunities for women. Acosta and Carpenter stated, “the percentage of women in coaching and administrative positions in women’s sport has actually declined, from over 90 percent to roughly 40 percent, since Title IX passed” (Cooky & Lavoi, 2012). The question surfaces, “what factors contribute to why women in athletic leadership roles are limited”? There are many barriers to why women cannot receive athletic leadership opportunities. There is pressure on women to perform at a high level at all times, because more is expected of them. Females must work twice as hard to prove that they are knowledgeable and more than capable than their male counterparts. In addition, women’s chances of falling into gender inequality have increased due to sexual harassment and wage inequities. Women have to work harder than do men to gain the acceptance, authority, trust, and respect necessary to lead (Moore, Gilmore, & Kinsella, 2005).
Title IX has had a tremendous impact on women sports, but many believe that it has negatively affected men’s sports. These opinions reflect the many myths about Title IX, such as it causes schools to cut male sports, it decreases athletic opportunities for men, and requires schools to spend equally on men and women athletics. Which in reality, none of these myths are factual. “If men’s sports are being cut, it is because a disproportionate share of athletic dollars continues to be spent on one or two teams—football and men’s basketball—and is not being spent to support other men’s or women’s teams” (National Women’s Law Center, 2015). Title IX does not support the cutting of sports but it gives schools the power to decide on how they want to shape their program. To say that this law is detrimental to men’s sport is simply not true, because athletic participation in collegiate sports has increased since the passing of Title IX in 1972. Men’s overall intercollegiate athletic participation has risen since 1981, from 169,800 in 1981-82, to 271,055 in 2013-14 (National Women’s Law Center, 2015). In conclusion, there is no aspect of this law that discriminates or harms male athletes.
Even though Title IX law ensures that men and women are treated equally, women in minorities are still being underrepresented. This law has done a lot to obtain athletes opportunities for females, but it has done little to address racial inequalities within sports. For instance, “only 3% of female college athletes are Hispanic and 1.8% are Asian. Outside of basketball and track, 2.7% are black–up only .7% in the last 25 years” (Gutierrez, 2002). These low percentages contribute to the fact that while schools think they are giving kids athletic opportunities by adding sports such as lacrosse, ice hockey, crew, water polo, and golf. They are actually hurting minority groups’ athletic opportunities, because females in minorities do not traditionally play these sports. According to Dee Brown, the assistant commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference says “Women of color are hurt because they don’t participate in those sports where all the expansion is taking place. Women of color have a double protected status [because of race and gender], but they’re still left out. Most play basketball or run track. You’ll see a handful in volleyball, softball and soccer, but that’s about it. As a result, Title IX doesn’t do a whole lot for women of color” (Greenlee, 1997). These sports in which schools are being encouraged to add are traditional middle-class sports that exclude marginalized groups. To overcome this, people of minorities must expand their athletic horizons to achieve opportunities within sports.
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