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Cynthia Kounaris

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Women's World Cup, Title IX And What It Means For Girls

Posted: 07/17/2011 6:28 pm

You can debate Title IX all you want but you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the looks on little girls' faces when they talk about what the US Women's Soccer team means to them.

And that would not have happened without Title IX.

Today, most of us don't know or remember what life was like before Title IX, when girls just had "gym" and boys had actual sports. When girls could only sign up for dance or gymnastics classes that were outside of the school system, while boys participated in the sports that schools and towns cared about.

Granted, Title IX may have caused some challenges for boys' teams. There was only so much money to go around and now girls' teams had to get a piece of that pie. The argument was often made, by those against Title IX, that fewer girls cared about sports so there shouldn't be an equal distribution of funds. Well, that seems to be a chicken-and-egg argument that has now been pretty well disproved.

Speaking of "chicken-and-egg," I am very curious as to how, if at all, Title IX impacted women's sports, globally. After all, the US Women's Team is playing against women's teams from all over the world. Hmm, need to do more research.

But I did find this fascinating History of Women in Sports Timeline -- definitely worth perusing.

One key entry is:

1972 -- Congress passes Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activities receiving Federal financial assistance." When President Nixon signs the act on July 23 about 31,000 women are involved in college sports; spending on athletic scholarships for women is less than $100,000; and the average number of women's teams at a college is 2.1.

And this related bit of information:

2010 -- New research from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business takes a step towards empirically proving the aforementioned theory. In her paper titled, "Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports," Wharton business and public policy professor Betsey Stevenson offers evidence that playing sports leads to more education and better employment opportunities.

Also, this great article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times addresses this topic so well.

Today, girls can play sports and it is normal! It is accepted by other girls, by boys, by parents, by men. And what a wonderful way for girls to connect with their dads. It is no longer "odd" or "tomboy" behavior. It is just ordinary. And that is huge.

It is great for girls to see the nation riveted by women's soccer, to see how Serena and Venus Williams have dominated tennis, and to watch UConn's women's basketball team being cheered on by men.

This is not just about Title IX and the subsequent participation and success of women in sports. It is about what this means to women, in life. How the message that they get by participating in sanctioned, official sports during high school and college -- that they can take the field, be the players, be the stars, be the people that others are cheering for rather than only being able to do the cheering -- how that message carries on throughout their lives.

Girls now learn at a young age that they do not have to be "supporters", they can be "doers." And that message gets through even to girls who do not choose to participate in sports. Just seeing people like them (meaning, people of their gender) playing sports -- and being famous for that -- gives them a confidence and a sense of their opportunities in life that they would not have if only boys/men played "official" sports.

Yes, there is so much more to be done. Miles to go before we sleep. But today, let's celebrate the women who fought for Title IX, the men who passed the legislation, the girls who thought "Hey, that looks like fun!", the parents who drove them to practice and cheered at their games, and the US Women's Soccer team, regardless of the outcome of Sunday's match.

 
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