Title IX: Promises Still Unfulfilled

Article excerpt

When a law is enacted for the purpose of changing social values, the law causes great controversy. Title IX was enacted in 1972, and has been controversial since. Some believe it is morally wrong to "support girls' sports on the budget of boys' football"; wrong to insist that girls have sports; wrong to make a big deal about sports anyway! Others believe it is necessary to allow girls the opportunity to decide for themselves whether sports are important in their lives; necessary to allow for equal opportunity. Regardless of the controversy, those girls who were entering school in the 1970s are the first generation to benefit from Title IX.

Recently, Title IX has received its greatest praise. It has demonstrated to the world that girls and women who also are given the opportunity and encouragement to participate in athletics can succeed. The number of women in the recent Olympic games was an all-time high, and the U.S. women who were given athletic opportunities through Title IX were also a greater presence. Not only were there more U.S. women, but they were more successful than ever before. Clearly, the effects of Title IX have been demonstrated and hailed.

However, the thrust for equity in athletic opportunity is a component of Title IX that has not reached full potential. Discrepancies in collegiate funding for male and female athletes is widely known. Much has been written on the difficulty a school faces in being equitable to its students and fielding a football team. But collegiate athletics is not the only place to find Title IX violations or lack of enforcement.

Well-intentioned educational administrators view the responsibility to provide equitable athletic opportunities as a trivial matter. They believe these opportunities are important only for the highly skilled, competitive athlete. In most cases, the most highly skilled and most competitive athletes have been male. However, the women at the 1996 Olympics showed girls everywhere that high skill levels and high competence are available to girls. It is a shame that girls still need to ask for the same opportunity provided to boys.

Recent Nike commercials have probably raised more awareness of gender inequity than the passage of Title IX did. In one commercial, several girls repeat "if you let me play" while explaining the mental, physical, and social benefits from vigorous physical activity. Would a boy ever ask to be allowed to play? Other commercials focused on the competitive nature of sports and the excellence of women in those sports. But competition and sports are not the only arena for girls provided by Title IX. All physical activity must be available to girls and women.

Elementary and secondary education programs are often in violation of Title IX. It is still common to find boys wrestling and girls dancing, but extremely rare to find girls learning to wrestle while boys dance. Usually, program administrators claim ignorance until someone challenges the inequity.

In the following letter, taken from the Chicago Sun Times (Monday, April 29, 1996), a young female athlete expressed why participation is so much more than competition. As girls across the country become motivated to play or to compete from watching some of the outstanding performances of the women Olympians, let us hope that they too will be vocal and supportive of Title IX the way Carlee Bator is. …