Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution

Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution

Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution

Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution

Excerpt

Title IX. Those two words were blazoned on the bare backs of the members of the Yale University women’s crew team as they stood in the office of the athletic director in 1976. The women standing in that office had had enough. Although Title IX—a federal law banning sex discrimination in federally funded education programs—had been enacted four years earlier, it had yet to make a real difference in their lives. They endured appalling and humiliating conditions for the privilege of rowing for Yale, including restricted access to facilities, meager funding, and grossly unequal treatment compared to the male rowers. After each practice, in the bitter cold winters of Connecticut, they waited in their wet sweat suits on the freezing bus while the men took hot showers and dressed in the boathouse because the only bathroom and shower facilities at the river were reserved for men. Waiting on the bus, wet and cold, the women hatched a plan.

On a cold day in early spring, the women called the New York Times and alerted a reporter that there would be a protest in the office of the Yale athletic director. On the announced day, nineteen members of the women’s rowing team walked into the A.D.’s office, stripped off their sweats, and revealed the words “Title IX” written across their bare backs and chests. Then they read a three-hundred-word explanation that included the following statement: “These are the bodies that Yale is exploiting. On a day like today, the ice freezes on this skin. And we sit for a half hour, as the ice melts and soaks through to meet the sweat that is soaking us from the inside.” To Yale’s chagrin, the protest made national news. The women’s crew team soon had access to showers and better facilities.

The crux of their protest was these two simple words: Title IX. At the time, those words were little known among nonlawyers, beyond the few aficionados who followed women’s sports. Today, appeals to Title IX resonate broadly in American popular culture. Media coverage of every Olympics since 1996 . . .

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