2012 marks an anniversary that brings all athletes together: the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Since June 1972, it has changed the world of sports and education forever.
Women, for the first time since their suffrage in 1920 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were granted the same rights in the classroom as their male counterparts.
Women began receiving scholarships for collegiate sports and they earned degrees in the process. Women’s sports coverage has increased through ESPN. It reveres Title IX with a weekend tribute to the 40th anniversary earlier this year.
While Title IX has allowed women to play sports while earning a prestigious college degree, an ideological shift outside the classroom and off the playing field has yet to occur. Title IX gave women opportunities in athletics since 1972, but its reach hasn’t breached mainstream sports culture. NBA games frequently sell out while WNBA games struggle to fill seats, while those who prefer the NBA lament the women’s team slow tempo or low scoreboard.
Male figures in girls’ lives still tell them they can’t catch like a real first baseman or throw like a quarterback. Girls enrolled in Little League teams look up to male idols — not female ones — and it’s men that are the real moneymakers in professional athletics. Sports commentators are still often men and women journalists still have to fight twice as hard as their male counterparts to be taken seriously.
Former Vice President for University Athletics Lisa Love received a lot of flak early in her career for dismantling mens’ athletic teams to assemble womens’ teams, despite earning four national titles for women’s sports in her seven-year tenure.
Title IX was a monumental symbolic move in 1972, but how has it moved forward? Women are still earning scholarships and they’re still receiving degrees, so has Title IX tempted students into complacency and a false sense of security? Women collegiate athletes — especially here at ASU — win games and trophies right alongside their male counterparts and have gained enormous traction with their 40 years of eligibility. But the work isn’t done just yet. From increased numbers of scholarships to professional athletic teams, student athletes cannot be content with the form Title IX, but they must continue to speak out for equality outside the context of sports and education. Student athlete opportunities for women have to continue to prosper.
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