I grew up before there was Title IX, graduating from high school the year before Title IX became law. What was it like back then (okay, way, way back then) for girls and women in average small town America? Where I lived, there were no high school sports for girls. If you wanted to “play” a sport, you could be a cheerleader. Except, you had to be cute, little, peppy and popular. That left out me, and most everyone else.
What to wear? There was very little sports apparel made for women. No sport’s bras – not invented until 1975, and not perfected until much later. No athletic shoes – unless you count good old canvas sneakers, aka Keds. The only women’s sport’s apparel widely available (besides those darn cute cheerleader outfits) were for sports that highlighted individual women, who needed to look good while playing. You know – tennis, golf, swimming. Individual sports that required fancy equipment and lessons, so not open to just anyone.
Even though many of us did not benefit from Title IX in childhood, we all benefit today. Now women’s athletic gear is widely available to everyone, from the pros to the weekend warriors. I even have a women’s specific bike AND a women’s specific tire pump. Women can compete in most sports in the professional and amateur levels. Women are no longer relegated to just being peppy cheerleaders, that is, unless they want to.When you watch the Olympics this year, think about the US women competitors who benefited from Title IX.