Title IX turns 40


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.

Huffygirl, all decked out in women’s athletic gear

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37 thoughts on “Title IX turns 40

  1. it’s great that attention was paid to women’s sports-but polls show that except for tennis few women like to “watch” women’s sports-maybe it’s because women want to be “active” and doers rather than be .passive

    • Good point John. I confess that I don’t watch women’s sports, but I don’t watch much sports anyway. As you say, the women who are sports “doers” are busy being active, not sitting around watching sports. Plus, many of the women’s sports that ordinary women also participate in, such as running, biking and soccer, are seldom televised.

      Many of the male sports devotees are men who watch sports that they don’t themselves play. And many men watch sports for the camaraderie they share (“beer”) with their fellow sports fans, while women are more likely to get their female camaraderie in other ways.

    • When people asked me what sports I played in high school and I tell them there were no sports, I’m met with “you must be from Mars” looks. With Title IX at middle age now, there will be fewer and fewer people who remember what it was like before.

  2. Holy Toledo, HG, I can’t believe that the US was so backwards in those days. Honestly, until this minute I had no idea that there were no women’s sports in high schools in the US prior to Title IX.

    I am way older than you, yet there were sports a-plenty in Canadian grade and high schools and I went to many different schools because my Dad’s job kept us on the move. I played girl’s: basketball, softball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, ping pong, track and field, and so on…all at grade and high school.

    I cannot imagine what it would have been like without the stress relief and fun of these sports in my life. Thanks goodness this oversight has been corrected for the last 40 years!!

      • Actually, if you’d ever seen me in person, you wouldn’t think cheerleader. I’m so uncoordinated – I don’t think I could have done all that jumping and clapping. Plus, all the cheerleaders were in the popular crowd, while, unfortunately, I was more in the nerdy crowd. But nice of you to say so Sandra – that made my day!

    • I think certain schools did have sports, but most did not. Of course we did play sports in gym class, but they were not teams – just something to do in PE for 45 minutes. I am no good with any sports that involve hitting or catching a ball, but I would have loved to run track. The only way I could have done that was to somehow get on the boys team. I guess you Canadians are at least 40 years ahead of us. Does that mean we’ll have to wait another 40 years for national health care?

      • Oh, good lord, I hope not. My father-in-law and mother-in-law both are US citizens living in the US. They both really need it, esp. my FIL. I would so like to see them taken care of with good health care.

      • Aren’t they old enough for Medicare? Citizens over 65 are eligible, but of course they have to pay part of the premiums for this.

      • That’s too bad. If they’re very poor them might qualify to have the premium paid by Medicaid, but I imagine they’ve already looked into that.

  3. Looking good, HG. And good post. You are so right about the lack of sports for girls more than forty years ago. We were fortunate in our town of Fairfield, CT, maybe because it was economically advantaged. We had a track team, volleyball team, and a field hockey team. We also had intramurals. But obviously, it was greatly disproportionate to what was spent on the boys’ sports program. Since my husband and I love to watch college basketball, especially the girls because of our UConn women, we do like to watch the women’s pro ball because we have watched those young women compete on the college level.

    • Thanks Susan. Those compression shorts really make me look thinner than I am. I wish I could wear them every day…

      Good for you for watching women’s sports. I do think if you have some special connection to the team or the players (like UConn) it makes you more likely to watch.

  4. In Canada, in the sixties, in High School and in our communities, we had all the same team and individual sports as the guys (except football and hockey) The girls had figure skating too, which most men didn’t want to try. But our clothing in the gym, yikes! Baggy shorts, baggy sweatshirt and high top sneakers. That was pretty much the extent of our choices!

    • Sounds like Canada is way ahead of the US in women’s equality in sports. As far as the clothing selection, at least men didn’t have much choice of athletic clothes then either. Nike and Adidas athletic shoes didn’t come out until the early 70’s, although at first they were only making shoes for men, as far as I know anyway.

  5. My daughter, who has only been running a year and just finished her first half marathon at age 39, found that it was her style of running and her shoes that were giving her ankle and foot problems. She went to a top-notch running store where they watched her run, diagnosed what was wrong with her stride so she could correct it, and put her in the right shoes for her. It made all the difference in the world.

    • Glad it helped. I have thought of doing that myself, but saw a sport’s med doc instead and found out that arthritis and an old ligament tear is what’s slowing me down. So now I might try PT, and see if that helps.

      BTW, are you coming to Michigan to visit your daughter this year?

      • I remember the beginnings of Title IX because I belonged to a National Service Fraternity, not a social one. Title IX forced Texas A&M University to allow women on a full-time basis — previously it was an all-male military school — and then student organizations that wanted university, state, and federal funding of any kind whatsoever had to integrate.

      • Interesting. How did the change with allowing women go over on your campus at the time? I remember hearing about the first few women who entered West Point and VMI having a difficult time being accepted among their male peers. Eventually things got better for them, and now no one would bat an eye about women attending military schools.

      • Let’s just say that the first few women were probably very well qualified for combat duty!

        At my graduation, the President of the University refused to shake hands with the first full-time woman. Eventually he was fired for that because, well, times change.

  6. HG, we actually had a softball team, because I knew a girl who was on it. Not very well-publicized, obviously, and none of the “cool” girls would have joined. Also, after we did bowling in PE, they formed an after-school league for about six weeks (which I joined; again, no “cool girls.”). This is pitiful compared to what they have today.

    • Yes, I think they had an intramural girl’s field hockey team when I was there that played exactly one game. The few sports we did have were intramural, usually grew out of a PE class activity, were short-lived and not funded by the school. I never saw a picture of a girl’s bowling team or softball team in the yearbook.

  7. Pingback: The color of running | Huffygirl's Blog

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