Thank You Title IXShare
An appreciation and some thoughts on the legacy of Title IX as it turns 40
This past week I was invited to participate in the Women’s Sports Foundation’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law requiring women to be given equal opportunity in education, including sports. With some amazing women, including an astronaut, athletes, brigadier generals, reporters and others who had benefited from Title IX, I went to the unveiling of espnW’s photomosaic in honor of the anniversary at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The images did a remarkable job of telling the job of how far we have come. The very fact that we survived the 70's shag haircut is reason enough to celebrate.
I am very much a product of that era. I was inspired to start Playworks in no small part because of my experiences as a girl growing up in the wake of Title IX. I grew up playing outside after school every day. I was often the only girl playing in my neighborhood crowd, but it never occurred to me not to play. Fortunately I went on to play on organized sports teams with other girls and women in high school and college. The opportunities, though evolving, were there. There has never been any doubt in my mind that every child has the right to play every day. As someone who got to play because of the hard work of many women and men who came before me, I am absolutely clear that is my responsibility – and that of my generation – to ensure that we protect that right for all kids.
The most important legacy of Title IX, however, is that it was never really about sports. In fact, nowhere in the wording of the legislation does the word ‘athletics’ appear. The work of Title IX as we move forward is in seeking equity in other aspects of education – for example science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) – for girls and women, who are vastly underrepresented and hold just 25 percent of the jobs in these fields.
We still have our work cut out for us – Title IX’s impact has not reached as deeply into communities of color as we need - but we’re moving forward. In the grandest terms, Title IX is about building an educational system, and by extension a democracy, that helps our children grow up to be the happiest, most successful and engaged citizens they can possibly be. It is about helping us to realize our potential – both individually and collectively – just as sports at their very best can. For this, I am forever indebted to Title IX, and those who made it possible. Thank you Title IX.