EDM 310 Class Blog

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Title IX: 40 Years Later, from a Nerd's Perspective

I'm taking on a topic I don't usually grace with my sparkling wit and cynicism. Sports.

But after reading an article in EdWeek I felt lead to add my opinion to something that Title IX; Presidents Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Barack H. Obama; American Association of University Women; National Federation of State High School Associations; The U.S. Census;  the Education Department's office for civil rights; EdWeek; New York City-based Women's Sports Foundation; all deemed worthy of diving into. Whew. So I guess it's worth my time :D
So this is the breakdown of what's going on:

""We can safely say, of all the areas Title IX covers—and it's key to remember it's more than athletics—athletics is probably the place where we've seen the most visible strides," said Lisa Maatz, the director of public policy and government relations for the Washington-based American Association of University Women" (Toporek).
I can see where this would be accomplished because, although I am no athlete myself, I do have an appreciation for football, baseball, soccer, and organized activity; and have seen the way that they bring people together. Strangers become acquaintances, rivals, and teammates. Students are transformed into heroes and role models. As data included in the article and timeline suggest, sports builds character. As indicated, studies suggest that those involved in sports were less likely to engage in drugs or fall into teen pregnancy. Perhaps it is because of all the long hours practicing, the hard work involved in athletic achievement, the high expectations connected to athletes, and the mindset that this is all too much to lose. Giving students something to strive for, and also something to lose seems to anchor them, to keep them from straying onto paths that may destroy their dreams.
While there aren't that many athletes out there who are role models, they are examples to student athletes that a lot of pressure is upon those who excel. It is a lesson to guard your character; that many eyes will be on you if you are in any position, athletic or otherwise. It takes a long time to build a reputation, but it can be destroyed with one photo of you holding a bong, one failed steroid drug test, one night out on the town.  It may not seem fair, it may seem we forget that they are humans too; but it is still a lesson that sacrifices come with success. 
These lessons are learned in playing sports. Perhaps this is one reason why "a 2002 survey from the Opperheimer Funds and MassMutual Financial found that more than 80 percent of high-level women business executives reported having played sports in their K-12 days" (Toporek). These women experienced, instead of being told, what it means to work hard, to sacrifice, to prioritize, to work alongside others, and to overcome differences. 
I, on the other hand, happen to be the artsy type. I would rather read than work out. I was the kid who was always picked last. Who found organized sports challenging and also boring. Who knows the rules to Quidditch and yet can't follow Football. Who appreciates ballet over activities other people might find "exciting". Who has the hand-eye coordination of a wet noodle. 
I was forced by my parents only a few times to play sports because it would make me more "well-rounded." They knew the benefits and lessons I would learn from sports even if I wasn't particularly gifted and didn't enjoy them. 
I see the use in sports but I don't personally wish to be prevailed upon to participate. I'm an intellectual. When I saw this article, I thought, what a waste of time! Why are we so concerned with why girls aren't playing sports?...maybe we just aren't interested. 
But there's a reason for that. A few pieces of legislation, court cases, and studies can't reverse the many, many years of stigma placed on feminity and organized activity. I'm an old soul, you might say. In the literature I have always been drawn to, the women don't tackle, lift weights, hit line-drives (or even foul balls), kick goals, or shoot hoops. Only in the last few centuries have women even been allowed to have an opinion, an occupation, free speech, the right to vote, an independent income, important things like this. The women who fought for these things were seen as visionaries, and also as lunatics. 
But the women of literature, the ones we remember and read about, were concerned with female concerns such as marriage and family and sometimes adventure and education as long as it didn't stray too far from the carefully drawn lines of a capitalist, patriarchal society. But there were those few brave writers who pushed the boundaries bit by bit until people started to see women as more than wives and mothers, occasionally teachers or nurses. Women were once viewed in black and white terms: spinster or wife. Eventually it became acceptable to be a wife and mother who boasted accomplishments deeper than needlework or playing the pianoforte. They wanted more. 

In gaining some of the same rights that men had, they started to see themselves as more equals with men. Why couldn't they shoot guns or shoot hoops? This is not to say that they wanted to shoot like Annie Oakley or be better at predominantly male activities than men were, they just wanted to try, and without ridicule. Much like my first attempts at hitting a baseball in front of my star-athlete brother. 

The waves of the feminist movement made great strides for women in this country, but history still remains. Biology still remains.  Not all women are made for sports. The message has been for centuries that women are supposed to be beautiful and demure, not strong or athletic. This is part of the reason for the "gender discrimmination in sports" mentioned in the article. The "text" of today is the media. According to the article, The New York Times and its influence played a major part in Title IX getting passed. The media now features more campaigns of strong, confident women.  On the opposite hand, the media also projects images of women that are hard to live up to. It is my belief that once our society stops pushing ideals onto young girls that are hard to live up to and replaces them with ones that are more realistic, girls will want to play sports.  It will be popular to be an athlete, to be strong, to be muscular. It needs to be common practice that we embrace the fierceness and masculinity of athletics, and our femininity and girliness at the same time. No one should have to feel like they are forced to pick one or the other.  And we should be teaching them that there will always be nay-sayers, bullies, name-callers, and hypocrites, but you have to be strong enough not to listen to them. No one ever did anything with everyone's full approval. Your self-respect matters more.
 We shouldn't be so surprised to see Olympic athletes who also look like supermodels, by god, they have earned their killer bodies! We shouldn't expect pro athletes to look manly or unattractive.  It needs to be recognized that women survived through the ages outsmarting men, gaining strength, exuding confidence, gaining wisdom....as I say to many who doubt me because of my stature: "I am petite, but I am not weak!" Just because we were once deemed the "weaker sex" does not mean we are. I prefer the term "the fairer sex". Anything you can do, we look better doing it. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you motivate young women.