All I Wanted Was to Play the Sport I Loved

In 1972, women celebrated the enactment of Title IX which prohibits gender discrimination in any school or educational program receiving federal funds.  Suddenly, schools and universities were required to invest in sports programs for girls and young women.  Title IX opened the door for female athletes.

Because of Title IX, Pat Summitt led her teams to 1,098 wins, more wins than any other college basketball coach.  Many of her student-athletes turned pro after graduating and became stars in the brand-new WNBA.  

Because of Title IX, there were school programs that trained our gymnasts who went on to win dozens of Olympic medals. 

Because of Title IX, our colleges continue training soccer players who join our national women’s soccer team. The USWNT has won 4 World Cups, 4 Olympic gold medals, and 8 CONCACAF Gold Cups.  They are the world standard in women’s soccer.

Title IX isn’t perfect.  Women’s college sports still receive fewer resources than the men’s programs.  Women are still forced to wear obscenely sexist uniforms.  At the recent Olympics, a women’s volleyball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of the official uniform which looks like a g-string and pasties outfit for strippers.

Our national Olympic committee doesn’t appear to have noticed the shorts scandal, which isn’t surprising considering how they’ve handled the whole Dr. Nasser pedophile mess. Our Olympic committee spent years ignoring or discrediting the teen-aged gymnasts who reported Dr. Nasser’s sexual abuse of them. 

Now a similar scandal has erupted in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).  A handful of players allege sexual improprieties against a widely respected coach. The players also allege that team owners and the sport’s governing authorities either ignored their allegations or leaned on them to keep their mouths shut for the good of the league and their careers. 

Why were these girls and young women ignored and discredited for years? Institutionalized sexism, reinforced with conservative religious teachings, assumes that females are always to blame because they “must have been asking for it” or they lured a hapless male into becoming a sex offender. Never mind that the male offender is often an authority figure who is violating his fiduciary and legal responsibilities, as well as common decency. 

Title IX was intended to bring an end to unequal treatment of girls and women in sports.  Almost 50 years later, that hasn’t happened but at least they are finally being heard.  Let’s hope this means the future is brighter because girls and young women deserve better when all they ever wanted was to compete in the sport they loved.  

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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