Title IX, at its core, was designed to protect people from sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that get federal money. The actual law was quite short, and many clarifying regulations followed. The result? Title IX is now best known for the revolutionary way it affected public university sports -- a consequence that was likely not even fully comprehended when Title IX was enacted. Bottom line, thanks to Title IX, public universities must make available sports programs, and levels of sports competition, that accommodate both sexes... equally.
As an attorney and former public higher education policy advocate, Title IX has been a particularly important part of my professional life. I could practically write a book about the importance of Title IX from a legal standpoint, or how it has affected the very core of public higher education. But, I'll spare you the pedantic ramblings. Instead, I'd like to kick off the Title IX anniversary week by talking a bit about how I've been personally influenced by powerful female athletes.
My earliest memory of really idolizing a "celebrity" was the 1984 Olympics. I was not quite 7 years old, and I was instantly obsessed with the 1984 women's gymnastics team. Sure, Mary Lou Retton was completely fabulous, but I was mesmerized by all of them: Julianne McNamara, Kathy Johnson, Pamela Bileck, Michelle Dusserre, Tracee Talavera and Mary Lou. I watched the highlight VHS non-stop until 1988.
These young women were captivating for their strength -- both physical and mental -- as well as their perseverance, camaraderie and determination. Even at that young age, I got it. Their power was somehow connected to their sport. That level of dedication was amazing to me. Thanks to these powerful female athletes, I learned at an early age that a woman can achieve amazing things through self-determination and dedication. Growing up post Title IX, it never occurred to me that women and men would ever have unequal access to sports, and the opportunities participating in sports provides. I'm immensely thankful for the opportunity to indulge in that ignorance.
So, in these days leading up to the 40th anniversary of Title IX, I invite you spend some time thinking about the powerful female athletes who have inspired you over the years. Women athletes are constantly making their own rules, inviting all of us to think differently about what we can achieve. How has that mentality affected you?