The history of women participation in various sports is marked by discrimination and division. However, it is filled with great accomplishments of female athletes and relevant gender equality advances and women and girls empowerment. In American history sports was seen as an activity of men since it required courage, strength and vigor. Women only participated in sports that were sociable like cycling, tennis, croquet and ice skating; vigorous activities were considered to be inappropriate for women (Riess, 2011). It was believed that Victorian women did not need physical fitness like men, and active sports were considered unfeminine. The role of women was seen by true believers as that of raising children at home and establishing a family environment that is morally right.
Women faced racism, discrimination, homophobia, ridicule and prejudice in all areas of athletics. They were warned that sports were not only unfeminine but a proof of lesbianism. Men viewed women who participated in athletics as unattractive and their chances of marriage were low. Women were also told that physical activities would hurt their reproductive organs. They were considered to be more selfish, and less team oriented like men. Women who wanted to participate in athletes had to look for ways of raising money and buy their own uniforms. Unlike men who received college scholarship, no incentive was given to women who loved sports. Parents were also not supportive as they would come to watch their sons playing and not their daughters.
The Impact of Title IX on American Women and Sports
Enactment of Title IX in 1972 was a great achievement to the movement of women. The law prohibits the exclusion of any person in United States from participating in or benefiting from any education program being funded by the federal government. Title IX applies to sport and other nine key areas which are addressed by the law. The passage of Title IX led to a high interest and participation in sports as well as an increase in funding women’s sports. In 1971, not more than 295,000 participated in athletics; this was just 7% of all the varsity athletes. The “National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education,” reported that the number had increased to about 2.8 million in 2001 representing 41.5 percent of all the varsity athletes. In 1966, only 16,000 women participated in intercollegiate athletics competition. The number increased to 150, 000 in 2001, representing 43% of the college athletes. According to Riess, (2011), collegiate sports of women had also increased to 9,101 teams per school.
Since Title IX enactment, women have also participated in sports that were traditionally regarded as men’s activities like wrestling, rugby, boxing and weightlifting. Unlike in the past, most parents are also watching their daughters playing either on the courts, playing fields or on television. Riess, (2011), suggest that Title IX brought lasting benefits to women since participation in sports has increased education and employment opportunities for most girls. In addition, girls and women participation in sports spurred by Title IX was believed to lower the rates of obesity cases. It is the only health program that has made such success.
However, opponents of Title IX began looking for ways to reduce its influence since the law would affect men’s athletes. Since 1975, Title IX has been challenged for about twenty times in order to whittle down gender equality in every field of education. The National Federation of State High School reported that the opportunities to participate athletics given to female students was 1.3 million lesser than those of male students in 2006-2007. However, from Title IX women benefited from professional sports and amateur involvement and their participation also bring excitement in sports (Riess, 2011).
Riess, S. A. (2011). Sports in America. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
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