Prettification vs. women’s sports

7 October 2012

It’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX — that groundbreaking bit of legislation that facilitated women’s educational equality on many levels, including sports. No one would doubt the fundamentally radical effects on women’s senses of self as a result. Even if we acknowledge that the law never sought to establish, nor did it achieve, anything measuring true equity, as I’ve written about before.

And yet critics complain that giving any funds to women’s sports effectively takes money away from men’s sports — and as a result women’s teams still fight for the small funding they receive. The Bush Administration was particularly effective in dismantling some of rules that schools show increasing efforts to comply with the law. And so the Women’s Sports Foundation has produced this nice video remind us of the stakes. (Thanks, Eteokretan, for sending the link!)

Considering that the US women’s soccer team is surely one of the country’s most popular women’s athletic teams, perhaps it’s no surprise that Major League Soccer would be the institution funding this campaign. And yet aside from its national team, women’s pro soccer has floundered in the past 15 months — most of its pro teams have folded, leaving members of the US women’s team to languish without pro teams or to try their luck as pro players for women’s teams elsewhere in the world.

So happy birthday, Title IX: let’s hope the current anti-feminist backlash against women subsides sometime soon.

8 Responses to “Prettification vs. women’s sports”

  1. The very false assertion that :And yet critics complain that giving any funds to women’s sports effectively takes money away from men’s sports,” would have people believe there is not enough for everyone, so let us just perpetuate the patriarchy. Great article, Didion. I was going to celebrate Title IX on my blog tomorrow. Do you mind if I include a link back to your story here?

  2. eteokretan Says:

    A few months ago there was a BBC article that said that it’s estimated that 2 in 5 girls refuse to play sports because they fear what it will do to their appearance. And those who do play are also hounded by appearance concerns, of course:

    “‘Girls want to be good at their sport, but on the other hand a question around their femininity is raised because they are considered too muscular.’ . . .

    “Kirsteen Martin and Carol McCluskey of Queen’s Park Football Club said they have experienced negative stereotypes at first hand.

    “Kirsteen explained: ‘You do get the typical ‘mannish’ comment… but I try not to let it bother me.’

    “Carol added: ‘We get encouraged to build our strength up – especially upper body – and that makes you a better player.'”

    So remember, girls, you have to be model-thin, but you shouldn’t play sports (i.e., get a lot of exercise), because that will make you “mannish.” And if you do exercise or play sports, just don’t try to be very good, or you’ll become muscular and ugly. Go team!

    • Didion Says:

      Yikes! it’s that high? But then, girls also live in a culture that now asks them to be size 0 or 2 — far skinnier and teenier than it was even 25 years ago.

      • eteokretan Says:

        It was a BBC Scotland article. I don’t know if it was just Scotland or the UK as a whole or a wider region. And I think they say “some studies suggest” that figure. So it might not be a firm number, but any trend that makes girls avoid sports because of their appearance is sickening.

        It would be a wonderful subject for someone to study: why don’t you play sports: (a) don’t like sweating, (b) afraid I wouldn’t be good, (c) don’t want to develop big muscles, etc.

      • Didion Says:

        Exactly. And perhaps ask also, “What would it take to entice you to play sports?” to see whether being able to train without threat of public humiliation matters.

        Sometimes, however, I shop for clothes and as I complain about horrible new styles, I want to ask my fellow female shoppers: “What makes you think you need to wear an outfit for which the high heels are actually longer than the length of the skirt?”

        Anyone? anyone?

  3. eteokretan Says:

    Watch this! Fabulous! Joan Benoit Samuelson kicks serious ass (55 years old and runs almost 70 miles per week). Also featured: Lisa Leslie, Marlen Esparza, and Diana Taurasi.

  4. Hattie Says:

    I’m proud to say that Patsy Mink of Hawaii, sponsor of Title IX, was my congressperson.

    • Didion Says:

      Oh, Patsy Mink was amazing. And so early on relative to other female congresspeople in DC. I wish I knew more about her life.

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