Wednesday, March 9, 2022

International Women's Day: In Celebration of 50 Years of Title IX

I suppose social media was made for days like International Women's Day. Started in 1975 by the United Nations, March 8 is "a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women." While it's important to recognize and call attention to International Women's Day, if all we do is post about it on social media we are missing the point. 

I have written about International Women's Day on this blog many times. I am intentional in my efforts to celebrate womanhood and women's rights in a special way on this day. And, with the 50 year anniversary of Title IX upon us, I wanted to do more during women's history month (March) and on this date (March 8). The purpose of this post is to share the program we ran at Saint Francis High School in celebration of both events. I hope it will encourage you to do the same.

As a starting point, we invited all students, educators and coaches to the program in our theater. The poster you see here, includes images past and present of women in our community in sport.

The event began by taking some time offer context for both International Women's Day and Title IX. I referenced Billie Jean King's website, under equality, and said

You have probably heard the proclamation “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was written to end discrimination based on sex, religion, race, color, and national origin in the area of employment. However, it did not prohibit gender discrimination in public education and federally assisted programs, including high school and collegiate athletic programs.

In 1971, before Title IX passed, only 1% of college athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs. At the high school level, male athletes outnumbered female athletes 12.5 to 1. Title IX was signed into law on June 23, 1972 by President Richard Nixon.

50 Years later we tell a much different story! That is what we celebrate today. The history and those stories—the examples, and the lessons we have learned. 

I posted the image you see here to serve as the backdrop. I said "I look at the women behind me and I think of their talents and their gifts. I think of Bethany Hamilton’s faith in Christ and Simone Biles’ courage to speak about her mental health challenges and other personal difficulties she has faced. I see not one but two Presidential Medal of Freedom winners in Billie Jean King and Pat Summit. I wonder who the next female athlete will be? I see Se Ri Pak of South Korea and know hundreds of girls took to the game because of her example. And in a special way, I think of Oksana Baiul who hails from Ukraine. I think of her homeland, under siege and wonder if she too is a refugee.

I concluded with my belief: Sports has always allowed us to dream, and dream we must about the next 50 years. To do that, let us begin by hearing testimonies from your peers, coaches and school leaders. They will share the way sport has impacted them, what their dreams may have been and what they are today.

Our campus minister, Sister Jodi who played basketball at UC Davis offered our prayer.

Former CCS Commissioner, Nancy Lazenby Blaser, gave the keynote presentation, a talk guided by the essential question: If women were already playing sports, why was it necessary to pass 
Title IX of the Education Amendments in 1972? Through historical examples of women's limited but dynamic participation in sport, the "37 words that changed everything," a profile of an invaluable stakeholder—Patsy Mink and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics, story and personal testimony, Ms. Blaser proved to be the perfect teacher of this timely topic. I was fortunate enough to hear this presentation at the CCS meeting for high school Athletic Directors. I will encourage her to continue sharing her stories.

A four-year varsity athlete shared a personal testimonial about the impact of sports on her life. We were able to have a male water polo player speak about his experience of sharing the pool with the girls' team. His observations about their physicality, grit and mental toughness was honest and fun to hear. A current teacher and coach, who played both soccer and football at Saint Francis spoke about how her coaches shaped her and what it means to do what they did.

The presentation closed with a slide show of teachers and coaches in youth, high school, collegiate or current day sports. To see so many examples of my colleagues in such a wide variety of sports was interesting, important and inspiring.

I don't know if I would have run this program if I had not heard Nancy Lazenby Blaser's presentation back in August—the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. However, I think it's essential to teach and share what we can, when we can. Days like International Women's Day allow us to look to the calendar, to pause, recognize, commemorate and celebrate. Between now and next year, I will be in search of new ways to do it again.

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