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Women, Sport, and Film - 2004
Student Papers
On Serendip

Title IX to Today

Julia F.

Great inequalities in the educational system between the sexes have occurred for many years and still occur today. Efforts have been made to rectify this disparity, but the one that has made the most difference is Title IX. Passed in 1972, Title IX attempted to correct the gender discrimination in educational systems receiving public funding. The greatest correction it made was in the area of athletics, but social justice of Title IX applies to many other areas as well. Title IX has an effect on women who are not athletes in many ways, including quality of education, receptivity to education, empowerment and creation of ideals.

Title IX qualifies as a social justice issue because it addresses social inequalities. Women before Title IX were not accorded the same rights as men in federally funded school systems, such as quality of education in certain circumstances or equal opportunity to participate in sports programs. These inequalities in education lead to further injustices, such as unequal distribution of women in high level positions and unequal pay, since women who have a deficient education do not rise as high as women who received an equal one. In athletics, women who did not have an opportunity to participate in the athletic program of their choice may not have reached their full potential. This is usually due to a lack of equipment or instruction, but it could also lead to a missed opportunity to go to college.

In many schools, women who became pregnant were often relegated to "alternative" educational programs, the participation in which was mandatory. After Title IX, schools could no longer force the student to go to an alternative school, which often was substandard. These students could not be singled out or treated differently than any other student with a medical condition. These restrictions on the treatment of pregnant students allow the students more freedom, and not be limited to their condition. They could still receive a quality education from their school and thus have the opportunity for further advancement in life. Pregnant students could still enjoy normal student involvement and not be stigmatized, as teenage mothers often are. For pregnant students, Title IX could change their lives.

Sexual harassment has been a problem in school situations; it inhibits a student's ability to learn since the student concentrates on the problem of dealing with the harassment instead of concentrating on her education. This occurrence of harassment can make a student fearful of going to school, fearful of authority figures and distrustful of adults in general. A woman who either is fearful or distrustful of men or women at an early age can suffer social inhibitions prohibiting her advancement through life. Title IX's prohibition on sexual harassment frees students from these fears and leaves them able to lead a normal life. Although Title IX does not eliminate the possibility of sexual harassment altogether, it does provide recourse to the student and the student's family through means of liability damages. Restrictions are placed on when the liability comes into effect, but it is a step forward in dealing with sexual harassment.

The benefits to female students interested in athletics are obvious, but a secondary
benefit to the rest of the female community is their empowerment by proxy. School spirit is often a part of middle schools, high schools and colleges, and the football team is usually what determines how much school spirit the school has. With equal opportunity and equal funding to female teams, the women of the school feel empowered by the successes of those teams as well. It sends a message to women that they are also able to do anything they want, and receive as much support as men do. They need not feel relegated to a secondary position just because of their sex. This empowerment extends to all sorts of areas, such as mathematics or the sciences, where women were originally told that they would not excel. Women can now think that if they can play sports, nothing is stopping them from studying mathematics or the sciences. This achievement in the world of sports gives women confidence to try anything they want to do.

Lastly, the fact that women are now playing sports and going places that were essentially forbidden to them creates new ideals in they eyes of women themselves and the eyes of the public at large. Over the years after Title IX, the ideal of a woman has shifted from a demure, quiet, stay at home woman to a headstrong, physically fit, intelligent woman. This new woman does not back down or give in when she faces a challenge, but meets it head on. She aims for the top and will not settle for less. She is all that she can be. Due to this new ideal woman, the public has changed its expectations of a woman to coincide with the ideal. It is relatively uncommon to see a woman on a television show that does not work, and oftentimes they work at high positions such as doctors or lawyers. If she is married, she often has more say in the relationship than the man, a complete switch of earlier roles. These new ideals have mostly improved the public's view of women and improved women's view of themselves.

Title IX has drastically changed the lives and the quality of the lives of women. The law deals with schooling and sports, but the reach of it extends much further. Women are not told that they are equal, and then receive unequal benefits anymore, and they have the same opportunity of education as men. Although Title IX is not the only reason for the status of women today, it helped greatly in the process.

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