What Do Sports and Reproductive Rights Have in Common?
See all our 2012 Title IX coverage here.
Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of what turned out to be one of the most important pieces of feminist legislation, Title IX. Title IX was a wide-ranging reform to educational standards in the U.S., one that required schools from kindergarten through doctoral programs to cease sex discrimination. It ended the traditions of barring boys from home economics and typing class while helping usher more women into STEM fields. But what most people think of first and often only when they think of Title IX is athletics. The requirement that schools invest as much in female athletics as male athletics has by far been the most controversial aspect to this amendment. People who wouldn’t dare suggest that only women should learn to cook or that unequal pay is fair often have no compunction about diminishing female athletes by claiming that their accomplishments simply can’t matter as much as do men’s. In the year 2012, female athleticism still causes overt anxieties.
Why is that? I propose it’s for the same reason that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy — or even prevent one — is still controversial in our society. As with reproductive rights, female athleticism brings forth social anxieties about women exerting mastery over their own bodies.