Society changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes the change can seem as slow as molasses. Often I think we forget about the changes – the differences within just a lifetime.
I watched the Olympics during these past two weeks in awe of the amazing athletes. After the closing ceremony, headlines announced that American women were the true winners. They edged out the U.S. men and rivaled most countries (except two) with their gold, silver, and bronze collection. This despite earlier news accounts and commentary, which introduced medalists by way of their husbands and failed to acknowledge the achievement of athletes, who happened to be women.
While visiting my mom last week, we talked about her upcoming 50th high school reunion. We paged through her senior yearbook, and I listened to her memories of classmates. Flipping through the multi-page spreads of football, basketball, and baseball, we arrived at two pages with four photographs of young women assembled and the acronym GAA.
“GAA?” I asked.
“The Girls Athletic Association. This was the sports group they had for girls. It was like a club. I did basketball and track,” my mom said.
A semi-recent article in The Atlantic Monthly questioned the effectiveness and quality of Title IX for women in athletics. With valid points about injuries and a lack of female coaches at all levels, I am still struck by a simple fact. My mom couldn’t join a high school varsity athletic team in 1966. Yet sixty-one American women received medals at the Rio Olympics, and over three million young women were on high school athletic teams in 2012.
With the help of Title IX, change that is worth remembering.
The Shield, Luther South High School Yearbook 1966, Chicago, Illinois.
Jeré Longman, “For Those Keeping Score, American Women Dominated in Rio,” New York Times, August 22, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/23/sports/olympics/for-those-keeping-score-american-women-dominated-in-rio.html?_r=0
Lee Moran, “The Media Are Saying and Doing a Bunch of Sexist Stuff During the Olympics,” Huffington Post, August 12, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rio-2016-sexism-media_us_57a840dbe4b056bad215f03c
Linda Flanagan and Susan H. Greenberg, “How Title IX Hurts Female Athletes,” The Atlantic Monthly, February 27, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/02/how-title-ix-hurts-female-athletes/253525/