Title IX: A Primer
The passage of Title IX was a pivotal moment in women’s athletics. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s had challenged people to begin recognizing and remedying inequalities and paved the way for women to start challenging discrimination in sports. Title IX, which banned sex discrimination in all education systems, became law in the United States in 1972. It was intended to target discrimination in all areas and fill areas missed by the Civil Rights Act. Rather than adopting a gender-blind approach to sex discrimination, which would entail no separation between men’s and women’s teams and integration of all genders/sexes, Title IX focuses on equal opportunity. Since athletics at the collegiate level are a part of the educational institution, Title IX is applied to the regulation of athletics as well. This means that both men and women’s sports must have equivalent funding and participation opportunities in athletics.
In 1966, there were about 16,000 collegiate female athletes in the United States. The Division for Girls and Women in Sports (DGWS), a division of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (AAHPER), was created in 1957 to allow women to grow in sports, but there was no approved women’s intercollegiate athletic participation until schools began adding women’s teams and athletic recruitment in the 1970s. The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was founded in 1971 during the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. As part of this movement, activists mobilized to fight for women’s health, greater involvement in sports, and other key issues.
By 1976, the number of female athletes had grown to 64,000, and it hit 100,000 just four years later. As more women began participating in collegiate athletics, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took notice. In the first 75 years of the NCAA, there were no championships for women offered. In 1980 and 1981 at the NCAA Convention, legislation was passed to create women’s championships in all divisions. It may have not been changed with the benefit of women in mind, but the NCAA became more invested in women’s sports because of its growth and potential recognition.
Some still argue that Title IX lacks intersectionality, in that it addresses the hardships of women as a whole without fully accounting for how women’s struggles differ based on their race, sexuality, or class. Although equal opportunity is a focus, the detailed attention to how there are factors that still affect each individual in a variety of ways is disregarded. This is true for many other anti-discrimination laws as well. While Title IX was drafted by two women, Patsy Mink and Edith Green, it operates and is enforced in two male-dominated spaces: the United States federal government and the NCAA. Without women's involvement in these enforcements, the intersectionality of women in sports will continue to struggle.