April 14, 2011

Title IX Essential to Women's Sports

A conversation about women and sports in present day America has to start with Title IX, says Jacquelyn Bridgeman, associate dean of academic affairs and professor of law at the University of Wyoming.

Bridgeman shared at the Losing to Win Conference today that since 1972, there have been huge gains for girls and women in sports. Prior to Title IX, 300,000 girls participated in sports; now there are 3 million.

However, there is still sexism in sports, she said. “We don’t get up in arms when girls' high school sports programs are cut as we would for male sports,” Bridgeman said. She also noted that in her Wyoming hometown, men’s basketball games were televised and women’s were not, even though the women’s team was better.

Bridgeman said that experiences in sports are just as important for girls and women as they are for boys and men. She emphasized that as we define equality in sports, we are not talking about whether women’s sports look the same as men’s, but rather whether women’s sports have the same value as those of their male counterparts and whether women have comparable opportunities.

With regard to race and sports, Bridgeman said the same stereotypes ascribed to black men are also ascribed to black females — along with a host of other stereotypes such as, women in sports are “butch,” and women in sports are not pretty enough. Black women in sports in particular, Bridgeman said, are victims of the “dumb jock” stereotype.

“The one place where segregation is still acceptable," Bridgeman said, "is in our conversations...in discussions of men's and women's sports." -- Kimberly McGrath

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