Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Changing the Title IX narrative: A prescription for change

Women’s sports activists are gathering around the country to recognize National Girls and Women in Sports Day and encourage advocates to keep pushing for the benefits mandated by Title IX.

Such efforts for equality are needed to keep issues like Title IX on the front burner; as advocacy groups often point out, the majority of institutions that fall within the purview of the law are out of compliance.

Although such efforts are needed, solely advocating for equality may not translate into the change women’s advocates are hoping for. Although sports fans may support the idea of Title IX – after all, notions of fairness and equity are cornerstones of American value systems, there is still not widespread acceptance for its application. This may be because of the consistent way in which sports are framed; as long as sports are situated in popular discourse as a space for the celebration of masculinity, cultural acceptance of women’s inclusion may falter.

It is thus critical, then, that we continue to support equality efforts, while also advocating for the adoption of new frames in sporting discourse to trouble the association between masculinity and sports. Such frames may stem from increased media coverage of women’s sports that focuses on athleticism rather than femininity. Continued visibility of women in authority positions – from athletic directors to play-by-play announcers – will also help deconstruct the notion that sports belong to men. Most importantly, however, is a continued push toward challenging existing cultural meanings of sports so we may move toward a vision in which women’s inclusion seems not only logical, but beneficial.

--Erin Whiteside

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