The paragraph that laid the foundations for profound social change; New York Historical Society – West Side Rag

Photographs courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

By Wendy Blake

On May 18, 2022, the United States Soccer Federation announcement a deal pay the U.S. women’s and men’s national soccer teams equally.

This historic achievement might never have happened without a single paragraph added to the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX stated:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from participation, denied benefits, or discriminated against in connection with any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The 50th anniversary of the legislation is being celebrated at the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) in an exhibit titled “Title IX: Activism On and Off the Field,” which opened May 13 and runs through September 4. .

“The focus on gender discrimination in education and on to access to education really underscores how fundamental Title IX is to broader societal change,” co-curator Allison Robinson told West Side Rag. “It is powerful to consider how much has changed since this phrase was incorporated into the Education Acts of 1972.”

When Title IX was enacted, many universities and colleges still denied admission to women and jobs to female faculty; female students had no recourse for sexual misconduct; and women’s sports programs have been woefully neglected.

By contrast, in 2019, women earned 57% of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States, according to the NYHS, and the percentage of female faculty in higher education more than doubled to 54%. Grievance procedures are in place in all schools for people who experience sexual harassment and violence. And more than 190,000 women participate in intercollegiate sports, six times more than in 1972.

Photograph by Wendy Blake.

The progress initiated by Title IX has by no means been linear. Hard-won victories have been won by activists, politicians, students and others working to fend off challenges to the law.

The exhibition highlights key events in the fight for women’s parity. It includes material from the archives of Billie Jean King (an Upper West Sider) and the Women’s Sports Foundation, both housed at the NYHS, as well as personal collections of activists. They include official documents, letters, protest posters, photos, videos, sports uniforms and consumer products.

One of the items Ms. Robinson is most proud of is an original copy of the Clery Act of 1990, which she calls the “sister law” to Title IX. Named after a murdered student, it requires schools receiving federal funds to disclose crime statistics.

Another of his prized possessions is a sweatshirt worn (and taken off) by a female Yale crew member participating in a 1976 “strip-in” to demand proper showers. The team members stripped naked in the sporting director’s office to reveal “Title IX” painted on their bodies.

Also highlighted are the “Take Back the Night” protests, which continue to this day and aim to raise awareness of sexual violence on campuses.

Various objects bear witness to the growing visibility of professional female athletes, including Serena Williams’ tennis dress and gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s shoe. Wheaties boxes feature images of superstar athletes, like runner Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and there are Barbie dolls inspired by sports celebrities.

The exhibit addresses contemporary applications of Title IX to LGBTQ+ students, for example, the successful gender discrimination case of high school student Gavin Grimm, who sued his school board to be allowed to use the restroom corresponding to his gender identity. .

The exhibit also addresses the burning issue of trans and non-binary students in sports: the cross-country t-shirt high school student Lindsay Hecox wore while testifying in a federal lawsuit against Idaho, first state to ban transgender women and girls from playing on women’s sports teams in public schools, colleges and universities. This case is still pending.

The fight for women’s parity persists in new forms. One of the most impactful was a TikTok video from 2021 in which Sedona Prince, a college basketball player, contrasts her school’s massive men’s gymnasium with a paltry set of weights for women. “Women are always fighting for pieces of equality,” she says. Major changes to gender parity have been made at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) after its TikTok – lasting just 38 seconds – went viral.

New York’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West on 77th Street. For more information, see the website.


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