The year 1972 was memorable for many things, good and bad. HBO was launched, the motion pictures The Godfather and Dirty Harry were released, the last combat troops were leaving Vietnam, Arab gunmen massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games, and the Watergate break-in occurred.
It was also the year that (in a show of bipartisan support that would be unthinkable today) President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
How, you might ask, does that rank with other historical events of that year when the bill’s passage barely warranted a paragraph in most newspapers? Well, there are 37 words buried inside that massive education bill, 37 words, known as Title IX, which would have a more dramatic impact than most people at the time realized.
Title IX reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The intent of Title IX was to provide equal access to educational opportunities for girls and women, including safe and accessible learning environments, and to ensure that course offerings and career counseling were not limited by gender, and it’s pretty much accomplished that. Boys were now able to take home economics, and girls could enroll in shop. Actually, it was more about opening access for women to mathematics and science courses at the university level.
It’s most visible effect, however, has been in athletics, an area that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the bill. Nonetheless, “Title IX” and “sports equity” have become synonymous. Sports may not have been in the forefront of the minds of those who crafted Title IX, but it’s impossible to overstate its impact on women’s athletics and on the lives and careers of women who participate in athletics.