Girls Can Be Goatsuckers Too


 (Synopsis:  As G-Ma Lori  observes and reflects on her three-year-old granddaughter's athletic prowess, she is reminded of  the terror when she growing up in a time when 'Girls couldn't be Goatsuckers'  or compete on an equal level with boys in school.  G-Ma teaches Matt and Sarah a little history in sexual discrimination.  The grandkids  learn about the 'girls rule' found in Title IX that hasn't completely solved the problem of equality in sports programs in school and is now in jeopardy.  G-Ma reminds the children Vigilance is the key to equality and tries to plant an understanding in her "little ones"  so they understand that if the ruling is scrapped, Sarah's right to compete equally with boys might be endangered.)

   Girls Can Be Goatsuckers, Too!


          “Chupa – Chupa – Chupacabra.”  My five-year-old grandson, Matt yelled out the name of his latest favorite monster – the Goatsucker--aka Chupacabra. 
        Earlier in the week he had sketched and colored a surprisingly accurate drawing copied from the book “How to Draw Mystical Creatures” his G-Pa had purchased to entertain him on a rainy afternoon.

     “G-Ma, I drew the Chu-pa-CA-bra, too,” piped his three-year-old sister, Sarah.  Sarah’s accurate enunciation was not unexpected.  Matt had patiently instructed her in the careful pronunciation of most of his favorite dinosaurs so her syllables were sharp and precise.  She could recite their names even more clearly than he.
      Matt led the way home from school.  He liked being the engineer, the lead scout. He scoured the streets and alleys for any sign of the “goat monster.”  Sarah scooted away from me and slipped behind a bus stop kiosk, then jumped out with hands gnarled as claws and her mouth twisted to display her teeth as pretend fangs.  She growled deeply, as much as a three-year-old in a world of make believe on the streets of New York City could do.  Matt and I were actually startled.  She giggled and proudly proclaimed: “Girls can be goatsuckers, too!”

      Her remark rocketed me back in time—when girls couldn’t be goatsuckers!
      I was raised in a small Montana town in the 50’s and 60’s.  Girls couldn’t be ‘goatsuckers’ then.  Girls were excluded in all organized sports in and out of school.  I had two brothers who were privileged to play summer and school sports.  I was left out, as were all the other girls.  I commiserated with my friend, Christy, “It is so unfair. There’s never anything for us girls to do.  The boys get everything.  They rule.  I wish I were a boy.” 
      Christy smacked on her ever- present wad of gum and replied matter-of-factly.  “That’s how it is, Lori.  This is how I feel about it all.”  She popped a big bubble and we laughed, mournfully.

      Matt’s tugging at my arm brought me back to the present. 
      “G-Ma, girls can’t be as big as boy Chupacabras.”  He paused and took a deep breath, … “ and for sure they can’t growl as loud.  Boys are better goatsuckers, and dinosaurs and….. ummm….monsters….ROOAARRR!!!” 
       He spun toward his sister, raised his arms over his head, pointed his fingers, feigned gnashing his teeth and bellowed another mighty monster rumble.

      Sarah, unperturbed, flapped her arms and pretended to ‘fly around’ Matt as she belted out her challenge, “…magic, magic, magic unicorn, from the Land of ‘Chantment.   Horn the monster!   Stop him….NOW.” 
        Sarah came to an abrupt halt and pointed her ‘arm-wings’ toward her brother.  I was amazed at how creatively and swiftly she immobilized us.  Monster Matt was intimidated.  He stepped back, eyes enormous and shrugged.   The unicorn had won the battle. 
        Sarah boasted: “Girls don’t have to be as big or as loud as boys.  G-Ma, you told me that.  I ‘membered it.   I played I was a magical beast to fight the monster and tricked it.  And I wasn’t even that loud.”  Her chocolate eyes sparkled with glee as she spun around with her hand on her “unicorn” head in a victory dance.

        I was proud of Sarah.  I thought about my  disappointments living in a ‘boy’s world’ when I was growing up, and always reminded Sarah  how lucky she was to live in today’s world.  I tried not to dwell on the unfairness of my past when girls couldn’t be “goatsuckers,” or to give her any impression that girls are second-class children in today’s world.  At each opportunity, I told her that now girls are as equal as boys, are given the same opportunities as boys.  The big point I made was she didn’t have to work harder, or be smarter, just to prove herself as an equal—as in my childhood when the battle lines were clearly drawn and you couldn’t step over them without major combat from the “man’s world.”      

         Matt’s question shifted the subject from monsterland to playground.  “G-Ma, can we stop off at Tompkins Square Park on our way home?”  He looked up at me and squeezed my hand.  “I’ll do my homework right when we get home.  Please say yes, G-Ma?” Matt’s blue eyes targeted mine. He entangled me into his wily web of imagination.

   “I’m a Saber-toothed Cat and I’m going to eat you, G-Ma…and Sarah, too.” Dropping down onto the sidewalk with the softness of a jungle cat, he drew up his upper lip to show his ‘fangs’ to us.  Again, Sarah refused to be intimidated.  She charged him,  knocking him flat down. 
        “Go away, Cat, or I’ll stomp on you.”  She sat on top of him until he screeched for help. “G-Ma, Sarah hurt me.  She is too rough!”

      Secretly, I was pleased Sarah was so strong and wasn’t a scaredy-girl.  Girls historically, and in my own experience, have been gentled to be dependant and considered weaker than men.  Throughout most of history, women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men.  Being a wife and mother were regarded as women’s most significant profession, a duty not to be challenged.  It wasn’t until 1920 that women in America won the right to vote and, with it, increased educational and job opportunities.

       As the historic date flashed through my mind, Sarah switched from the self-sufficient toughie of the 21st Century to a domestic caretaker.   Just like kids—never know what they’re going to do next.
      “G-Ma, my baby is hungry,” Sarah patted her little round three-year old tummy.  “I'm hungry too!"

      “Uggggghhhhhh, G-Ma, I keep telling Sarah she does NOT have a baby in her tummy.  Mommy does.  She doesn’t.  But, she won’t listen to me.”  Matt condescendingly glanced at his sister.   He looked up with his sweet big brother doting look, shook his blonde head and “ugggghhhhhed” again.

        Sarah believes she is carrying a baby just like her mother who is seven months pregnant. 
        She consistently exhibits a natural interest and desire to be a mommy.  From the age of one and a half she practiced mommying her dollies.  Her maternal instincts seemed ingrained.  Like most little girls, she loved dressing up in her froo-froo wardrobe in contrast to her rough and tumble play with her brother and her prowess in her gymnastics class.  She is a skilled enunciator with a varied vocabulary.  I’m convinced Sarah will become the perfect meld of the traditional and modern woman without going overboard and turning into a hardcore feminist.  She lives in the best of both worlds.

      “Matt, Sarah, is just talking to her baby. It’s okay to pretend.”
       I knew better than to try to dissuade Sarah that she has no baby in her tummy because she was adamant that she does. Being Vigilant, I continually reminded her that her baby might not come out at the same time her mommy’s does. I keep hoping she will discontinue her belief she is pregnant and get tired of aping her mommy.  But it appears to me and her father that her tummy is getting bigger.  We even laughed about it the other night.
       “Are we stopping at the park or not kids? Or do you want to go on home?”  I preferred to go on to their apartment since the park was filling up with the after-school crowd who were larger and commandeered the area.

      Sarah’s mind was still on her tummy, not the park.  “G-Ma, mommies can go to school, too.  They don’t have to stay at home all of the time. After my baby comes out, I’m going to school, too, like my mommy.”  She covered her belly with her arms and again whispered to her ‘baby’.  Fun at the park took a backseat to the ‘mommy’ issue.

      Playing along with her, I offered her 21st Century options, most of which weren’t socially available when I was her age.  “Well, little mommy Sarah, when it’s really time for your baby to come out, there are many different options or choices you can make with your life.  You can work at a job, go to school, or choose to stay home and be a fulltime mother.  What is especially fine is that you, as a girl, have more choices available to you than when G-Ma was a little one.”  I wondered if this statement sounded like the old saw:  “When I was your age, I had to walk three miles to school in a raging blizzard.”   I laughed to myself, thinking back to my childhood.  I actually did walk to school in blizzards!

      Only a few days earlier I read an article reviewing the progress of women.  During the 1960s several federal laws improving the economic status of women were passed.  The Equal Pay Act of 1963 required equal wages for men and women doing equal work.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against women by any company with 25 or more employees.  A Presidential Executive Order was issued in 1967 prohibiting bias against women in hiring by federal government contractors. And yet, despite their increased presence in the work force, most women still have primary responsibility for housework and family care.  While I would have liked to present these facts to Sarah, at  three she was a little young to be waving the flag of female independence my generation had fought to achieve.

      It was Matt’s turn to pry into my past.  “Mommy said that you didn’t have sports at school, G-Ma.  Only boys had stuff for them.  That’s not fair. She also said that when she was in school the boys had more things to do than the girls.  Will Sarah have as many things to do in school as I will?  I hope she will.  She would be so good at sports.”  Matt’s face scrunched, giving him that aura of a concerned old man vigilantly concerned about his sister. 
      I hesitated, not sure I wanted to become pedantic in answering.  But my head was full of facts from the articles I had read, so I spouted the information as though the kids were college students and I was in charge of a women’s rights class.
      “Matt and Sarah, hopefully both of you will have equal opportunities in school – and in life – with your jobs and in whatever you decide to do or become.   The law that made such a big difference for girls to have sports in school was the passage of Title Nine …they called it  the Education Amendment.  It was passed  in 1972 – a year after Auntie E was born.  This law prohibits discrimination.  It means schools and school programs cannot be against girls and women in federally…”  I paused, remembering to whom I was lecturing… “ that is government –funded education, including athletics programs.  Your mommy and Auntie E excelled in many sports both in school and also in community sports programs.  They had fun, learned many athletic skills, made new friends and developed an appreciation for teamwork. So it worked for them, but not for me.”

      Usually Matt dramatically entertains Sarah and me on our way home from his school.  But today, I was doing most of the talking, and they were listening even if the information was historic.  After all, both their parents are Phi Beta Kappa’s.  I didn’t feel I was over-talking their potential.  We were fast approaching our street and my mouth was dry.  I ended my “lecture” for the moment as we launched our daily run to the apartment door.
        “Come on kids, let’s race to the door and whoever reaches it first gets to buzz the ‘buzzard’ to let us in.”  I started to run;  Matt was close at my heels.  Sarah slowly brought up the rear, softly skipping toward us.  “I don’t want to wake up my baby, G-Ma.  She is sleeping,”  she pronounced.   A passerby looked at her, then up at me and smiled.

        “I’m playing with my dinosaurs and mommy Sarah can play with her dolls.  No girls allowed!”  Matt groaned and huffed into the apartment.

      “Matt, don’t say that,” I admonished.
       ‘No Girls allowed’ brought me back to when I was around six or seven.   I too often heard those cruel words from all the boys, including my brothers.
   .  I decided to clear the air with Matt.   “Remember when I read to the two of you the Berenstain Bears story ‘No Girls Allowed’ and how Sister and Brother Bears worked out their differences and let each other to play in their respective tree houses?”

      Matt nodded.  “Yes, G-Ma, I remember the story.   You told me if I had a tree house, I have to let Sarah play in it even if I didn’t want to because that’s the right thing to do. So, Okay, I’ll let Sarah play in my tree house-- - if I get one.” Matt indulgently smiled at Sarah who quickly took advantage of his change of heart.  She forgot her hungry baby and snatched up Matt’s T-rex toy like a greedy  kid in a candy shop.
      “G-Ma, Sarah has to play with Baline… her Brontosaurus not my special T-rex,” Matt whined, his largess forgotten.

      “Sister Bear Sarah and Brother Bear Matt, please remember teamwork and try to play together,” I offered.  Then I threw in my concern for the endangered species called Title IX, hoping to implant it early in their minds.  I straightened as I spoke. “If we want to keep Title Nine alive, kids, we have to learn to play together just like the lawmakers have to learn to play together to continue the law that gives everyone equal rights in sports.  If the people who make laws don’t quit fighting  the law will be dropped.  G-Ma likes the rule because it protects Sarah from being excluded from playing sports and receiving the education boys and now girls have the right to do.  That includes you Matt.”

      “How does a ‘rule’ play, G-Ma?” Sarah teasingly danced around humming.  She dangled the T-rex just beyond Matt’s reach, infuriating him.

      “Well, it’s kind of a long, but an important story kids.  I’ll try to make it short for you to understand and then I’ll get you your after-school snack.”   I knew food would lure their attention to an issue I was highly concerned about.   I also hoped they would understand their rights of equality were in jeopardy.

       Nestling in on the couch, Matt on one side, Sarah on the other, I continued. “Everyone expected that Title Nine would ensure equality for boys and girls.  But then Complacency reared its ugly head and Fears claws and teeth began to show.”

      “Wow, G-Ma, you are telling us a scary story now.  G-Pa talks a lot about complacen-cee and I know what fear is.  I guess they are monsters, too.”  Both my monster-playing little ones snuggled in a bit closer.

        I gave them a hug.  “Yes. It is a scary story because when someone tries to take away your rights it is scary, kids.  Let me explain what the problem is.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association and high school administrators complained that boys sports suffered if girls’ sports were equally funded.”  I looked down at their faces, remembering I was talking to two very attentive but young children.  “Equally funded means  giving the same amount of money to both girls and boys programs.  Then, in 1984 the Supreme Court, the highest Court in our land, almost extinguished, or ended, the law.”

      “G-Ma that’s twelve years later, right?”  Matt triumphed out his correct mathematical calculation.  I was glad he was listening.

      “Ah, my smart, Brother Bear, you are so right.” I quickly continued so their attentive minds wouldn’t zoom elsewhere before I planted my seeds of concern.  Grandparents have the job of helping their kids fight for what is right, I thought.
   .  “The court said Title Nine didn’t cover all the schools – only those that received federal, or government funds.  Other programs, such as sports, that did not receive federal funds were free to discriminate on the basis of gender.   They had the right  to use the money for boys or girls sports however they wanted.  But women’s rights groups fought  their rights and got the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988  passed.  It made Title Nine a ‘top priority” and  gave it teeth and claws to be enforced.  Colleges and universities are now required to disclose or tell how much funding is used and how many girls and boys are playing sports.”

      I wasn’t sure the kids got my point until Matt’s questioned affirmed his understanding. “So, G-Ma, the boys get the same as the girls and girls get the same as boys. That's fair.  So, what’s the problem, G-Ma?   How is Sarah’s Title Nine in trouble?” he asked  Sarah tugged at my arm, reminding me she was listening and that she knew her big brother was looking out for her.

      “Let’s see.  How can I explain this.   G-Ma might confuse you.  So if I do, let me know, O.K., Matt?”
       “I will,” Matt beamed.  “I know everything, you know!”
        “I know,” I smiled, remembering Matt wasn’t shorted an ego when he was born.  I launched into my explanation of the problems Title Nine faces.
      “Well, I told you that schools have to show the number male and female athletes compared to the total number of male and female students enrolled in the school.  This is called a ratio or a percent.   Like if the school has 100 students and ten boys and ten girls play sports, both boys and girls have ten percent playing.   Would that be equal or not equal Matt or Sarah?
        Sarah jumped in.  “The same, G-Ma.   Ten boys and ten girls”
        “That’s right.   Now, the problem is when twenty boys play sports and only ten girls want to play.   Now you have twenty boys and only ten girls.   What do you think?  Is that fair?”

        “No, more boys are playing than girls,” Matt offered.
        “But,” I added, “what if only ten girls want to play.  All the girls have a chance to play, but only ten chose to play.  Would that be fair or unfair to the girls.”
        “Maybe some girls have babies, G-Ma.  And don’t want to play.”  Sarah said.
        “I guess it would be fair, G-Ma.  If the girls had a choice and didn’t want to play.  Twenty boys and ten girls would be fair.”
          “So here’s the problem, Matt.   The law didn’t take into consideration that some girls or some boys may not want to play sports.  If there isn’t an equal amount of boys and girls playing, then the money is reduced.   Like the twenty boys and ten girls playing sports, only get enough money for ten boys and ten girls.  Ten of the boys don’t any financial support.  Now, is that fair?”
           Matt scrunched up his face again.   “Not if the boys want to play and the girls don’t want to play.  The boys are being…what’s that word…dis…what?”
           “Discriminated against by the law,” Matt, I answered. I oversimplified my example to make it easier for them to grasp. (see excerpts of Title IX at bottom of the page) “See, the funding or money is given to each sport.  Some sports have more boys than girls who want to play it.   Like wrestling. Wrestling is one of the boy’s programs stopped in almost half of the schools.” 

       I didn't want to give them more data than their little bear brains could handle and didn't broach the facts that there are many complaints that Title IX is now producing a decrease in collegiate-level and Olympic-specialty athletic programs for men.  At the end of the 1998-99 academic year, only ten of the nation's more than 300 NCAA Division I colleges and universities have managed to get their federally required statistics in balance jeopardizing their sports programs for men.  To boost varsity female totals some of the major colleges have begun conferring full 'team' status on exotic hobbies or outright trivia (bowling programs).  As well as wrestling, other sports such as golf, swimming and diving, tennis and track and cross country programs have been suspended at some schools.       

             “Now, I see what some of the problem is, G-Ma.  I want wrestling in the schools I will go to.  I already practice at yard time at my school.”  Matt was beginning to understand some of the problems with the not so perfect ruling.

       Sarah piped up.  “I do sports, G-Ma.  I am in Gymnastics and skate and run and climb on the jungle gym. Mommy and ‘specially Auntie E did sports in school.” She paused and took a deep breath to announce her godmother’s achievement.  “Auntie E even went to the Junior ‘Lympics.  You’re the only girl who didn’t have sports, G-Ma”  Sarah hopped off the couch and marched around the room yelling ‘…girls, girls, girls’. I’m a Power Puff Girl.”

         Matt’s eyes clouded up as he asked:  “So how can the law be fixed, G-Ma, so Sarah and I can both do what we want?”

      “I think the coaches of the sport teams and all the departments involved in the decision making of all the schools have to be vigilant, kids. They must work together and take great care and actions that sports programs and even the educational programs also are continued for both boys and girls and that the money is spent in the best manner, even if it means that more is given to the boys teams because there might be more boys wanting to play sports and more sports only boys want to play.  The law needs to bend, like a straw, so everyone who wants to can play.  Right now, boys are suffering because not as many girls play sports as boys.  That’s not fair to the boys.  Lots of people want to eliminate the law.  If they do, then girls would be terrorized by unfairness and inequalities as G-Ma was.  There would be no protection for the girls.”
        “Teamwork, G-Ma?  Everyone working together?”  Matt squeezed my hand.
        “That’s right.  The Parents of Vigilance have to take action with the Coaches of Vigilance to work together or ‘play together’ like you and Sarah, and Sister and Brother Bears. And, too, not just in sports should there be fairness among all.  It’s just like at your playgrounds, everyone is special and is treated like you want to be treated whether you are playing with a girl or a boy.  And the law has to be changed.  It has to be flexible and continue, or Sarah and other girls may end up like G-Ma!”

      I gave both little bears a big hug.
      I was reassured one more time that Matt’s and Sarah’s parents are raising and gentling them to know every person is equal and boys are not more special than girls and the ‘different’ won’t be treated differently.  They have been instilled with respect for every person in our world. 
     The critical values learned from sports participation --including teamwork, standards, leadership, discipline, self-sacrifice and pride in accomplishment -- are being brought to the workplace as women enter employment in greater number than ever before thanks to the giant boost from Title IX.  I relaxed knowing “my” Sarah is already an equal Goatsucker to any boy Goatsucker.  Because of Vigilance for Equality, she won’t be saddled with memories of missing out, being excluded and treated as a lesser person because of an extra X chromosome.  But,  if Coaches and Teachers of Vigilance and Parents and Grandparents of Vigilance, and Citizens and Loved Ones of Vigilance become Complacent, the current equality, partly protected by Title IX, might be lost.   Ensuring equality in sports and education programs is one rock in the fortress of equality that must be preserved.  I knew her brother Matt with only one X chromosome will remain vigilant as a great big Brother Bear for his Sister Bear, but I wasn't sure who else would fight for her rights with equal tenacity.
      So I went home and wrote my Congresswoman, Hilary Clinton.   I asked her to think back when she was a little girl.   And to work for and influence lawmakers to make Title IX a keystone in the arch of Vigilance through which my granddaughter, and countless others like her, could pass safely from the Land of Terror into the Land of Vigilance.   

                                *    *     *    *    *    *   *   *   *   *  *

                                                    TITLE   IX

Title IX states:  "No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."

Title IX governs the overall equity of treatment and opportunity in athletics while giving schools the flexibility to choose sports based on student body interest, geographic influence, a given school's budget restraints, and gender ratio.  In other words, it is not a matter of women being able to participate in wrestling, or that exactly the same amount of money is spent per women's and men's basketball player.  Instead, the focus is on the necessity for women to have equal opportunities as men on a whole, not on an individual basis.

Athletic Financial Assistance:  First, financial assistance must be awarded based on the number of male and female athletes.  The test is financial proportionality.  The total amount of athletics aid must be substantially proportionate to the ratio of male and female athletes.

Accommodation of Athletic Interest & Abilities:  Second , the selection of sports and the level of competition must effectively accommodate the students' interests and abilities there are 3 factors that are looks at consecutively.

       1.  Whether the intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in number substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.
       2.  Where the members of one sex have been are are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes, whether the institution can show a history and continuing practice or program expansion which is demonstrably responsive to the developing interest and abilities of that sex.
      3.  Where the members of one sex are underrepresented among intercollegiate athletes and the institution cannot show a continuing practice or program expansion, where it can be demonstrated that the interest and abilities of the member of that sex have been full and effectively accommodated by the present program.



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