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
“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
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,
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,
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
“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
“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
“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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
To Sophia 17: "You Can Be A Superhero, Too"