Last year the nation witnessed the 40th anniversary of Title IX, an act created in 1972 for the purpose of establishing
equal education opportunities between men and women. Title IX, also known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act for its co-author Patsy Mink (herself the first woman of color on Congress), seeks to eliminate sex discrimination by focusing on: opportunities for higher education and career education, employment equality, expansion of math, science, and technology careers to women, models of standardized testing, equality and expansion of athletics, education for pregnant or disabled students, creating a safe learning environment, and ceasing sexual harassment and bullying. Title IX requires any school that receives federal funding to meet certain education equality standards because, aside from the obvious fact that women demanded equality, it came to be known that lack of educational equality (especially in athletics) was directly related to depressed economic conditions and was detrimental to the health of women, including but not limited to increased rates of heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, breast cancer, obesity, drug use, and pregnancy.
Many Michigan women experienced the ill effects of gender discrimination and benefited from the work of Title IX. One of these famous figures is Patricia Saunders , a world renown wrestler who was forced at the age of 12 to give up her dream because she wasn’t allowed to “play with the boys”, but who returned to her sport after the title passed and went on to become the four-time world wrestling champion and an Olympic coach. Alexa Canady is another who faced sexist and racist discrimination in her science classes but persevered until she became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in the country. Patsy Mink’s law has faced dozens of attempts at repeal or altercation, but many recognize its necessity in US society. The first bill President Obama signed in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to continue the work started almost 40 years earlier.
At the time of Title IX’s inception, MSU had already started a comparatively more progressive women’s athletic program.
Intramural and individual women’s sports were established in 1962, and within ten years the number of female participants had risen by 120,000. After Title IX gained momentum in 1972, the funding for MSU women’s sports increased by over $80,000, women’s athletics were brought into the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, and MSU became the first Big 10 school to establish a position for a female Assistant Director of Athletics. Elsewhere in the US, women’s teams on average were allocated 2% of spending for sports, and although this situation has improved, it still has great strides to make. As of the 2001-2002 MSU athletics report, women made up 52.4% of student athletes but still only constituted a third of the athletic expenses, and female
coaches on average made a quarter of their male counterparts’ salary; however, this goes both ways. The male gymnastics team was cut the same year, in order to boost the number of female participants, and formerly all-female service groups were made to open membership to males. The dedicated people over at http://www.titleix.info stress the point that the work of Title IX is not completed. The measures implemented in 1972 must be enforced more regularly across the nation to truly end gender discrimination of all types.