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Women and Sports in the United States

A Documentary Reader

Jean O'Reilly

Publication Year: 2012

A spectacular transformation in women's sports has occurred over the past century in colleges, high schools, and recreational leagues across the nation. Gradual changes during the late 1950s and 1960s within the fields of women's physical education and amateur sport provided the initial energy for this transformation. But it took the rebirth of a grassroots feminist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s to catalyze the radical changes in women's athletic opportunities and attitudes toward female athletes. The assimilation of feminist principles into the broader popular culture solidified the belief that sport plays a positive role in the lives of girls and women. Political activists for women's rights codified this attitude with the passage of Title IX of the 1972 Federal Education Amendments, a law banning gender discrimination in educational settings, thus guaranteeing women's legal right to an equitable share of athletic opportunities and resources.

Though the sea change in American women's sports is evident in schools, the media, and local playing fields, scholars are still in the early stages of fully examining the causes and impacts of this historic change. Women and Sports in the United States brings together scholarly articles, journalism, political and legal documents, and first-person accounts that collectively explore women's sports in America, with emphasis on the post-Title IX era.

This book was published with the generous support of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Cover

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pp. c-ii

Title Page

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. vi-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxii

In the 1960s a typical women’s intercollegiate basketball game would have occurred on a rare “playday” in which students, ordinarily limited to intramural competitions on their own campus, came together for a single competitive game between schools. Such events took place in a congenial...

Timeline: 125 Years of U.S. Women in Sports

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pp. xxiii-xxx

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PART I: Pioneering Women in Sport

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pp. 1-3

Part I takes a closer look at just a few of the hundreds, even thousands of women who have acted as pioneers in particular sports or specific eras. The selections explore what it means to be one of the first women to break down gender barriers, and sometimes additional obstacles of racial or economic discrimination. Given...

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OLYMPIC WOMEN: A Struggle for Recognition

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pp. 3-14

This chapter looks at the history of the modern Olympic Games, characterized as the most prestigious of all international sports competitions. There is a popular tendency to idealize the Olympics and to ignore that they have always been imbued with extreme expressions of male chauvinism...

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HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE THE BICYCLE

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pp. 15-17

I noticed that the great law which I believe to be potential throughout the universe made no exception here: “According to thy faith be it unto thee” was the only law of success. When I felt sure that I should do my pedaling with judicial accuracy, and did not permit myself to dread the swift motion...

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THE WORLD-BEATING VIKING GIRL OF TEXAS

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pp. 17-22

’Twas a lucky day for American athletics when Ole Didrickson and his better half came over the Atlantic from rugged Norway.
Under the Texas sun they prospered and raised seven children. The sixth of these was a slim, wiry lass with the blue fire of sea-king ancestors...

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PLAYING NICE: Politics and Apologies in Women’s Sports

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pp. 23-32

On a late August day in 1950, thousands of spectators crowded around a tennis court at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York. Those who could not squeeze into the limited seating available tried to watch from under the fence or gratefully accepted standing room. They grumbled about...

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PIONEERS

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pp. 33-40

How do things change? We think of video clips on the evening news, of banners held high amid chanting throngs, of charismatic leaders speaking out. We think of mass movements, forces of history, swelling orchestral music....

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RIGGS BUTCHERED BY MS. KING AS PROMOTERS SCORE A MILLION

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pp. 41-46

Houston—Billie Jean King butchered the nation’s No. 1 male chauvinist pig Thursday night.
Ms. King, among the more outspoken liberators of the tender gender, astonished Jimmy the Greek and frustrated at least a few million males by...

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“MIA” CULPA: The All–Too Quiet Retirement of Mia Hamm

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pp. 46-50

Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon called soccer star Mia Hamm, “Perhaps the most important athlete of the last 15 years.” This may sell her a bit short. Ms. Hamm, with little fanfare, retired this past week at the age of 32. She and her bobbing signature ponytail walked...

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PART II: Negotiating Masculinity and Femininity:The Female Athlete as Oxymoron

Part II explores a central issue in the history of women in sport. If society defines sport as basically masculine, what message does that definition convey about sportswomen? Do women become less feminine, less womanly, when they take up sport? Or are women who gravitate toward sport, especially more successful athletes,...

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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BASKET BALL FOR WOMEN

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pp. 53-55

Within the last few years athletic games for women have made such wonderful strides in popularity that there are few directors of physical training who do not value them as an important part of their work. They have become popular, too, not as the outcome of a “fad,” but because...

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ARE ATHLETICS MAKING GIRLS MASCULINE?

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pp. 56-59

Many persons honestly believe that athletics are making girls bold, masculine and overassertive; that they are destroying the beautiful lines and curves of her figure, and are robbing her of that charm and elusiveness that has so long characterized the female sex. Others, including many physicians,...

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ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE RULES OF CONDUCT, 1943–1954

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pp. 59-61

The management sets a high standard for the girls selected for the different clubs and expects them to live up to the code of conduct which recognizes that standard. There are general regulations necessary as a means of maintaining order and organizing clubs into a working procedure....

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PSYCHOSOCIAL IMPACTS OF ATHLETIC PARTICIPATION ON AMERICAN WOMEN

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pp. 61-75

Patriarchal myths are encoded within American culture and transmitted through art and literature, religion and law, fables and folkways. These myths help to legitimate structured sex inequality in all sectors of society, including sport. Feminist theorists argue that patriarchal myths in American...

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THROWING LIKE A GIRL

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pp. 75-81

Most people remember the 1994 baseball season for the way it ended— with a strike rather than a World Series. I keep thinking about the way it began. On opening day, April 4, Bill Clinton went to Cleveland and, like many Presidents before him, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. That same...

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LIVING THE PARADOX: Female Athletes Negotiate Femininity and Muscularity

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pp. 81-100

Physically active women and girls face an intriguing paradox: Western culture emphasizes a feminine ideal body and demeanor that contrasts with an athletic body and demeanor. Sportswomen, therefore, live in two cultures, the sport culture and their larger social culture, wherein social and sport...

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PART III: Competing Bodies: Physiological,Biological and Psychological Issues

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pp. 101-103

Part III looks deep into the body to ask the most basic of questions: what is the difference between a female body and a male body? A question that at first glance appears obvious turns out to be surprisingly complicated, as shown by Alison Carlson’s history of sex tests required of female Olympic competitors and Ann...

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CHROMOSOME COUNT

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pp. 103-110

I am an athlete, and I am a woman. At least I think I’m a woman. But if I were among that dazzlingly gifted number of female athletes preparing to compete in Seoul, my gender, like theirs, would be considered suspect. So much so, that before any athlete is allowed to compete in women’s events...

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CLOSING THE MUSCLE GAP

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pp. 110-114

Of all the repressions visited on woman by the heavy-handed centuries of paternalism, perhaps the most insidious has been the denial of her physical powers. Despite the fact that the average man is larger, heavier, and stronger than the average woman, it is now clear that those differences are...

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UNDERSTANDING THE FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD

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pp. 114-124

With Olympic gold in her sights, gymnast Christy Henrich trained over several years with a goal of achieving contender status on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team. But then a judge at a national competition...

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WOMEN AND ACL INJURIES

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pp. 125-128

The statistics are impressive. Women are two to eight times more likely to sustain an ACL tear in sports that are at the highest risk such as basketball and soccer. The incidence of significant knee injury among females is roughly five times higher per player per hour than for males. The volume...

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CATASTROPHIC INJURIES IN FEMALE ATHLETES

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pp. 129-130

From 1982 through 1997, 60 direct fatalities and catastrophic injuries and 25 indirect fatalities occurred among high school and college female athletes, including cheerleaders (table A). Cheerleading, in fact, accounted for 34 (57 percent) of the direct fatalities and catastrophic injuries. A...

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WOMEN, DISABILITY, AND SPORT AND PHYSICAL FITNESS ACTIVITY

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pp. 131-138

[ . . . ] Existing work exploring the experiences of women with disabilities in sport and physical fitness activity has often focused on participants in organized sport or elite-level athletes (Brasile, 1988; Brasile, Kleiber, and Harnisch, 1991; Hopper, 1986; Horvat, French, and Henschen, 1986;...

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ANABOLIC STEROIDS

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pp. 138-141

Tam Thompson, a 27-year-old graduate student in physical education, has competed in the sport of powerlifting since 1982 and admits having used anabolic steroids to improve her performance. Like many other athletes in an increasingly wide variety of sports, Tam felt that using anabolic steroids...

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EATING DISORDERS AND GYMNASTICS

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pp. 142-148

Eating disorders are especially common among athletes because the pressure of the sport environment frequently precipitates the onset of these problems. In this population, certain compulsive behaviors such as excessive exercise and restricted eating patterns are seen as acceptable, and...

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THE SILENCE OF GREAT DISTANCE

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pp. 148-152

The difference between a jump and a fall is intention. The difference between falling and being pushed is a matter of proximity. Kathy Ormsby may have jumped, she may have fallen, and she may have been pushed. She may have been faint from the heat of the evening, the great tension of the...

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COMING HOME

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pp. 152-158

Homecoming weekend 1987. On the long drive south, I search for calm. I own a successful business now; it’s ridiculous to relive battles a decade old. Still, my palms slip slightly on the wheel. If coaching is a home, it’s one to which I dread returning....

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STRONGER WOMEN

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pp. 159-164

Laughing, Patrick would scoop his wife, Gail, off the floor and carry her around the house like a squirming child. This was early in the marriage, and Patrick, an ecologist from Maryland, thought it was funny, a joke. Gail, a history professor, didn’t like it. Feeling helpless and angry, she would ask to be put down. He would refuse....

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PART IV: Building Inequality into Sport:Institutionalized Bias

Part IV explores the many ways in which both athletic organizations and the games they promote are often structured to discourage the participation of specific social groups. We begin this section with the essay “Structural Constraints Facing Women in Sport,” in which scholars Nancy Theberge and Susan Birrell...

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STRUCTURAL CONSTRAINTS FACING WOMEN IN SPORT

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pp. 167-176

Recent years have seen tremendous changes in women’s social position and in gender relations in the wider society. Significant change also has occurred in women’s sport and women’s experiences of sport. These changes are intimately and dialectically connected: Developments in sport are inseparable...

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HALF-COURT BASKETBALL

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pp. 177-183

It took romance.
That old half-court ball we played in the ’50s.
A blinding goofy romance flared every Tuesday and Friday night in the freckled gleam of long legs and white sneakers squeaking off the bright waxed floor of the Badin High School gymnasium. Our teenage breasts...

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“I CAN SEE THE FINISH LINE”

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pp. 184-185

If Marla Runyan had her wish, this story would be a straightforward account of her track-and-field odyssey. How she struggled with the heptathlon, the women’s seven-event version of the decathlon, before switching to distance running. How she almost disappeared from competition for two...

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COURTING DESTINY

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pp. 186-192

Venus Williams is stunning in the flesh. The 21-year-old tennis star glides into the quaint, dimly lit lobby of the West Palm Beach, Florida, Marriott more like a runway model than a pro athlete. She strolls in casually—all six feet two inches of mostly legs—clad in tiny jean shorts, a white Gucci...

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THE COLD WARS

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pp. 192-198

[. . .] Only the top two finishers in Detroit would go on to the Olympics the following month in Lillehammer, Norway, and everyone in the competition knew they were fighting for second place. Nancy Kerrigan had a lock on...

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ROOTING FOR MICHELLE

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pp. 198-200

I was rooting for Michelle Kwan to win the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the Nagano Winter Olympics, but that probably jinxed her.
Athletes and teams I root for don’t do so well. I was cheering for the Green Bay Packers—a team I have followed faithfully for 40 years—and...

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BREAKING CULTURAL TRADITIONS

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pp. 201-205

Greeley, Colo.—Korina Hernandez is one of only two Hispanics on the varsity girls basketball team at Greeley Central High School, where half the students are Hispanic. That’s not unusual for girls teams here. Just 20% of Greeley Central’s Hispanic girls play a sport, compared with 60% of the non-Hispanic girls, according to the athletics director....

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ON THE REZ

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pp. 205-230

SuAnne Marie Big Crow was born on March 15, 1974, at Pine Ridge Hospital— the brick building, now no longer a hospital, just uphill from the four-way intersection in town. Her mother, Leatrice Big Crow, known as Chick, was twenty-five years old. Chick had two other daughters: Cecelia,...

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PART V: Sexuality and Sport

Part V builds upon previous sections’ explorations of the physical and emotional passions that inspire athletes by taking a closer look at the complex relationship between sexuality and sport. Why would sexuality be any more relevant or important in sport than in other cultural pursuits like playing chess or singing in a...

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CHANGING THE GAME

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pp. 217-234

Throughout the history of Western culture, restrictions have been placed on women’s sport participation. These restrictions are enforced through sanctions that evolved to match each successive social climate. Women caught merely observing the male athletes competing in the early Greek...

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HOMOPHOBIA ALLEGED IN UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SOFTBALL

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pp. 235-242

This should have been a happy time for Andrea Zimbardi. Her University of Florida softball team was in the NCAA playoffs and she had been hoping to play a key role as the team’s catcher. Instead, Zimbardi was forced to sit in the stands in Gainesville and watch, wondering what might have been, and what went wrong....

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LESS UGLY

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pp. 242-245

Chocolate pudding had just been passed out and the Minnows at the next table were busy flinging it at each other when Sam stood up and Marlene stopped breathing. Marlene was in love with Sam, with his stringy blond...

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SEX, LIES, AND VOLLEYBALL

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pp. 246-257

When she was 15, Julie Bremner already had the long, lean muscles of an athlete and the competitive fire of a champion. As a freshman at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, her most urgent dream was to make the St. Francis varsity volleyball team. To better her chances, she followed in the sneakerprints...

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IN THE BUFF

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pp. 258-260

The soccer player did it to copy the guys. A swimmer did it to show off her muscles. An entire team did it for money.
All are women. All are Olympic athletes. And all of them, plus an increasing number of other elite sportswomen, have recently bared their...

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NEW IMAGE EXPOSED

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pp. 260-262

Are female athletes being exploited by showing off their muscular bodies in photos? No way says Canadian swimmer Marianne Limpert, and she’s willing to show off hers.
OK, so I’m not really naked either. But it would certainly be a delight to be so, alongside Jenny Thompson, Brandi Chastain, or any of the four...

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PART VI: The Feminine Image in Sports and Sports Media

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pp. 263-265

Part VI takes as its subjects the representation of women athletes in sports media and in the fictional world of feature films, as well as the embattled history of women journalists covering men’s sports. Media coverage matters because of the commercial nature of big-time sports. Women’s professional sports, especially...

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SEPARATING THE MEN FROM THE GIRLS

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pp. 265-281

Feminist scholars have argued that in the twentieth century, the institution of sport has provided men with a homosocial sphere of life through which they have bolstered a sagging ideology of male superiority.1 Through the exclusion of women, and the association of males with...

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SPORT AND SOCIETY BROADCAST FOR FRIDAY,AUGUST 16, 1996

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pp. 281-283

It was being touted as the Women’s Olympics even before it started. As the games proceeded and especially as the U.S. Women turned in excellent performances the claim that this was the Year of the Woman at the Olympics was reinforced. But what did that mean?...

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THE WOMEN’S SPORTS FILM AS THE NEW MELODRAMA

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pp. 283-298

The 1984 film Just the Way You Are1 presents a love triangle at an upscale European ski resort among three talented, successful, independent professionals: elite skier Bobbie (Alexandra Paul), photographer Peter Nichols (Michael Ontkean) and physically disabled flautist Susan Berlanger (Kristy...

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IT’S TIME TO TELL THE BLOODY TRUTH

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pp. 298-301

Only 24 years ago the Boston Athletic Association allowed the first woman to run officially in the Boston Marathon. Until then, women were either thrown off the course or elbowed out of the way by male runners. On April 15 of this year, during the running of the 100th Marathon, Uta Pippig, the...

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BLOODSPORT

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pp. 302-308

Kansas City, MO.—No woman in the United States has ever died boxing. Only one has ever come close. This is the story of Katie Dallam. She almost died shortly after her first fight. This is the story of Sumya Anani. She was the woman who punched relentlessly....

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OFFENSIVE INTERFERENCE

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pp. 308-318

Her adrenaline was pumping as sportswriter Paola Boivin, 25, rushed into the St. Louis Cardinal clubhouse in pursuit of postgame coverage. As she maneuvered through the mass of bodies, a Cardinal player menacingly...

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PART VII: Law and Equity:Title IX and Its Aftermath

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pp. 319-321

This section includes historical documents that span from the passage of Title IX to the most recent conflicts over its intent and application. Some selections present information on Title IX’s interpretation and impact while others highlight competing views for and against Title IX. Part VII begins with a reprint of Title IX...

TITLE IX, EDUCATION AMENDMENTS OF 1972

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pp. 321-327

TITLE IX MEDIA HELPER

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pp. 327-335

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BROWN UNIVERSITY AGREES TO GUARANTEE PARTICIPATION RATES FOR WOMEN ATHLETES AND FUNDING FOR CONTESTED WOMEN’S TEAMS

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pp. 335-337

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ) announced today that Brown University had agreed to guarantee intercollegiate athletic participation rates for women athletes and funding for four contested women’s teams to resolve TLPJ’s landmark Title IX class action against the school. The proposed...

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TITLE IX AT 30

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pp. 337-346

For many people, Title IX is synonymous with expanded opportunities in athletics. Women’s and girls’ increased participation in sports, the impressive achievements of the nation’s female athletes, their stunning advances in summer and winter Olympic Games, and the creation of nationally televised...

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A TRAIN WRECK CALLED TITLE TITLE IX

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pp. 346-348

On this 30th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the law prohibiting sexual discrimination in education, consider this: has even more nonsense been written about Title IX than has been committed in its name?...

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IN THE SPIRIT OF TITLE IX

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pp. 348-353

Emily Pieplow spent every Saturday last fall on the sidelines of the University of Maryland football games, she spent New Year’s Eve at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and late March at the NCAA basketball tournament in...

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TITLE IX—THE GOOD NEWS, THE BAD NEWS

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pp. 353-356

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in any school receiving federal funds.1 Although the law prohibits sex discrimination of any kind, it is best known for its role in promoting athletic opportunities for women. While female athletic programs...

INDEX

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pp. 357-378


E-ISBN-13: 9781555537876
E-ISBN-10: 1555537871
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555536718

Page Count: 406
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Women athletes -- United States.
  • Sports for women -- United States.
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