Are you watching? Do you gloat when Lilly wags her finger at that Russian swimmer who has been accused of doping in the past? In and around the Olympic pool, shaming a competitor is allowed. Go ahead and try to hack into our emails Moscow, we’ll show you a thing or two when the games finish up and the medals are counted!
Do you cringe when the bicycles crash? What about archery, or volleyball on the beach, in bikinis? My all time favorite is diving – guys, girls synchronized pairs, or alone. How in the world do they enter the water with a tiny ripple after somersaulting like birds in the sky?
I’ve been reminded that in 1972 the world experienced a seismic shift for women when Title IX was passed into law in our country. Sen Birch Bayh of Indiana said this on the floor of the Senate:
“We are all familiar with the stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband, go on to graduate school because they want a more interesting husband, and finally marry, have children, and never work again. The desire of many schools not to waste a ‘man’s place’ on a woman stems from such stereotyped notions. But the facts absolutely contradict these myths about the ‘weaker sex’ and it is time to change our operating assumptions.”
Title IX was too late for me. Graduating from high school in 1966 – yes our 50th reunion is coming right up – my class was on the cusp of the feminist movement. My friend Lee is ten years younger, yet she experienced discrimination in law school, one of very few women. You had to be tough in those days to last, like Hillary!
At my girls camp every summer I had racked up athletic prizes. Basketball was my favorite, and I was the one lone player, the “roving” one, allowed to run the full length of the court because they didn’t think girls could play like the boys. There was no future for me in sports however. In high school I was always trying out for plays, the drama department had stolen my heart. I had compartmentalized any talent I thought I had, not consciously, but summers were for sports. Sure some girls played after school, but I returned to the “real” world, where the Flapper had to work and so I had to take the bus home every day.
I thought about dance, ballet had been a big part of my life. The one time I performed that wasn’t part of a musical on stage, was in the gym as part of the Girl’s Athletic Association annual award ceremony. I didn’t get a medal of course, but I did choreograph and dance an interpretive number to “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song. One PE teacher took pity on me, and encouraged me. Looking back, it seems ironic:
I adore being dressed in something frilly
When my date comes to get me at my place
Out I go with my Joe or John or Billy
Like a filly who is ready for the race
When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curls
I float as the clouds on air do
I enjoy being a girl
I actually hate frilly. Moving on to my first year in college saw my first knee injury on a ski slope. Sitting on a chair at a law school mixer in a full leg cast, my first husband approached me. I should have known something was up; he didn’t dance himself. Washed up as a dancer, my dreams of being a super star on Broadway, a hoofer, were stalled.
So I did what every girl my age did, got married. The point is, we women of the late 60s couldn’t even dream of being super star athletes. Not then.
Today the “Final Five” USA Women gymnasts are super heroes, inspiring a whole new diverse generation of girls. And most importantly, all the women in Rio grew up with equal opportunities – Title IX was entrenched – whatever money went toward boy’s sports in public schools, had to be allocated to the girls too. In archery, tennis, golf, rowing, basketball, softball and of course swimming and diving.
Even though times they have changed, the media coverage of women in elite positions on the world stage hasn’t very much. I thought this was a provocative article – a little “sarcasm” if you will. Imagine covering a man the way some broadcasters talk about women. Maybe the world of male commentators thinks we are still waiting for our Joe or John or Billy? It’s a good laugh if it doesn’t make you cry. “Congrats girl! Fiancé of former Miss California scoops his 25th medal” http://thetab.com/uk/2016/08/10/congrats-girl-fiance-former-miss-california-scoops-25th-gold-medal-13873