Nine Ways to Celebrate Title IX Turning 41

By Risa Isard

This past weekend, June 23rd, was the 41st anniversary of Title IX. Forty-one isn’t an inherently special number, but every year that passes marks another year that a record-number of girls and women have had the right to equal access to the sports field and the classroom (fact: Title IX doesn’t only cover athletics). Every year marks more minds opened to what women and girls are capable of and every year marks more girls and women who feel empowered as a result of a variety of different school-sponsored activities and leadership opportunities. Perhaps most significantly, every year marks another year of successfully fighting attempts to weaken the law and misconceptions about it.

Title IX didn’t just pave the way for school sports, though. While the law may have a jurisdiction limited to “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” the cultural influence goes far beyond such a limited scope. As a self-proclaimed “everyday athlete” I owe more than just my high school varsity letters to Title IX, and you do, too. So, here are nine ways to celebrate Title IX’s birthday (a little late):

1) Do something active
Perhaps the most obvious, going for a run, a hike, a bike ride, a swim, a walk, or playing a pick-up game of your favorite sport is a great way to celebrate that we have a culture that largely supports girls and women being active.

2) Go to a WNBA or NWSL game
As a law that sets standards for federally-funded educational institutions, Title IX doesn’t have jurisdiction over professional leagues, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t benefited from the legislation. Not to mention, any activity that openly celebrates women’s athletic abilities is a great place to celebrate a law that changed the entire landscape of women’s sports.

3) Talk to the next generation
If we’re going to continue to win the battles against people who seek to weaken Title IX, we need the next generation to be equipped to fight. Is there a young girl in your life? Whether she’s your daughter, a neighbor, a niece, or a friend’s kid, take her to a WNBA or NWSL game and talk with her about Title IX while you’re there. Does she have a birthday coming up? Buy her this book, which is by far the best account of Title IX’s history and happens to be written for young adults.

4) Learn more about the law, historically and contemporarily
Do you know that in 1964, the University of Virginia rejected 21,000 women’s applications and not a single man’s? Do you know what the three-prong test is? Do you know how court cases like Grove City College v. Bell and Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools changed how Title IX gets measured and enforced? Do you know the names Bernice “Bunny Sandler,” Patsy Mink, Edith Green, and Birch Bayh? There’s a lot of history to know, but the book I mentioned above is well-suited for not-so-young adults, too. For a shorter primer, check out this article I wrote last year.

5) Nine for IX
Watch espnW’s new documentary series Nine for IX. It debuts on Tuesday with a movie that chronicles how Venus Williams championed the fight for equal prize money at Wimbledon. A new movie comes out every Tuesday for nine consecutive weeks, so be sure to tune in. Better yet, invite some friends to watch with you.

6) Support Know Your IX
One of the most important fights invoking Title IX today is the widespread effort to revise universities’ policies on sexual assault and sexual harassment. Since courts and the federal government have held that sexual assault and sexual harassment are forms of sex-based discrimination, survivors of such are protected by Title IX. There’s a growing movement working to make sure that all students know their rights and that universities, which have a dismal history of responding appropriately to complaints, are held accountable for their practices that all too often protect assailants and ignore the needs of survivors.

7) Reconnect with old teammates and/or coaches
Are you one of the millions of women who grew up playing sports in the wake of Title IX? Were your teammates your second family and your coaches surrogate parents? When was the last time you spoke to them? Social media makes it easy to reconnect, so why not let your coach know how much the sport or a specific season or moment meant to you. I’m sure your “sisters” would love to hear from you, too.

8) Re-read one of your favorite books from high school or college
Title IX isn’t all about sports. In fact, the pioneers of the law weren’t concerned with sports at all. Title IX was about ensuring women’s equal right to education (and even before then, it was about ensuring women’s equal right to work in higher education). What better way to celebrate whatever level of education you’ve achieved than by rereading one of your favorite books from school?

9) Celebrate Wilma Rudolph’s life
Coincidentally, one of the greatest sports women of all time, Wilma Rudolph, was born on Title IX’s birthday (32 years before Title IX). The 20th child born into her family, she was overcome with a myriad of diseases during the first few years of her life. After a crippling battle with polio, doctors told her she would never walk again. In 1960, she triumphed over physical obstacles and a culture running rampant with racism to become the first American woman to win three Olympic gold medals in track during a single competition. Dubbed the “fastest woman in the world,” she urged us to realize that “The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Appropriately, Title IX helps everyone to recognize that potential. Now, that’s cause for celebration.


risaAbout the Author
Risa Isard  graduated from Duke University (2012), where she designed her own major in social change, gender, and sports and earned honors for her thesis about the prehistory and early years of Title IX. She is an “everyday athlete,” has been published on espnW, and also blogs at I’m an Athlete, Not a Princess.  She recently landed her first “real” job as the Community Relations Coordinator for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Triple A affiliate for the San Francisco Giants.  She considers herself incredibly fortunate to have had amazing mentors and strongly believes in paying it forward to the next generation.