Thursday, May 24, 2012

The little moments in Title IX history

In the grand scheme of things, Title IX is not that old. Despite this, there is a lot of its history that we just don't know. We know about the legislative history. We know about the big cases, the watershed moments, the key players, the tireless advocates.
We don't know about all of the little things. Today whenever a complaint is filed--anonymously or not--we can often find out about it. But this is a recent phenomenon.
We don't know how many coaches went to their administrators 20, 30, 40 years ago and said "hey, the women's team needs better uniforms. And we are legally entitled to them." We don't know how many parents sought better treatment for their daughters.
So whenever I hear stories of such moments, I get a little excited because some of the gaps get filled and I am reminded of the ways in which activism works at both macro and micro levels.
Today I read one such anecdote about Kathy Delaney-Smith, the current coach of Harvard's women's basketball team. It was told by sports journalist Jackie MacMullan who was coached by Delaney-Smith at Westwood High School in Massachusetts right before the latter went to coach at Harvard and the former went to play at University of New Hampshire.
MacMullan, in a speech at a fundraiser for UNH basketball, told the crowd about the power of Title IX and the power of Kathy Delaney-Smith.
If you saw No Look Pass, the documentary about former Harvard player Emily Tay, you got to witness the power and passion and colorfulness of Delaney-Smith. These were traits she apparently had when coaching high school as well. MacMullan said that as soon as her coach got tenure at Westwood High, she filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school. She wanted the girls to have better uniforms and equipment and games scheduled on Friday nights--like the boys. And by the time MacMullan graduated, they had personalized warm-ups and games every other Friday night.
Stories like these show us that while concerted efforts were put into getting girls more playing opportunities, other smaller, less visible efforts were being made to improve the quality of the opportunity.