Category Archives: Sports

The One Where I Geek Out about Title IX

So, I know it has been absolutely forever since I wrote a post, but I’m back because I finally feel like I have the brain space to write and a topic I’m psyched to tell you all about!  Last week, on Tuesday, June 23rd, the White  House held a roundtable discussion to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Title IX and through a lucky convergence of events, I was able to attend the celebration!  I’ve been fairly obsessed with Title IX since I wrote my senior thesis about it in college, so I was RIDICULOUSLY excited to get to go to the White House event for it!  As it turns out, the roundtable also is a perfect excuse share some thoughts on why I am so in love with Title IX.

For all of you who aren’t Title IX geeks like me, Title IX is Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and it states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  It is most famous for getting women and girls into sports, but we also have Title IX to thank for removing admissions barriers in higher education (for getting more women into college), barring discrimination against women teachers, administrators, and professors, and prohibiting sex discrimination in schools.

(Above: The video of the event).

So, back to the event.  It was nice to get to go to an event for something where I got to do all that and get to feel pretty jazzed and emotional about the topic at hand!  Here are a few of the event highlights:

  • It was in the OEOB.  I’m kind of a nerd and I always wanted to go to the OEOB.  Unfortunately, my efforts to snag a souvenir OEOB appointment badge failed miserably.
  • Birch Bayh, the former Senator from Indiana, who sponsored Title IX back in 1972 was there.  I didn’t realize he was still alive, so that was pretty cool.  In his brief remarks, he seemed to care very deeply about Title IX and that was cool to see.  I wrote a lot about Senator Bayh when I was doing my thesis and I always thought of him fondly from the way he came off as I read hearings from the 1970s, so it was cool to see that he actually was a good match for how I imagined him!
  • Billie Jean King was also there and that was very cool.  It’s hard to be a woman who likes sports and not think Billie Jean King is pretty awesome.  She was pretty emotional about how much Title IX meant to her and actually seemed glassy-eyed at times, so that was quite touching.  I also want to share this BJK quote, “Nerds rule!  I love nerds the best.  They’re smart and fun!”  Nothing says we should keep educating women at the highest levels and get them into science, technology, math, and engineering fields quite like that!
  • Dominique Dawes is absolutely jacked.  I felt out of shape just looking at her.  Though, I am out of shape so maybe I just felt out of shape from being out of shape.
  • Russlyn Ali, who is in charge of the Office of Civil Rights, our friends over at the Department of Education who enforce Title IX, really encouraged people to bring Title IX complaints and she talked a lot about how they want to vigorously enforce Title IX.  Fun to hear that after the Bush years!  WOO!

I took some notes on the whole event with the intention of writing a blog post that would basically be a recap, but now that I am writing and the whole thing is on YouTube, I feel like I would rather write a bit about why I care so damn much about Title IX.

The whole time I was sitting at the OEOB listening to all the amazing speakers talk about Title IX, I could not help but reflect on my own feelings about the law.  I first got interested in Title IX one summer during college, it must have been the summer of 2002 (the 30th anniversary of Title IX) when ESPN was showing all kinds of specials about Title IX and when I was trying to think of things that could be fun thesis topics.  I remember talking to one of my professors about how I wanted to write about how women’s sports and Title IX were not killing men’s sports, and my professor encouraged me to instead write about why we only talk about Title IX and its impact on sports.  What about its promise for women in education?   In retrospect, that might have been one of the more important questions someone has ever asked me.  I ended up answering that question in my thesis (we focus more on sports because the discussion about Title IX sports focuses on gender differences than the discussion about education and Title IX).  The question also prompted what I think will be a long and fulfilling relationship between me and Title IX research.

Since that project forced me to learn all about the broad applications of Title IX, I really gained an appreciation for how much Title IX has made me what I am.  At this point, it’s pretty clear that I am going to be in school forever, ideally earning a PhD and becoming an academic and I’ve been playing sports ever since I was old enough to wear a hat that was way too big for my head and hit a ball off a T.   I remember reading about Title IX and realizing how much my generation took for granted.  Before the law, colleges had quotas for how many women they could accept, textbooks were packed with sex stereotypes, women scientists had their experiments sabotaged, and women’s sports received little support.  It just blows my mind to think about that.  Where would I be if I couldn’t have completed something like 18 years of education?  What would I have studied?  What would I have done with all my free time instead of playing field hockey or soccer or running or ultimate frisbee?  I just literally I have no idea what I would be doing as I feel like my life has so often been defined by my need to learn and research and my love of sports.  It’s crazy to think that if I had been doing all of this like 37 years earlier I might be a totally different person.

I’ve still been writing about Title IX, most recently on the Bush Administration’s regulations that allow for single sex education under Title IX (we need to revoke those, by the way).  I also feel fairly certain that once I start a PhD program, I want to write my dissertation on the subject.   So, I thought that this White House event was the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about why I care about Title IX since it’s something I plan to continue to work on for quite some time!

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Things that Are Complicated for Feminists to Love: Running Skirts

If you are a runner (or in my case an injured runner), you have probably noticed that running skirts are becoming quite trendy, and for feminists like me, a little bit baffling.  I’ll start out by admitting that I am a huge fan of running skirts, though I feel a bit guilty about it.  When I was 11-years-old, my mom tried to convince me that I should play field hockey and I absolutely refused because tomboy Ashley could not bear the thought of having to wear a skirt to play a sport.  I had always prided myself on playing sports hard and being able to compete with the boys so dressing up in a skirt to do that just seemed insane and ridiculous (Why should girls have to wear skirts to play sports?  What was this 1953?).  So, as I’ve been buying running skirts, I keep imagining 11-year-old staring at me and shaking her head, ashamed of what she has become.  This is my attempt to try to explain myself to my tomboy side that thinks I’ve sold out.  Here are some thoughts about running skirts, which I think proves how cultural norms and social constructions of gender can quickly make a person insane.  Much like pink hats, etc, I think that running skirts definitely run the danger of sending the message that women are not interested in actually running, but would rather “be cute.”  I’ve talked before about how Title IX debates are always packed with arguments about how women are not interested in sports, so anything that can add that fuel to the fire always concerns me.  On the other hand, running is a total exercise in masochism, so it seems hard to believe that anyone would take up running simply because the skirts are cool.  After all, it is much easier to buy attractive skirts for everyday wear and you don’t have to put yourself through a painful run to wear those.  To me, this somehow makes running skirts different from pink hats, though I have to admit, I am struggling with liking the skirts and despising the pink gear.  If there’s one thing about feminism that makes me crazy, it’s that it is so hard to be totally consistent and you always have to grapple with liking things like running skirts, even if you feel you shouldn’t.  On that note, let’s move on to why I think running skirts are cool!

(A recent running skirt purchase, $19.99 at Target)

I will say that running skirts are WICKED comfortable.  From an actual running perspective, they are also great because they tend to have inner compression shorts which reduce the always troubling “chub rub” problem.  I find that this is especially important when you live in a sticky place like Washington, DC.  So, I’m giving them a point over pink hats for having actual functionality.  Also, let’s be honest, I would much rather run in a running skirt than have to slather my upper thighs in Vasoline or runner’s lube.

(Below: I don’t own a hot pink running skirt yet, but I think we all know it’s only a matter of time.)

I think I also like running skirts because let’s be honest, like me, they are not really fashionable at all.  This means that I have pretty much totally embraced them for everyday wear on the weekends (and to be perfectly frank, if I could get away with wearing them to work, I would do that too).  I think they look reasonably OK (though I’m sure my family would strongly disagree, as they do with most of my fashion choices) when paired with a tank top and they are great for hanging around in during the hot summer.  Another point over pink hats for functionality.  (A side note: I also love jersey dresses for this reason – they are like wearing a big giant t-shirt that looks a little more acceptable).  In addition, I’ve found that running skirts tend to come in wacky colors.  Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE wacky colors.  So, while I realize that, yes, lime green and hot pink type colors are not meant to be worn outside of gyms or beds, I’m a huge fan of a zany color during my regular day.  I like to keep it interesting and I’m into cultivating my own eccentricities, so bring on the crazy colors!

Running skirts are also a way to dress comfortably and sporty without looking like Sporty Spice (you know, long athletic pants and a tank top).  This is key.  It’s never fun when you look like a Spice Girl.

Now that I think about it, I have to feel like those tiny little underwear things that the elite runners run in seem a lot worse than running skirts.  Man do those seem objectifying and like you would need to do some serious maintenance to wear them.  I know you can go faster in those things, but can you imagine actually running in them?  I know I can’t!  Though, I think that’s mostly because of the aforementioned chub rub and the fact that the street harassment you would get running in something like that would be unbearable.

(This one is technically a tennis skirt, but in my mind they are the same thing.  This one is also in the mail!  WOO!)

Moreover, running skirts have the potential to make running races more fun.  Each time I’ve run a half-marathon (the longest races I’ve ever done), I’ve insisted on crazy outfits for race day.  If you wear a crazy outfit, people are more likely to cheer for you because you look different, and then afterwards, you have not only a hard-earned race t-shirt, but a funny shirt you wore for the race.  For my first half-marathon, this resulted in bright blue and green outfits emblazoned with our “May Contain Nuts” team name.  People LOVED it.  My second race was all about singlets that were pink, yellow, and orange and looked like those hypercolor t-shirts from the early 90s.  I can only imagine the potential for future races with this new skirt option!  Plus, I played ultimate frisbee in college and I have to say, if that sport taught me anything, besides how to party like a rock star, it was that it’s always fun to do atheltic stuff in costumes/silly outfits with a funny team name.  Makes you feel like a kid again.

As it turns out, writing this has been quite cathartic for me.  Now that I’ve shared all of my thoughts on running skirts to people who probably don’t necessarily need to know my thoughts on such a silly topic, I have to say I feel a lot better about embracing such a stereotypically feminine item.  Because you know what, sometimes it’s all about having fun and being comfortable whether working out or hanging out.  Plus, you never know, maybe running skirts are helping people see that women can be women and be athletic at the same time.  Also, I suppose it’s kind of cool that shorts have always been the more popular option, but just now, women are embracing the skirt.   It’s like we really can run in whatever the hell we want or something?

For more information on running skirts, Kristin Armstrong (Lance’s ex) wrote an article on them (in the most recent Runner’s World – unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be online) and the magazine also reviewed some of the popular skirt options.  I’ll also say that Target has some great cheap ones ($20ish) and www.runningskirts.com/running-skirts.html also has some great stuff including an awesome red and white polka dotted one.

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Women Don’t Run?!?! Seriously?!?!

When I was five years old, I scarred my arm. Racing boys on the playground was always one of my favorite activities (I LOVED that they hated losing to a girl and they lost to me often) and when I had the lead over one of the boys, he tripped me so he could win, and I ripped my arm open. Twenty years later, I am still running and I am currently training for a half marathon. It’s been 35 years since the passage of Title IX and its guaranteed that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, “ essentially guaranteeing women an equal opportunity to participate in sports – along with equal access in all areas of education including admission to college, law, and medical school and the opportunity to participate in previously gender stereotyped classes such shop for girls or home economics for boys. As a daughter of Title IX, my sports career always flourished through field hockey, soccer, track, swimming, lacrosse, and ultimate Frisbee. It never struck me as odd that a girl would enjoy participating in sports.

So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the bookstore to grab the most recent issue of Runner’s World (I was excited about their Winter Fitness issue) and I could not find it. I searched fitness, I searched sports, and I couldn’t find anything. “Strange,” I thought, “Runner’s World is a pretty major magazine.” Then, just I gave up hope; there it was under “Men” right there with those girls in bikinis magazines like Maxim, FHM, Stuff, etc. Oddly enough the magazines for other sports such as cycling, hiking, skiing, and Sports Illustrated were in the fitness/sports section where they belonged. “Maybe it’s a mistake I thought,” but upon further examination, this was no mistake. The magazines were being restocked and ALL the running magazines were right there in the men’s section. Apparently, women don’t run or are not interested in running.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of outrage over running’s classification as a men’s interest. Who was this bookstore to tell me that running is a “men’s” interest? In actuality, women have been running since the beginning of human history. Ancient Greek and Egyptian women ran believing it improved their fertility.[1] Greek myths celebrated Nike, the winged, female goddess of victory (and perhaps the namesake of the incredibly popular running shoes) and Atalantis, the woman who was raised by wolves to become a fast runner. She would only marry the man who could beat her in race. Granted women’s running suffered many setbacks in history including many attempts to discredit women’s running; women were not officially allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1928. They could not run the 1,500 meters until 1972 (the same year Title IX passed) and the women’s marathon was kept out of the Olympics until 1984![2] Through all of those challenges, women kept running, either in their own events or as bandits in the men’s races. Currently, running is enormously popular among women who run for competition, companionship, charity, the challenge, or simply just to feel good and healthy. Like men, women run and have success at all levels; from the woman just trying to make it through her first mile on the treadmill as part of her New Year’s resolution to the women who win major, elite races. Runner’s World has even been edited by women such as Claire Kowalchik (also the author of The Complete Book of Running for Women) and many of its writers and editors are women. The magazine is clearly written for a co-ed audience. So, why is it I have to go to the men’s section to find a magazine about a hobby many women and men enjoy? Is someone trying to tell me that in 2007 someone still believes women cannot or do not want to run?


[1] Kowalchik, Claire. 1999. The Complete Book of Running for Women. New York: Pocket Books.

[2] Ibid.

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