Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Vision 2020 Tennessee Delegate Patricia Pierce in honor of the 40th year anniversary of Title IX.
I have always enjoyed playing sports, especially basketball. I played backyard basketball until I was old enough to play on a school team, which was the sixth grade. I played all through high school and even had an opportunity to play one season at the University of Tennessee (UT), before Tennessee’s legendary coach Pat Summitt came to UT. Unfortunately, I had to give up basketball in college to go to work to help pay for my education.
In the late 1960’s, there was no such thing as Title IX, and at that time most female athletes did not realize they were not receiving fair and equal treatment. Some years ago in a conversation with my husband, who played for the boys’ high school team, I found out that the boys received free basketball shoes from the school and new uniforms. The girls’ team did not get shoes and during my four years in high school we wore the same uniforms. Actually, one of my teammates commented that her mother had worn the same uniform when she attended high school! When I told the story about the boys receiving shoes, I remember someone commenting, “it was just pair of shoes!” However, it meant something to me, because I remember what a hardship it was on my parents to have to buy my basketball shoes. Even though I’ve been out of high school for 45 years, it still makes me angry that there was such a disparity between the teams. There is no reasonable explanation other than gender discrimination.
In college, I remember thinking how unfair it seemed that our UT women’s team had to play our games in the old gymnasium facility and the men’s team played in the new facility. We had to raise money to buy our uniforms by holding car washes and bake sales! We travelled to games by car pooling. We received no financial support from the university. I would have loved to have continued to play basketball, but I couldn’t afford it. Thank goodness, those were the old days! The enactment of Title IX has given women and girls their legal right to equal opportunity in education programs and activities, including athletics. Title IX did not solve all the problems of gender discrimination in education institutes, but after 40 years many doors of opportunities have been opened.