Strutting Women

100_5488Although “Strutting Women” sounds stridently feminist,  when I see how far women have come in the last half century, I feel a bit of a swagger coming on. Not that I have personally  contributed to advancements in gender equity, but I certainly celebrate the strides made by women.  It is not Fourth of July, but someone needs to light a sparkler.

WW II poster by J. Howard Miller

WW II poster by
J. Howard Miller

My mother’s story comes back to me. A graduate of Elmira College and Columbia University, she was quite pleased with the teacher shortage brought about by WW II. Prior to the war,  high schools did not hire married women. My mother was married, so, in her case, like Rosie the Riveter, the war worked to her advantage. You have to wonder… what was the thinking behind this policy? Were women (cast in the mold of Eve with an apple in hand) too tempting to their male students? Or… were women who were out in the larger world bad role models: shouldn’t good women be keepers of hearth and home? I am curious – I welcome your speculation.

Today, having watched a video of college-age women perform as a jump rope team at an Army / Navy basketball game, I am reminded how far women have come in terms of sport. Today’s girls have opportunities and choices that we older women didn’t even dream of. The quality of the video is not good, but the content elevates the video to one of the best I have ever seen. Take a look. You’ll be blown away. http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1418565565?bctid=23207933001

"Leaping" Window display on South Broadway, Denver

“Leaping” Window display on South Broadway, Denver

It is entirely reasonable that you might question a jump rope team. I admit to being skeptical, but after watching the video, I’m a believer. Searching on-line, I was surprised to learn that there are hundreds of international teams to include the US National Jump Rope Team.

Having graduated from high school in 1961, I can look back and appreciate the giant strides we women have made. Many of those opportunities came by way of Title IX, a bill signed by Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972.

In part, the bill reads: 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.”

What a surprise when somewhat late in the day, legislators realized that this bill also applied to athletic programs! According to http://titleix.info, in 1972, female college athletes received on average only 2% of a college’s athletic budget. High school programs for women fared worse.

In the late 50s, most high schools had no girls’ teams. Gym… girls had gym. And cheerleading. In gym class I learned the basics of square dancing, field hockey, basketball, and softball.

We wore one-piece gym suits – blue romper suits without the elastic around the legs. Gym was bad but showering was worse. The girls who had small breasts longed for bigger ones; the girls who had large breasts wished for smaller ones. Girls with large breasts were thought “fast.” I had small boobs; no one thought me “fast.”

Changing from our skirts and blouses into our gym suits was furtive. Houdini could not have been more dexterous. The trick was to drape the towel behind and hold the ends tight with your teeth. We removed our clothing within the cocoon, and then holding the towel close, we dashed to the open-bay shower.

Keeping our eyes glued to the shower head, we got wet enough to pass inspection.  No one thought of looking at another’s body. Anything we glimpsed was quite by mistake. The gym teacher was very keen that we left the shower wet. She monitored us closely. Those who were not wet enough were sent back to shower some more.

After you watch the video, contrast my 1950s gym experiences with the athleticism and confidence of the women on the jump rope team. It isn’t much of a leap to think of how the athletic opportunities available to today’s students lead to girls having an improved self-image and higher aspirations.

 Thanks to Title IX we women have come a long way.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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2 Responses to Strutting Women

  1. Fantastic video! Thank you, Doris. Being physically active and feeling strong and good in your body definitely helps the confidence. Helga

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Helga, What Ishould have written is that although physical strutting is good – women have come a long way in term of strutting their talents.

      ________________________________

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