When we sit down on Sunday morning to watch the United States take on the Netherlands for the Women’s World Cup in soccer, it just might feel like a second Fourth of July.
More than a soccer game, we’ll be celebrating American values at their best.
The U.S. team, win or lose on Sunday, has dominated women’s soccer around the world for three decades because of a deliberate and hard-won expansion of equality and opportunity for women in sports here at home.
The U.S. is a powerhouse because of Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Between the signing of Title IX and the first Women’s Cup in 1991, the U.S. saw a 17,000 percent increase in the number of American high school women soccer players, reports CNN.
Meanwhile, most other countries — even the enlightened liberal democracies of Western Europe — were considerably slower to extend equal rights to women in sports, and even hostile to the notion. In England, women’s soccer was banned by the national governing body until about 1971. In Germany, a similar ban was lifted in 1970, but even then women were allowed to play only 60 minutes instead of the regulation 90. They could not wear cleats and were required to use a smaller and lighter ball.
You can bet all that nonsense gave American women in soccer a terrific running start.
Like every other expansion of equality in the United States, Title IX did not become law without a fight — and that’s the point we’d like to emphasize today. The usual crowd of naysayers — many of the same folks, no doubt, who continue to resist full equality for minorities, gays and transgender people — warned that Title IX would destroy men’s sports and women’s health and femininity.
Men’s sports are still going strong, best we can tell, and we don’t see much cause to worry about the state of femininity in America, however that word might be defined today.
We see brilliant American athletes like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Alyssa Naeher racing across a soccer field, living life fully as their own true selves, and we want those civil rights victories to keep on coming.
Happy Fourth of July on the Seventh of July!
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