Sunday, October 7, 2012

Title Nine Matters, Dammit (and Height Does Not)

Having successfully executed her birthday trip, Twelve and I just sat down to relax in front of the Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium. Twelve likes Jon Stewart; I'm not sure she gets most of the humor and it's one of the few things we almost always say yes to watching, but there aren't many others I'd rather have shaping her political and comical sensibilities, so there it is.

The debate was just fine, though the moderator was terrible and I could have done with much less talking over each other and many fewer references to who's taller than whom.

As a tall person, I find such references tedious, and as a tall person with a small crush on Jon Stewart, I get a little bit defensive when bullies pick on him.

It was Jon's example of "the connection between government action and moving forward" that really got to me. At the Republican National Convention they made a huge deal of the fact that, if American women were a country, they would have placed ninth in the Olympics. I wasn't sure what Jon's point was at first, and I was just realizing where he was going with it when he mentioned Title IV and I burst into tears.

Granted, it's absolutely, wonderfully ironic that the Republicans used this as an example during 'We Built It' night: Had Title IV not been forcibly enacted forty years ago, American women athletes would not have won 58 medals in the 2012 Olympic Games. Period.

Republicans are idiots. 

That's not what overwhelmed me in that moment, though. Yes, my emotional girders had been mostly sawn through by the strain of having rather successfully orchestrated a birthday outing that included six seventh graders, two infants, six members of my extended family, three parents of Twelve's friends that I had barely met, one stop at a seventh grade football game, and which culminated at my brother-in-law's family farm of corn mazes, pumpkins, and general awesomeness.

What brought me to tears was the historical significance of Title IV. The legislation that Bernice Sandler, Edith Green, and Patsy Mink made happen in the early 1970s was tremendously, incredibly, amazingly significant to women's access to education and athletics. It's why my mom was able to run track a few years later at a major university and why I ran in the 90s. It's what allowed our 17-year-old friend to kick ass at her state track meet last June. It's why Twelve's lack of athletic ability is due more to her personal disinterest than by lack of opportunity.

Twelve had wandered off by that point in the Rumble, so I called her back in and 'rewound' a bit. She didn't bother to be rude about it, but she didn't get it. She thought it was pretty dumb that Mom was crying about it, but was otherwise unimpressed.

How can you not get this? Oh ... maybe you don't remember that you saw Bernice Sandler speak when you were seven years old.

It's also possible that, when she was seven, Twelve didn't grasp the significance of seeing Bernice Sandler speak. Yes, I took her to see a bunch of awesome people when she was far too young to appreciate any of them, but the bottom line is that Twelve is coming of age in a time when women's participation in sports is taken for granted to an extent that it's never been before.

I know it's not perfect yet: We've still got what's-her-name making news because she's gorgeous and not because she's really good at driving cars supersuperfast. We've still got Hope Solo, whose story would be a lot less compelling - or at least a lot less thoroughly covered by the media - if she wasn't so darn hot. But it's getting better, and particularly if you don't subscribe to ESPN magazine: R and I watched one of the final women's Olympic soccer games with Twelve at our local indoor sports park, I forget which one, and I was struck by the fact that for Twelve, a bunch of youngish men sitting around a bar watching women's soccer was totally normal. The men were taking it perfectly seriously, Twelve and I were the only women there, and I had one of those moments when I realized that it's no wonder that she doesn't quite get it when I talk about feminism.

Would I appreciate it if Twelve showed the slightest interest in any of the things in which I hold graduate degrees? Yeah, that would be nice. I would like her to understand that not all generations of girls have been able to just sign up for a volleyball season through the Boys and Girls Club. I would like her to get that it's a big damn deal that her grandmother ran the 400 meter dash in college in 1970-something. I would like her to be able to articulate the fact that women are able to vote in this country because Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony introduced the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution and that FORTY-TWO YEARS LATER it was finally adopted. I would like her to know that women DIED so that she will have the right to vote in five years.

Holy fucking shit. In five years, Twelve will be old enough to vote.

In two years, we'll be teaching her to drive, and in three, our state will give her a license to drive all by herself. Whether or not her dad follows through on his promise to give her a truck, that's a lot to think about.

Ummm ... I think I need some more tequila.

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