By Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Written: June 17, 2013
It’s funny. I turn on the television to channel 171 (the get fit channel) and other cable stations and I see mostly women participating in aerobics, Insanity workouts, jogging, Tae Bo, yoga, zumba, and a variety of overly energetic workout programs. The reasons they workout seem to echo the same messages as those voiced in a Pre-Title IX world: “I want to lose weight.” “I want to get thin.” “I want to stay healthy.” “I want to look great.” “I want more energy.”
I suppose these reasons are good and all. Then again, I cannot help but wonder, just how sustainable are these goals? This is the 21st century. Why are women still talking like it’s 1950? Aside from the “Biggest Loser,” why is there such a low presence of competitive workout programs on television? How does this lack of competitive programs affect the psyche of women in a Post-Title IX World?
Then I noticed the age of many of the women on the screen. They hail from the Baby Boom and Generation X. Baby Boomers were born prior to 1972, 9-27 years before Title IX was drafted. At a young age, boomer girls were taught that dresses were the standard uniform of a woman and sports were reserved for men. This is a far cry from today where we see tennis greats, Serena, Venus, and Maria, demonstrating that women can play hard, sweat, and compete while looking beautiful and stylish in a dress. No, boomers were taught the same message as generations before them- to maintain their appearance for their male counterparts and society. Presentation is everything they say. Workout but don’t sweat.
Late Baby Boomers and GenX, the sons and daughters of the Silent Generation (1925 – 1944) and early Baby Boomers, were kids at the time Title IX was written. The statute was barely in effect during their developmental years. GenXers dealt with conflicting ideologies. Title IX gave them the freedom to engage in sport and a competitive atmosphere. Meanwhile, their female teachers, the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation, continued to perpetuate ideologies that constrained and discouraged women from sport. So, while Flo-Jo, Jackie Joyner, Evelyn Ashford, and Gail Devers were blazing the track getting gold medals, other women were out Jazzercising and doing Tae Bo.
On the one hand, it’s good to see women doing some form of physical activity to maintain their health. Still, I’d like to see more women above 35 engaging in sport. Perhaps my generation, GenY, will be the generation to profoundly change women’s participation and attitudes towards sport.