Roy Exum: The Yale Women’s Famous Stand

Monday, June 18, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

This Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of what is commonly called “Title IX,” which is a critical part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and assures females gender equity in any educational and athletic settings that receive federal funding. I remember when Richard Nixon signed it into law and, if you want to know how far women have come since then, consider the fact that of the 9.5 million Americans who ran and finished road races last year, clearly one half were females.

Back then the “Chicken Littles” in college athletics feared the sky would surely fall with the required funding of women’s sports, but it has proven to be a Godsend for deserving female athletes all across the country.

Colleges have learned they can indeed support and fund women’s teams in various sports and there is more acceptance and appreciation for women’s athletics than ever before.

Sadly, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has seen a 78 percent increase in sexual harassment complaints between 2008 and 2011 and, just last week, Yale University agreed to take a wide range of actions to improve compliance and erase complaints with Title IX requirements. Believe it or not, I’ve always figured that Yale, which didn’t even accept women as students until 1969, was a big reason Title IX was finally accepted.

You need to know that every university was unnerved by Title IX at first. Unable to foresee the TV riches yet to come, some thought Title IX would do severe damage to the biggest bread winner, college football, and realized it would take decades before women’s sports would ever become self-sufficient. But when the Yale crew team took a valiant stand on March 3, 1976, the nation realized women’s athletics should most definitely become part of the educational process.

After practice each afternoon the Yale women would be forced to wait while the men’s crew team took showers. The women’s crew would be wet, cold and tired, but – because they were women – the men got priority. Further, the females were subjected to catcalls, loathsome behavior and sexual innuendo by Yale’s male athletes. Finally they craftily devised a plan of “shock and awe.”

What happened that afternoon was that the Yale women, tired of being treated as second-class citizens since they were clearly better than the men’s team, marched into the athletic administration offices and all 19 stripped buck naked. They’d painted “Title IX” on their backs and sternums and stood solemn-faced – and nude -- as team captain Christine Ernst read a statement. “These are the bodies Yale is exploiting. “We have come here today to make clear how unprotected we are, to show graphically what we are being exposed to … On a day like today, the rain freezes on our skin,” she said. “Then we sit on a bus for half an hour as the ice melts into our sweats to meet the sweat that has soaked our clothing underneath.” After the statement was read, the women put back on their clothes and left, sensing a victory. David Zweig, a campus sports writer who sat with his back towards the naked women out of respect, later recalled, “I vividly remember the feelings in that room. There was shock, surprise, hurt, pain, anger. But there isn’t a single word that describes those five minutes…”

Suffice it to say shower facilities for women were quickly made in Gilder Boathouse and, by the next spring, a new addition was made to house the Yale women rowers. Far better, many Yale alumni sent letters – and checks – towards the new awareness for women’s athletics and embarrassment that such conduct had been tolerated.

Last week it was learned Yale would take a pro-active stand towards more recent complaints. Russlyn Ali, a spokeswoman for the Office of Civil Rights, said, “Students cannot learn if they don’t feel safe, and sexual harassment and assault interfere with a student’s right to receive an education free of discrimination.”

The OCR investigation found many “tragic” incidents have occurred at Yale and the university, in a statement, asserted it was “pleased with the terms” of a new voluntary agreement that will comply with Title IX guidelines.

So while Title IX still has its problems after the first 40 years, there is now a willingness to comply and nobody needs to get naked ever again to take a stand for what is good and right in athletics.

royexum@aol.com



Thankful For Tennessee

While Christmas reigns supreme as a holiday marking the birth of our Lord, I have always felt a special connection with Thanksgiving. These days Christmas unfortunately includes ubiquitous commercialism which can distract us from the true meaning of the day. Thanksgiving stands apart from all that. This day gives us an opportunity to reflect and take stock of our many blessings.  ... (click for more)

Sewage Contaminating Our Water

For anyone who lives near Moccasin Bend, it's no secret that there is raw sewage and feces being pumped into our water and the Tennessee River. Ask any fisherman or boater who is on the water before they stop pumping of a morning and they will tell you stories such as this. I've seen it myself personally and have witnessed the brown and yellow concoction that is being blasted into ... (click for more)

Walker County Asks Dismissal Of Erlanger Lawsuit Asking Court To Order New Taxes For Payment Of $8.7 Million Debt

Walker County, Ga., is asking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Erlanger Health System that asks a federal judge to order the levying of taxes to pay an $8.7 million debt. Walker County noted that new Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has imposed a special tax levy on its citizens designed to satisfy the debt. It also says that Commissioner Whitfield held several meetings with ... (click for more)

Police Make Arrest In Armed Robbery At Coolidge Park

Police have made an arrest in an armed robbery at Coolidge Park last Wednesday. Demetrius Terry, 30, of 1104 Grove Street Court, is charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and unlawfully possessing a weapon. Two females said they came to Coolidge Park to hang out that night. While walking through the area, they saw a black male and black female walking up and down Frazier ... (click for more)

Vandy Offers Vols Last Chance To Wipe Some Misery From 2017

Tennessee’s football season from hell comes to a mind-numbing conclusion on Saturday when the limping Vols take on a crippled Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium at 4 p.m. in a game some network boob in a dark, smokey room in Birmingham, Alabama, decided was good enough to be televised by the SEC Network. Each of the longtime bitter rivals is 4-7 overall and a dismal 0-7 in conference ... (click for more)

CCS Sweeps Polk Co. In Thanksgiving Round Robin

Coach Eddie Salter appears to have a pretty good basketball team at Chattanooga Christian, but he’s still looking for the right chemistry as he finds the best combination of players to put on the floor. The season is still really young and the Chargers had only played one game coming into their annual Thanksgiving Round Robin Tournament Tuesday night, but it looks like he will ... (click for more)