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Week of November 21, 2011

Messner lecture to address cultural 
impact of Title IX on women in sports

Title IX has been effective for nearly four decades in supporting women and girls to become more active in sports, but more efforts are needed to increase equality, an expert in gender and sports says.

“Title IX is useful in a lot of ways, but it’s not fully responsible for the revolution in sports. It can’t be the only tool we use to address gender and equality in society,” says Michael Messner, who teaches at the University of Southern California.

Messner, a professor of sociology and gender studies, will give the lecture “The Cultural Impact of Title IX.” The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at noon Dec. 2 in Room 3735 Central Campus Recreation Building.

Title IX banned sexual discrimination in education programs that received federal funding. Since its enactment in 1972, the law has generated mixed reactions. Opponents blame Title IX for problems associated with ending some non-revenue men’s sports, such as wrestling and tennis. Supporters appreciate the benefits seen as more women and girls participate in sports.

Messner will discuss the cultural impact of Title IX, as well outline what gender looks like in America and how youth sports fits in.

Gender and sports have changed dramatically in the last 40 years. Society realized that girls can be physical and competitive in sports. The change in perception, he says, also impacted the household: parents now want their daughters to be able to choose to enter professions in the paid labor force.

Messner, who joined the USC faculty in 1987, conducts research on gender and sports, men and masculinities, and gender violence.

The USC Center for Feminist Research in 2010 released the most recent update of his longitudinal study, Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows, 1989-2009. The studies shows that despite the participation and excitement over women’s sports, coverage on news and highlights shows still lags far behind that of men’s sports. 

Messner has published several books, including “Out of Play: Critical Essays on Gender and Sport” and “It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families and Youth Sports.”

He currently is researching men who work with boys and men who stop gender-based violence. This year, the California Women’s Law Center honored him with its Pursuit of Justice Award, for his work in support of girls and women in sports.

The lecture is sponsored by the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls (SHARP), which was established in 2010 as a partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation and U-M’s School of Kinesiology and the Institute for Research on Women & Gender.

“SHARP Insights: How Title IX Changed the Game” involves more than a half-dozen public lectures on topics related to the law. For a list of events, go to irwg.research.umich.edu/sharp/events.html.

 

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