I have been an athlete most of my life, so the Olympics are always a big event in our household. This Olympics, U.S. women dominated, winning more medals than most countries. This year also happened to be the 40th anniversary of Title IX. My life was deeply impacted by Title IX and is one of the many reasons I am proud to call myself a feminist. I remember clearly when my elementary school added more sports for girls. By the time I was in junior high school, I was able to compete in the same number of sports as my brothers, who I idolized for their prowess in football and track (although football was never an option for me). I developed my own abilities as I led my track teams to city championships in junior high and high school. I went on to run track during my first two years at Stanford. Although I was more focused on school, sports gave me an outlet and a level of confidence that would have been difficult to develop in the classroom. The benefits of team sports are well documented, but I also believe that sports and the competition they bring allow women to tap into a source of power that puts us on more of an equal standing with men. Being an athlete when I was younger also meant that sports would remain a part of my life, even now that I’m pushing 50 (ack!). I love running — it is an outlet for stress, but its also my “me” time — being out on the trail helps me clear my mind, and truly brings me joy as I connect with the outdoors.
The Olympics were a reminder of the joy and the pain that competition can bring. Winning is sublime, losing (or even coming in 2nd) can be more than disappointing, it can have a devastating impact. We need to be careful to celebrate sport for what it is – a way of testing our abilities. All of our athletes, but particularly our women should be proud of their accomplishments. What I saw in the London Olympics was women athletes truly coming into their own — powerful, strong, chiseled abs (gotta do more crunches!) and breaking records. If it weren’t for Title IX, many of these women wouldn’t have had the same opportunity as their male colleagues to compete, but I also believe that the generations that have come since 1972 also have a stronger sense of themselves and their own power in the world. The girls who watched this year’s Olympics will be able to aspire to more and tap into the power that these women displayed. With any luck, it will also have an impact on our couch potato culture…and perhaps a new move-ment!