Got a girl in cleats, with great self-esteem? Thank her.
"Title IX is the most important law passed for women and girls since
women obtained the right to vote," said Dr. Bernice (Bunny, to
Known as the "godmother of Title IX," Sandler isn't speaking out of hubris. Her drive to end sexual discrimination in publicly funded schools (that would be most of them) led not just to equality for women in the classroom, but gave female athletes their due on the playing fields as well.
Sandler will be honored with an honorary degree by the Drexel University College of Medicine's Institute for Women's Health and Leadership next weekend. Daily News reporter - and Title IX beneficiary - Molly Eichel talked by phone with Sandler from her home in Washington, D.C.
Q I've read you started your campaign when you were passed over for a job.
I got my degree at the University of Maryland. I was teaching on the side when I was getting my doctorate in counseling. And I wanted to be a lady because it was a very different time. I thought my ideal job would be assisting an important man. I laugh at this now.
There were seven openings [at Maryland], and I wasn't even considered. When I asked why, my friend on the faculty looked at me and without skipping a beat said, "Let's face it, you come on too strong for a woman."
Q What does that even mean?
I don't really know. [During the fight for the passage of Title IX,] another colleague said to me, "Why don't you be more ladylike and stop filing charges?"
It was one fo the few times I've gotten really angry and said, "I've been a lady for 40 years. Where has it gotten me?"
Q But you never thought Title IX would apply to sports.
A small band of women noticed that this would cover athletics. So I thought, "Isn't that lovely? When it's field day, there will be more activities for girls."
The bill passed for a number of reasons. First, it felt like a minor bill. We said we would go lobby, and [Oregon U.S. Rep.] Edith Green said, "Don't go lobby for this bill because then people will find out what's in it."
Second, the American Council on Education is the big elephant in higher education. They were asked if they wanted to testify, and their lobbyist said there is no sex discrimination in higher education, so it's not a problem.
No one was watching.
We've made enormous progress. At the University of Michigan in 1970-71, the budget for men's varsity sports was about $1 million. Guess how much it was for women?
Q I know this one!
Zero. Women coaches were usually volunteers. Women athletes would sell apples at football games.
At the University of Minnesota, there was no budget for women gymnasts to buy tape to bind
their ankles or wrists in case of
injury. The men were very nice
and saved their grungy tape
for the women to wash out and use.
We've gone from horrid to
really bad. The actual number of
females participating in high school sports has not yet reached the number of male students in 1972 when Title IX was passed. We have a long way to go.
Q Did you consider yourself a feminist before waging your Title IX fight?
No, I didn't - until I came on too strong for a woman.
I didn't think [sex discrimination] existed. I hate to say this, but these women who complained about pay disparity, I just thought that I was smarter than them. If they were as smart as me, they wouldn't have to deal with these things.
You didn't see it.
Q How do you feel now when you pass a soccer field and you see little girls lacing up their cleats and running around?
I just feel very good. I just smile and say, "Gosh, they're playing and isn't that great."
There's research on women athletes: They're less likely to get pregnant, they get better grades. I just get a kick out of seeing them.
I love meeting older women and young women who tell me how sports have changed their lives.
When I was in high school, there weren't very many opportunities for women to participate. Sports weren't ladylike, it wasn't nice. Nice girls didn't do this.
There are still inequities. Lawsuits keep getting filed and we still keep winning.