40 Years After Title IX, U.S. Women Dominate Olympics

Women were a majority of the U.S. Olympic Team, and they took home a majority of the country’s medals, en route to a dominating performance across the board at the 2012 London games.

Women won 56 percent of the overall medals for Team USA, and 66 percent of the gold medals. US Women won team gold in soccer, basketball, beach volleyball (they also won silver), gymnastics, the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay, rowing, the women’s 4x100m medley swimming relay, tennis doubles and the 4x400m track relay.

That impressive list doesn’t even begin to cover the litany of individual medals won by American women, from Gabby Douglas’ all-around gold in gymnastics, to swimming golds for Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer, to the tennis title won by Serena Williams, to five individual golds in track and field.

So dominant were the U.S. women that had they seceded to form their own team, they would have been third in the medal count.

There are any number of reasons why the U.S. women were dominant, but one very clear one is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year: Title IX. In an article in Discovery, Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, gave the legislation full marks in moving America toward dominance in women’s athletics.

“Title IX has fundamentally altered the landscape of what it means to be female and an athlete,” Kane told Discovery. “In one generation, we’ve gone from girls hoping there is a team to girls hoping they make the team.”

While there’s no question that women’s sports lag behind men’s in attendance and funding, Title IX did, at least at the school level, ensure that women were given equal opportunity with men. That women would not merely be allowed to play, but that their sports would be given funding and respect, and at the college level, scholarships.

Two generations after it passed, Title IX has helped transform the landscape of women’s athletics. It’s no longer considered unusual for a girl to play sports growing up; indeed, it’s become more unusual for girls not to play a sport. With more girls starting sports, more girls have the opportunity to learn that they like them, and the more girls who play sports as kids, the more women who excel at sports as adults.

This doesn’t just help women on the field, of course. It also benefits them off the field, where participation in athletics has been shown to improve everything from health to future earnings. More than that, it benefits America, and not just by giving us more gold medals. In the past 40 years, we’ve doubled the percentage of the population that is told it can compete, can strive, can work as a team. This cannot help but benefit our society; just as sports benefit when more girls participate, so we all benefit when more of us can compete on an equal footing.

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Image Credit: Pete McClintock

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Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

Normally, I enjoy watching a few events in the Olympics, but this year as a retired woman, I was glued to the t.v. My favorite sports are Track and Field, and to watch proud strong women run their hearts out, filled me with exultation for females. I often cheered for American athletes, but not exclusively -- what I like is excellence. I enjoyed watching young women, having trained for years, give it their all. Not the "model" variety of woman, but women, proud in their skills, strength, muscled bodies. Magnificent! I salute all the young women athletes of the world.

Lin part time Penrose
Lin Penrose3 years ago

Thanks for the info. Stars to all the women (and men) who were involved in seeing these wonderful events of Americans, be possible for females.

Navpreet K.
Navpreet K.3 years ago

Good to hear!

Charli S.
Charlotte S.3 years ago

It's too bad we still don't make the same money as men and that the ERA has not yet passed. Women are very likely to be raped while serving their country in any of the military services and will face an uphill battle to bring their rapist to justice. And if some people in this country get their way we will lose all the gains we've made. We must all stand up to this evil.

Heather BennetT
Heather BennetT3 years ago

Congrats American women, we have lots to be proud of:)

Beverly Morgan
Beverly M.3 years ago

Women can rule the world ~ I applaud our women athletes and the families, friends and coaches who helped them realize their dreams!

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago

Powerful women - way to go!

Chris C.
Chris C.3 years ago

Sad how rather than celebrating strong women, certain men try to stifle them and take away their rights...kind of cowardly, if you ask me!

Cary M.
Cary M.3 years ago

Our women's national soccer team winning the gold medal was great, but the Nike-issued t-shirts they wore following that championship match were vile & despicable.

Sue H.
Sue H.3 years ago

Strong women Rock.... Let's move it to "Government"!