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Imagine the world if women and men lived equally. For years, women have been treated differently than men in all aspects, especially in sports. Women didn’t get equal pay or opportunity as men in athletics. Women were viewed as lesser than and had to remain home and cook, clean and do housework. Title IX helped women of every age and race archive equal opportunity to participate in sports and education. Due to the attention drawn from the Bobby Riggs v. Billie Jean King match, Title IX was passed and is helping women gain equality in sports and education.
For many years women athletes were looked down upon. Sports clubs often discriminated against women and didn’t let them partake in events. No athletic scholarships were given to women and they held no championships for women’s team (Title IX). A famous tennis player Billie Jean King was a target in the sports industry. She was very vocal about her beliefs for women’s equality and started many foundations and campaigns to help women. In the early 1970s, 55-year-old tennis player Bobby Riggs was known for slamming women’s equality in tennis and wanted to face off its top female players. Many other tennis matches that have been played over the years with two genders had been referred to as a “battle of the sexes”.
In the spring Riggs played against a female tennis player, Margaret Court but she forfeited the match. Riggs was able to prove himself right that no woman can beat him. Riggs was determined to go against Billie and begged her to play. In July she agreed to a $100,000 winner takes all match. Riggs had a long-established reputation of being arrogant and bold. He drummed up attention for the match by happily embracing the role of the male power Riggs made declarations such as “she’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability to win” and “women belong in the bedroom and kitchen”. King was already occupied with other things such as a secret relationship with her female assistant but she knew she had to go against him because she wanted to prove his statements wrong.
The event itself took place on September 20, 1973, with more than 30,000 fans filed into the Houston Astrodome and over 90 million viewers online. King entered the court in a gold litter held by members of the Rice University men’s track team. Riggs’s entrance was more over the top as he came in on a rickshaw surrounded by women known as “Bobby’s bosom buddies.” (Greenspan) Riggs was dressed in blue sneakers and for the first 3 matches, he wore a yellow jacket saying the writing “sugar daddy” on the back. At the opening of the match, King was falling behind but was able to get back on top. Riggs acknowledged he should’ve practiced more for this match and not taken it as a joke. King defeated him 6-4,6-3,6-3 and Riggs demanded a rematch.
After the match, many viewers were stunned that King was able to beat him. the match becomes a symbol of women’s sports in the ’70s and a measuring stick for progress. That year, the U.S. Open became the first Grand Slam championships to award equal prize money to men and women competitors. King had many endorsements after the match such as Adidas sneakers, Wilson tennis rackets, Colgate toothpaste, Sunbeam hair curlers, and more. The match turned King into “arguably the first superstar female athlete in the United States”. King founded a nonprofit advocacy group to help female athletes and team tennis league after the match.
Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (U.S Department Of Education). It gave equal access to higher education. Until 1970 most colleges refused to accept women, now more men and women are enrolled in colleges. It provides women equal opportunity in athletics and gives more athletic scholarships for women. “In high school the number of female athletes has increased from just 259,000 in 1972 to more than 2.6 millon” (Title IX).
The battle of the sexes helped raise awareness for women’s rights in sports.
This event helped get greater respect and regeneration for women athletes. More opportunities for women have emerged since the passing of Title IX and is helping them in their athletic careers and education. Title IX has changed the way people look at women’s athletes and helped show their capabilities. This is continuing to open new doors for women and to help them get the education they need and athletic practice so they can create their own legacy in the athletic world, as Billie Jean King did.
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