|Monday, December 23
Mink legacy: Stand up, speak out and be counted
By Mechelle Voepel
Special to ESPN.com
Although Patsy Mink's work on Title IX passage 30 years ago wasn't done with the direct intention of greatly affecting athletics, that outcome was a source of pride for her.
Her daughter, Gwendolyn Mink, is acting chair of women's studies at Smith College. Gwendolyn Mink has authored several books, including "Hostile Environment: The Political Betrayal of Sexually Harassed Women,'' "Welfare's End,'' and "The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917-1942." With four other women, including Gloria Steinem, she edited "The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History.''
She recently talked about both her mother's legacy and her own thoughts on Title IX and women's challenges.
How much did the athletic aspect of Title IX mean to your mother?
"At the same time, she was concerned that people didn't appreciate Title IX beyond athletics. It was the most visible symbol, but not the only place Title IX had that impact. She was always quick to remind audiences about radical changes in enrollments in law schools and medical schools, too.''
How early were you aware of your mother's work, and how did it affect you?
"When I was rejected from Stanford (because the school said it already had enough women students), that was a turning point for me. Even though I had a mother who'd gone through so much discrimination, my initial reaction still was that I wasn't a good enough woman to make it in. I took it as a statement of my inadequacies, as opposed to Stanford needing to give fair treatment to everyone. My mother and I talked about that, and it opened my eyes. A lot of young women today still find fault with themselves completely when the obstacles before them very much have to do with the way society treats women.''
What's the biggest difference for young women today as opposed to your experiences or those of your mother's generation?
Is it more important than ever for Title IX supporters to be vigilant now, since there is a movement to make changes to it?
"Again, it's also important to make it clear it's not only about athletics, it's a bellwether. Every incremental effort to weaken Title IX could have bearing on educational rights for girls and women. It could have a drastic impact on the next generation.''
What can people interested in the future of Title IX do?
"And there are any number of collective activities that people can be involved in. If you're a college student, make sure they have a Title IX officer on campus and work with that person to broaden and deepen its resonance. We have to carve out a vision of where we go in the future with Title IX. There's lots of work to do.
"My mother was concerned not only about defending Title IX but also moving it into the 21st Century ... and making sure the benefits of Title IX are fully extended to people beyond the middle class and white communities.''
Your mother's work in Congress affected the lives of millions of people. How critical is that message, that one person can make such a difference?
"But it's also about working consistently in coalitions with others who do care. One or two leaders made a big difference with passing Title IX, but there were legions of people involved in women's athletics who joined hands to stand up together and effect change.''
Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.