Sunday, August 02, 2009

Iron Girl, Title IX, and the strong woman movement

I just returned from my monthly visit to Georgia, where my Mom's living. I always enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the semi-rural town she lives in outside Atlanta, but I can't help noticing one thing: all of the fat people, especially the women. Suburban Georgia seems to have missed the "strong woman" movement, which is what the "Iron Girl" competition is all about. Ironically, Iron Girl's held today in Atlanta! (Now, when I refer to strong woman I'm not limiting the term to women who engage in powerliting or feats of strength. That's on the extreme end but the same lifting techniques and equipment used by extremely strong women are employed on a normal basis by many women today. I'm exploring the growth of that practice and women in athletics, like the members of the  U.S. Olympic Women's Synchronized Swim Team who talked about the torch issue in my video .)

Iron Girl: for women only

According to its website, Iron Girl started with just two events in 2004 and now has 10 around America: Clearwater, FL, Las Vegas, Denver, Atlanta, Del Mar, Syracuse, Tempe, Bloomington, Seattle, Columbia MD, and Del Mar. Considering how the strong woman movement - as I call it - arguably started in California, it's shocking that there's only one event in the state, and none in Northern California. (Oakland would be the perfect place for an Iron Girl event.

But why are events like Iron Girl growing? And why is it suddenly it seems normal for women to be strong and look strong?

Why it's now normal for women to show muscle

I can remember a time when a woman flexing was considered not "ladylike" but not anymore. Frankly, I think a woman with muscle is just plain sexy, and have for most of my life, but now the industrialized world has caught up to me. The reason for this can be directly attributed to the success of Title IX, the national legislation which tackled school sex discrimination in athletics. The preamble to the law reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance." That covers every public and most private school athletic programs in America. Before Title IX, called the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, the most commonly accepted ways for a woman to participate in athletics were cheerleading and square dancing. A woman playing, for example, Tennis, was fine that racket sport was looked upon as something mainly for men' for women it wasn't ok to be a jock.

Then came Bill Jean King.

I remember the circus around her then-anticipated match against blowhard Bobby Riggs. Everyone I knew as a small boy wanted to see King, who was made fun of by a number of people on television before the event, kick his arrogant butt, especially my Mom. O Sept. 20, 1973 in Houston, King beat Riggs in three straight sets; the match was seen by 50 million people. One of those people was Pasty Mink, the force behind Title IX.

Even before King's hammering of Riggs, Mink had successfully wrote and caused the passage of Title IX in 1972. She was spurred to do so after being denied admission to medical school because she was a woman. While Mink's intent was to open access to education for women, it had a dramatic impact on the growth of women's athletics because of King and coaches like Billy Lynn, who's Sui Ross State University (Texas) women's volleyball team was the first to win a national championship. But it took cable television, the Internet, and the constant increase in media outlets to produce the hunger for sports-related content that accelerated the growth of women's athletics. By 1990, television featured all kinds of women's sports, from tennis and track to something new: bodybuilding. After years of women being told to cover up their muscles, they were showing them and getting paid to do it.

At that point, the idea that a woman could be strong and sexy was introduced to American Culture. Since 1990, media's expansion has led to the constant propagation of the image of the strong woman. Add to that the heath and fitness craze, the wellness movement, and the "sexualization" of women with muscle (where now its considered sexy for a woman to have muscle) and we have America's evolution to a point where the first lady, Michelle Obama, is praised for her toned arms as much as she is for her charm.

The future of the strong woman?

As we move toward the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, look for more women to participate in such activities as "fitness bootcamps" where a trainer puts her "subjects" through a battery of activities involving intense weight lifting and running.  Women-only athletic events like Iron Girl are common.  And in fashion, clothes like the sleveless blouse are popular in the US and the UK because of Mrs. Obama's style, and guys like me say "More, more!" There's nothing to suggest that the propagation of the image of the strong woman is under attack anywhere in America...except suburban Atlanta.

CDFL Playoff week(#4)

Today (Sunday 8/2/2009)

We will Broadcast two Games Live on at 5pm (Westchester Nighthawks vs Bergen Bears) and 7pm (Orange Sprit vs Rockland Rattlers) all times eastern. The Games will also be shown on Verizion Fios ch. 32 in most east coast states. On Tuesday night don't forget to catc the CDFL Review and coaches show at at 7:30 pm Eastern

The CDFL Broadcast team is Tammy Prince & John Kelly on Play by Play and Dr. Bill Chachkes on color commentary.