Title IX: Mary Jo Kane

Andrea Allis
Web Editorial Associate

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Mary Jo Kane has had a deep love of sports her entire life.

“I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s in central Illinois, and I was the neighborhood tomboy,” said Kane. “I loved playing sports with my brothers and the neighborhood guys.”

However, during her childhood, there weren’t any opportunities for her to formally play.

With the passing of Title IX in 1972, which requires gender equality in all educational programs that receive federal funding, things began to change for girls and women across the country. Kane was excited about the shift and the opportunities it presented to young women.

June 23 of this year marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. To honor the day, each Minnesota Lynx and visiting Chicago Sky player will wear a commemorative jersey with the Roman numeral “IX” on the front for their game at Target Center. Kane has been invited to participate in the celebration, and will be featured during an in-game spotlight.

“Title IX has fundamentally altered the landscape for women’s sports,” said Kane. “Before Title IX, there was a great deal of discussion about whether or not it was okay for girls to be involved in sports. And today, that kind of mindset is unthinkable. Today, young girls grow up with a sense of entitlement to sports, and it would never occur to them that, if they were good enough and willing to pay the price, an opportunity wouldn’t be there for them.”

Kane has dedicated many years to studying this societal shift. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1985 with an emphasis in sport sociology. As a current professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Kinesiology and the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, she is internationally recognized and has published extensively on the media's stereotypic treatment of athletic females. She has also studied and written about the passage, implementation and impact of Title IX.

The Tucker Center, which opened its doors in 1993, is the first and only university-based institute for research on girls and women in sport in the nation. Next year marks its 20th anniversary.

“My concern as a scholar was that girls and women were participating in unprecedented numbers all up and down the [spectrum] of sports, from recreational to professional,” said Kane. “And we just weren’t keeping pace with what it meant to have all these girls playing sports for the first time in our country – and not just for the young women themselves, but for their families and their communities.”

So Kane made it her mission, not only to study the effects of this increased and unprecedented participation, but also to create a communal research environment that would attract some of the best and brightest graduate students from across the country and the world.

She said she's proud to spend June 23 celebrating Title IX's 40th anniversary with the Lynx.

“I’m really proud of the Lynx,” said Kane. “They’re a real class act. I’m just proud of them as somebody who lives in the Twin Cities to call them my team.”

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