I grew up female, a teenager in the late '70s and '80s. Now my daughter is as old as I was then. I'm always telling her how different things are for her than they were for me. I know it must get tiresome, maybe even burdensome, for her to hear, but I think it's important.
It's actually not that easy to wrap your head around. The deep, pervasive sexism that kept parents and teachers from encouraging girls to play sports seems so incredibly stupid in retrospect, that it's hard even for me, who lived through it, to believe. But that is the way it was.
When I was my daughter's age, there was a nominal acceptance of the fact that, theoretically, girls had the right to equal opportunities in sports. But the fact is, girls playing sports was not, at that time, a thing. Almost no girls played anything--not in my community and socio-economic category, anyhow. And no one seemed to think it was a problem. I loved watching Tatum O'Neal in the original Bad News Bears (1976)--if you haven't seen it, you should; it's a highly entertaining portrayal of how things were back in those Dark Ages--but it certainly did not precipitate a rush to get girls into Little League.
When Girls Became Lions (2015) tells part of the story of how we got from there to here. Set in 1983-4, in a small Ohio town, the novel is a fictionalized account of what happens when, more than a decade after the passage of Title IX, a public high school is threatened with the withdrawal of athletic funding unless it forms a girls soccer team--something its athletic director has resisted for years. It's also the story of how, a generation later, the new coach of the girls soccer team uncovers that original team's story--one that had been purposely suppressed because, well, who cares? They're girls.
Aside from being a compelling read, When Girls Became Lions documents an important piece of women's history, the history of our struggle to get our fair share of our communities' financial and, equally important, its emotional resources.
Every once in a while it's necessary to stop and reflect on what ties us together, as female human beings, across generations. And in my case, to be grateful to those women and men who stepped up so that my daughter can enjoy opportunities that I couldn't.