Monday, August 07, 2006

Why I am a Feninist (and always will be)

I don't know if I was born a feminist or if I picked it up somewhere along the way, but it's pretty safe to say that I have been committed to women's rights since at least 1986. That was my freshman year at Great Mills High School down in southern Maryland and my first year on the varsity tennis squad. That was early in the days of Title IX (which in a nutshell meant girls should have the same athletic opportunities as guys in American high schools and universities.) The boy's team at my alma matter was historically pretty bad, while the girl's squad was a regional powerhouse.

1986 was the first year at my highschool that boys and girls had equal number of participants playing varsity sports. Years prior, the squad was made up of nine guys and four girls. My freshman year the team was split equally. And accordingly, we went from the "worst team in the conference" to an actual contender. All thanks to gender equality. That was the lesson for me.

Billie jean King was a big part of the movement in the 1970's to push for equal opportunity in sports. Title IX simply made it the law. If boys can play, then girls can play too. Just like Billie Jean envisoned it. This is why Billie Jean King is my hero.

So naturally I was thrilled to hear this: (AP)--
Honoring Billie Jean King, the U.S. Tennis Association will rename the USTA National Tennis Center the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during an opening-night ceremony at the U.S. Open. King co-founded the WTA Tour, which now offers a total of $60 million in prize money at 63 events in 35 countries. She beat Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973 and co-founded World Team Tennis and the Women's Sports Foundation.

Pete Sampras (a tennis icon in his own right) said the tribute was fitting, "She's so respected from all walks of life. It's fitting because of what Billie has done for the sport of tennis and sports in general. She's a legend."

Billie Jean: "Hopefully, this will have an echoing effect," King said. "It's great that a women's name is on something this special, and I think it will send out a great message. It's been my fight for equal opportunity for boys and girls, that's really what I'm about."

Brava, Sister!

It's worth noting that we live in an era when stadiums are usually named after some corporate sponsor. The US Tennis Association gave up a shitload of money to name the arena after Billie Jean. I t could have just as easily been the "Geico Arena" or something.

"This was not about the money, this was about doing what was right," said Arlen Kantarian, chief executive of the USTA when responding to the passed up million$ in potential naming rights to honor King.

Besides, Billie Jean's contributions are priceless.

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