Caitlin Clark Smashes NCAA Records, Embodies Title IX Feminist Aspirations

On Thursday, Caitlin Clark, an Iowa University senior, made waves when she became the all time NCAA lead scorer. Her win not only surpassed the current women’s basketball score record, but the total overall record for both men and women’s collegiate basketball. Iowa University’s game against Ohio State became the most watched women’s basketball game in over two decades. Clark is an inspiration for many women athletes as well as an example of the progress made for women athletics over the past decades due to state Equal Rights Amendments and Title IX. 

Clark’s success could not have happened without the landmark passing of Title IX in 1972, which banned sex-based discrimination in all federally funded education programs, for both students and employees. Title IX revolutionized the opportunities available for women and girls to participate in athletics around the country, but also prohibited sex discrimination in higher education, career guidance, student financial aid, health and insurance benefits, employment in educational institutions, and sexual harassment. 

Eleanor Smeal, President of FMF, not only championed the passage of Title IX but also worked with Pennsylvania NOW to extend the protections of state ERAs to safeguard the rights of women and girls in sports. In a landmark 1975 case, Commonwealth By Packel v. Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), Pennsylvania NOW successfully argued that Pennsylvania’s state ERA ensured female student athletes the same opportunities as their male counterparts in interscholastic sports. The court ruled against the PIAA by-laws, which prohibited girls from competing or practicing against boys, declaring it a violation of both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the state ERA. This case serves as a compelling illustration of how state ERAs can serve as a legal foundation for advancing equality.

Caitlin Clark’s remarkable achievement stands as a testament to the transformative power of legal victories with Title IX and state ERAs. Her historic win not only shattered records but also highlights the progress made in women’s athletics. Clark’s success serves as a reminder of the strides made in the fight for gender equality in athletics, and the continued work needed to uphold these principles for future generations.

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