Wednesday, July 14, 1999
Listen to the Sound of the Glass Ceiling Shattering
By being the right stuff, soccer champs opened minds and opened doors
for their gender.
By PATRICIA SCHROEDER
"Huge" is the only word to describe the impact of American women winning
the Women's World Cup Soccer Championship. I was born in 1940 and grew
up female in the middle of this century. My generation was constantly
told, "Women are not team players." We saw women individually break
through the glass ceiling, from Margaret Thatcher to Billie Jean King.
But there was no cracking of the conventional wisdom that we could be
divas but not trusted team members.
That conventional wisdom, which exploded in front of our eyes by an
incoming missile called the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, should blast
through some of the final barriers against women assuming more
leadership roles. We can lead, not just star. We can be team players,
not just solo acts.
Last weekend's excitement also buries some of the Barbie doll influence.
America saw that women can be cheered for their skills, not just envied
for their looks. I get chicken flesh whenever I think back on Saturday's
exciting game. Being an avid supporter of Title IX since I was elected
to Congress in 1972, this was a dream come true.
When I was young, the girls' basketball rules let us dribble only twice
and we couldn't cross the center line. I guess we were considered too
frail and fragile to play by the boys' rules. No one can accuse our
soccer team of being frail or fragile.
As a soccer mom, I continued to fight the silliness of the notion that
girls should be protected. We lived in Northern Virginia while I was in
Congress, and my 8-year-old daughter played soccer on a suburban boys'
team. Yes, she and two of her friends thought the girls' team was too
tame. I was shocked by the number of parents who called and asked if I
knew my daughter was on the boys' team. I told them I'd figured that out
because I laundered her shirt that said, "Annandale Boys' Soccer Team,"
and went to her games. They were horrified that I didn't show more
concern for my daughter's future.
Title IX was so controversial; many considered it a wacko feminist idea.
The "jockocracy" hated it and said it was a frivolous waste of
taxpayers' money because women were untrainable for "real sports"; we
were just too weak and delicate to perform. At a Denver high school, I
remember a basketball coach stopped his team's play and asked them to
show me what they thought of Title IX, and they all mooned me. That's
In fact, the fervor against the equality of women's sports was so
rampant that the university coaches threatened members of Congress who
voted for Title IX that they could never attend university football
games again. I showed up to play on the congressional baseball team in
the name of Title IX. I wore a Title IX uniform made by a staffer,
instead of wearing the hometown outfit that was traditional. Needless to
say, my colleagues were horrified that I wanted to play. They also hated
the shirt. That was my last day as a congressional baseball player—talk
about feeling like a skunk at a garden party.
Now Title IX is the toast of the land. It's been in effect long enough
to nurture and train these fantastic athletes. Their performances will
propel women forward in leadership roles during the next century,
because they have shattered the stereotypes of what women can and cannot
They have provided little girls with a picture of the millennium woman—a
woman who is self confident and capable of excelling in anything she
chooses to do.
Finally, I hope American women show leadership and take on General
Mills. In 1997, it put the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team on the
Wheaties box and, in 1998, the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team. As of
Tuesday, the U.S. women's soccer team was waiting to hear. Good news:
General Mills was being inundated with calls.
We hope General Mills does the right thing, but even if it won't
celebrate this victory, we will.
a FormerCongresswoman From Colorado
President and Ceo of the Assn.
of American Publishers, Based in
Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved