Faculty member, Title IX give local girls ‘Fair Shot’

By Lindsey Woods

While most students took a break from classes over the summer, a group of girls from three different Chicago high schools forfeited that leisure. Instead, they attended seminars to learn about Title IX.

Passed in 1972, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2012. It is a law that promotes gender equality in sports, as well as education and employment. Proponents all over the country, including the Women’s Sports Foundation and Michelle Obama, are preparing festivities.

Mindy Faber, academic manager of the Interactive Arts and Media Department at Columbia and facilitator of The Fair Shot Project, celebrated over July and August by educating high school-age girls about the much-debated amendment. She and Amber Muhammed, a freelance youth media educator and co-facilitator of the project, recruited students from all over the Chicago area and started The Fair Shot Project.

“We were interested in looking at this issue of sports equity through the lens of gender, race and class,” Faber said. “So we wanted to be able to have comparisons between what’s happening at a typical Chicago public school and a more suburban school.”

The project included a number of different components, one of which was the Genius Café Summit held for two days in May, where experts on Title IX and media specialists gathered to talk to some of the girls involved. Contributors included Jaydine Sayer, Emily Dresslar—both media strategists—and Cheryl Cooky, associate professor in Health & Kinesiology and Women’s Studies at Purdue University.

The Chicago-area students also participated in the Women’s National Basketball Association fitness festival, where they collaborated with Girls in the Game, a not-for-profit organization that encourages girls to get involved in sports and fitness. They attended a Chicago Sky game as well, which was a highlight for Cynthia Salinas, 17, one of the young women involved in Fair Shot.

“That was really fun because I didn’t even know we had a WNBA team,” Salinas said. “Seeing all of these other girls getting involved in sports made me want to get involved too.”

Beyond attending events and hosting the Genius Café, Fair Shot will be featured in a documentary called “In the Game,” directed by Maria Finitzo, an award-winning documentarian. She included the group as one of several stories within the film after talking to Faber at a party and deciding to collaborate. Including the girls was important to her in order to demonstrate how knowledge of Title IX can affect the future.

“When you have a group of high school girls who are the future leaders of the world and they don’t even know what Title IX is, it becomes very important that they understand this law,” she said.

The girls are also working on a documentary of their own, “You Throw Like a Girl.”

Fair Shot uses several different outlets to share the girls’ findings with the community, most of which are posted on their website, FairShotProject.net. The website includes a trailer for the upcoming documentary, blogs written by the girls as well as compliance maps, which they will continue to work on in the fall. Essentially, the maps are visual representations of their high school’s level of compliance with Title IX.

Faber reflected on life without Title IX while sitting in her office under a poster that read “Demand the Possible.”

“I guess it is a little personal,” she said. “I remember being an advocate when Title IX passed in 1972 because there was no girls’ basketball team at my school. The only sport we were allowed to play was softball.”

Although high schools and colleges have improved their sports programs since 1972, Salinas said women still have a long way to go in terms of gender equity in sports.

“It was interesting to see how much it has improved society, but it still has some flaws,” she said. “It surprises me how my school, Juarez Community Academy, isn’t complying.”