The Women Wrestlers who Paved the Way: National Women and Girls in Sports Day

By Noreen Farrell, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates

Today, on National Women and Girls in Sports Day, we have a lot to celebrate as we head into the 2022 Winter Olympics and mark the 50th Anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This seminal law’s prohibition against sex discrimination in education and school programs like sports paved the way for so many to participate in athletics.

Equal Rights Advocates honors all those who have joined our defense of Title IX. These include ERA’s courageous student clients who broke gender stereotypes in traditionally male sports. ERA clients Lauren Mancuso, Christine Ng, and Arezou Mansourian did just that as early pioneers in the sport of college wrestling. Ten years ago, ERA resolved their lawsuit (U.C. Regents v. Mansourian), demanding equal participation opportunities at the collegiate level. Their efforts (and a related class action) led to a trial win, the elevation of women’s club teams to the varsity level, and a landmark Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision confirming the reach of Title IX in these cases.* We have young women like these to thank for the fact that female wrestling is now an Olympic sport dominated by American athletes.

“All kids deserve equal access to sports programs that develop students as leaders, challenge gendered limitations, and teach formative lessons for later in life about how people across genders should be valued.”

Lauren, Christine, and Arezou broke gender stereotypes not only for wrestlers, and not only for girls and women. While progress is slow, gendered constraints of “masculine” and “feminine” sports are dissipating. Girls’ and women’s participation in football, cricket, rugby, and basketball, all previously considered as boys sports, is on the rise. And the movement is building for male divisions of Olympic sports like synchronized swimming currently reserved for female athletes.

So today, let’s celebrate breaking stereotypes for girls and boys, as well as gender nonconforming/nonbinary and transgender students. All kids deserve equal access to sports programs that develop students as leaders, challenge gendered limitations, and teach formative lessons for later in life about how people across genders should be valued. Thanks Lauren, Chris, and Arezou for being such an important part of Title IX’s history and for setting the course for its future.

Check out more of ERA’s Title IX historic wins, from 1975 to 2021.

*Thanks to our co-counsel on these cases, Equity Legal and the Sturdevant Law Firm.

Equal Rights Advocates is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all genders.

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Noreen Farrell

Noreen Farrell

Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates; Chair, Equal Pay Today! Campaign; Chair, Stronger California; Founding Partner, Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative