The Framing of Title IX
The Framing of Title IX:
A Textual Analysis of The New York Times and The Washington Post, 1971-1975.
Julie B. Lane
1718 W. Abingdon Dr. #201
Alexandria, VA 22314
Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, which increased females' sports
opportunities, is often held responsible for the elimination of men's teams.
Given the media's power to define issues, New York Times and Washington Post
coverage of Title IX's passage and implementation was analyzed. It emphasized
male athletic establishment concerns about Title IX's implications for existing
intercollegiate sports, and largely disregarded women's groups' arguments that
Title IX was necessary to address discrimination against women
The Framing of Title IX:
A Textual Analysis of The New York Times and The Washington Post, 1971-1975.
Twenty-five years after passage of legislation intended to achieve gender
equity in high school and college athletics, the number of women participating
in athletics has increased dramatically. Yet women are still underrepresented
in the media and presented in stereotypic ways.
These trends persist despite legislation requiring gender equity in athletics.
This study explores media coverage of the passage and implementation of Title IX
of the Education Amendments of 1972, the legislation that prohibited sex
discrimination at schools receiving federal funds, with a particular emphasis on
coverage of its implications for athletics. While Title IX applied to all
aspects of education at federally funded institutions, implementation of the
title regarding athletic programs proved to be most controversial.
Title IX is closely associated with today's female athletes because it made
sports participation a more viable option for them. Prior to its implementation
in 1975, there was no greater discrepancy in education than in athletic programs
for males and females (Fishel & Pottker, 1977). Title IX changed that by
requiring that, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be
excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal
financial assistance..." (P.L. 92-318; 20 U.S.C. 1861 et seq.). Some exceptions
were made, but athletics was covered.
The number of girls participating in high school athletics has increased
dramatically following implementation of Title IX (Hogan, 1988), but the most
drastic change has occurred at the college level. During the 1971-72 school
year, 172,447 men participated in 24 sports at NCAA institutions, more than five
times the number of women athletes participating in 19 sports (NCAA, 1974). By
1991-92 the ratio or male to female athletes had dropped to less than 2 to 1
But both before and after Title IX, women who do participate in
sports,especially those sports considered "masculine," are often viewed as
exceptions to the rule and have their femininity questioned (Pederson & Kono,
1990; Calhoun, 1987; King & Chi, 1979; Hart, 1971). The sports world has
traditionally been a male one and women do dare enter it are often treated as
trespassers.   The passage of Title IX and the debate over its
implementation offered an opportunity to redefine women's place in athletics and
position women as legitimate citizens of the sports world. The media,
specifically in the focus and tone of their coverage, had the opportunity to
reflect these issues.
The media play an important part in determining how people define issues, in
sports as in any other area. This is largely accomplished through the framing
of issues -- the emphasis or disregard by the media for certain issue attributes
Given this influence, the frames used by them to cover the Title IX debate were
undoubtedly important in shaping the future of women's sports and sports
coverage. According to Boutlier and SanGiovanni (1983), "regardless of what is
actually happening to the relationship between women and sport, it is the
media's treatment and evaluation of that relationship that will shape its
direction and content."
Through the use of historical documents from the NCAA and NOW, combined with a
critical text analysis of the New York Times and Washington Post, in this study
I answer the research question: How did the media frame Title IX?
History of Title IX
In 1971 Representative Edith Green (D-OR), chair of the House Special
Subcommittee on Education, introduced legislation banning sex discrimination in
federally assisted education programs. A weakened version of this ban,
exempting all undergraduate admissions policies, passed the House on November 4
as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN)
simultaneously worked to pass a similar provision. His amendment to the Senate
version of the Education Amendments was approved in February 1972. This
stronger Senate version (it did not exempt public undergraduate institutions)
was part of the bill signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.
The general idea of gender equality in United States schools, colleges and
universities was now law, but there was no clear definition of what constituted
sex discrimination in education. This lack of specificity by Congress led to
three years of conflict before Title IX actually went into effect, and it was
during this three-year period (June 1972 - July 1975) that the issue of sex
discrimination in school athletics became a major source of controversy.
Despite efforts by Representative James O'Hara (D-MI), chair of the House
Postsecondary Education Subcommittee, to formally disapprove or weaken the
regulations written by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Title
IX went into effect on July 21, 1975.
Title IX and the Feminist Movement
Women's groups were very important to passage of Title IX. After laying
dormant for several years following the achievement of suffrage, the women's
movement had reemerged in the 1960s. The Feminine Mystique (1963), in which
Betty Friedan questioned women's "family-centered role," combined with women's
experiences in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s to reignite the feminist
While women's groups did not become involved in the Title IX fight specifically
until approached by Green, they were already challenging sex discrimination in
education and had recently begun focusing on federal remedies (Fishel & Pottker,
1977). There were also indications that females were ready to challenge the
male hold on sports.
As sports may be "one of the last bastions of traditional male ideas" (Messner,
1989) in our society, controversy over attempts to require the admittance of
females was to be expected. The NCAA led one side in the Title IX conflict and
women's groups fought back against it.
Setting the Agenda for Media Framing of Title IX
This study explores the reciprocal relationship between the news media and
special interest groups using framing theory and feminist media theory. By
portraying women largely as housewives, mothers and sex objects, the media
suggest to the public that these roles are the proper ones for women. Not
depicting women in certain roles has just as great an influence; it results in
the "symbolic annihilation" of women (Tuchman, 1978).
These tactics are clearly at play in sports coverage. According to Wood
(1994), "men and women are portrayed in stereotypical ways that reflect and
sustain socially endorsed views of gender." Sports coverage of women athletes
and women's athletics is a small percentage of that given to men (Huggins, 1996;
Rintala & Birrell, 1984) and when women athletes are covered the focus is often
on their gender rather than their athleticism (Duncan, 1990; Hilliard, 1994;
Swift, 1993, p. 23; Leavy, 1977).
The feminist rhetoric used by supporters of Title IX strongly challenged such
stereotypes. Theories of media frames, however, suggest that coverage of Title
IX would not employ feminist rhetoric, but rather would use the language of
traditional masculinity and focus on areas posing the biggest threat to that
In this study, I examined news coverage of the athletics requirements of Title
IX in the New York Times and Washington Post between 1971 and 1975, looking at
the frames used by the media. I also compared the media frames to the rhetoric
employed by interest groups working on both sides of Title IX to determine what
was not discussed.
This study examines the media's role in framing Title IX as an athletics issue,
paying special attention to the impact of social influences on the frame
employed. The process by which the media frame issues is integral to
understanding the resulting media coverage of those issues and the larger
context in which "news" is defined. Media framing is influenced by a
combination of forces including journalism routines and cultural ideology. As
Title IX was at once a women's issue and a sports issue, it is also imperative
to consider gender stereotypes and the masculine orientation of sports.
Gitlin (1980) describes media frames as "persistent patterns of cognition,
interpretation, and presentation, of selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by
which symbol-handlers organize discourse, whether verbal or visual" (p. 7). By
selecting certain words or phrases to describe something, by portraying it in a
stereotypical way, by repeating selected themes associated with it, or by
relying on certain sources while dismissing others, journalists frame that
something (Entman, 1993). Frames serve to organize thoughts and beliefs, and it
is important to understand the framing process in order to recognize the media's
use of it regarding Title IX.
Gitlin's (1980) examination of media coverage of Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) during the last half of the 1960s is a prime example of how media
framing can define something, in this case a social movement. Although
initially treated positively by the media, as the movement began to threaten the
country's ideological foundation the media grew increasingly uncomfortable with
it and shifted the frame so that the movement was portrayed as an "undoubted
menace" (Gitlin, 1980, p. 72). A variety of tools were used to accomplish this,
including trivialization and marginalization of the movement, and polarization
of the debate (Gitlin, 1980) . The movement lost its ability to define itself;
the media defined it instead.
Media framing also marginalized a large group of Americans "moderate in tone
and adult and middle class in leadership" involved in the 1980s' anti-nuclear
movement (Entman & Rojecki, 1993). While Gallup polls showed a large majority
of the public supported a freeze on nuclear weapons (71 percent in 1983; 78
percent in 1984), the media dismissed this anti-nuclear movement in favor of the
opposing presidential policy on such weapons (Entman & Rojecki, 1993). The
"carnival-like" atmosphere of freeze demonstrations was emphasized by the New
York Times over the purpose behind the movement (Entman & Rojecki, 1993).
Sometimes the media may not promote one policy or ideology over another but may
instead employ frames to define the choices to which a debate is limited. In
Entman and Page's (1994) study of the policy debate among elites over U.S.
involvement in the Iraq-Kuwait situation in the early 1990s, the authors note
that while media coverage did not seem to favor one solution over another, the
media did limit debate to a choice between going to war immediately or waiting a
bit longer before going to war, ignoring any other option (Entman & Page, 1994).
Having established the impact of media frames, it is important to determine how
these frames are constructed. According to Entman (1993), "[T]he frame in a
news text is really the imprint of power." While news industry leaders can
exert power directly, much power takes the subtle form of setting "boundaries
and guidelines to direct [daily news] decisions" (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996, p.
170). Media powers are guided in turn by larger external forces, the most
sweeping of which is the dominant social ideology. The media serve these
powerful interests by defining news so that it perpetuates this ideology.
As defined by Becker (1984), "An ideology is an integrated set of frames of
reference through which each of us sees the world and to which all of us adjust
our actions." It is communicated through a set of "familiar cultural themes"
that "are selectively chosen and constructed into a coherent structure"
(Shoemaker & Reese, 1996, p. 222). The media are widely recognized as primary
outlets of ideology (McQuail, 1977; Hall, 1977). Dominant ideological views of
women, sports and women's place in sports likely influenced media coverage of
Title IX and, thus, the cultural message communicated by the media.
Hall attributes the media's ideological power to their ability to "define
situations." The media use "boundaries of acceptability" (Shoemaker & Reese,
1996, p. 170) to guide their coverage of issues, events and social and political
groups. Those that agree with the dominant ideology are considered acceptable
and are reported on in ways that promote hegemony.
As explained by Gramsci (1971), hegemony is the way in which the dominant group
imposes its ideological framework on society. Another way to look at it is as
"a whole body of practices and expectations" which "constitutes a sense of
reality for most people in the society" (Williams, 1973, p. 110). Hegemonic
values are integrated into the news indirectly through the media's day-to-day
routines and organization-level relationships and are accepted as "natural"
(Shoemaker & Reese, 1996).
The media also communicate what lays outside the dominant ideological frame.
Once identified, such issues are portrayed "in a way calculated to underscore
their deviance" (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996, p. 225).
Hallin (1986) places news into three categories: consensus, legitimate
controversy and deviance. News about the deviant is where journalists take
sides and make value judgments and where journalism "marks out and defends the
limits of acceptable conflict" (Hallin, 1986, p. 117). The media's hegemonic
role is most strongly felt in this category and may be where coverage of Title
IX fits as the issue challenged traditional gender-based expectations.
Shoemaker (1984) found that the legitimacy of deviant political groups is
questioned more often than that of mainstream groups. She argues that while
differences between deviant and mainstream groups probably do exist, the media
may tend to "emphasize and accentuate the differences and ignore the
similarities" (Shoemaker, 1984). At the same time, because deviance generally
qualifies something as newsworthy (McManus, 1994; Patterson, 1993), deviant
issues and events are often featured in news coverage. Shoemaker, Chang and
Brentlinger (1987) found that U.S. television and newspaper coverage of world
events was most often of issues or events that challenged the dominant
ideologies of the respective countries or deviated from American norms.
The media, therefore, "certify the limits within which all competing
definitions of reality will contend" (Gitlin, 1980, p. 254) and, guided by the
dominant ideology, promote hegemony. The media may reevaluate these limits or
boundaries when confronted with new situations, yet journalists' decisions about
what is and is not news and which sources to depend on for information are
influenced by the dominant ideology.
Historically excluded from the power structures of both society as a whole and
media organizations, women have played no significant role in defining the
dominant social ideology or influencing media routines (Creedon, 1993; Molotch,
1978; Epstein, 1978). Consequently, women are portrayed in stereotypical ways
or as extremists, their struggles are personalized or trivialized, polarized
views of their concerns are offered, and their "self-transformation" rather than
the "social transformation" of the women's movement is the focus (Rhode, 1995).
Often they are simply ignored. These patterns laid the foundation for the
media's framing of Title IX.
Tuchman (1978) calls such media treatment of women "symbolic annihilation."
Women may be present in media coverage, but not in ways truly reflective of
their roles in society. Passed off as reality, these images become accepted as
real and even ideal; true portrayals are missing.
The amount of news involving women and "women's issues" that appears in the
mainstream media is a small percentage of that devoted to men. The heavy
reliance on male sources remains even when the issue being discussed is of
particular importance to women (Women, Men and Media, 1993). Not only do men
dominate newspaper articles and television segments, they also appear more often
than women in newspaper photographs (Miller, 1975; Blackwood, 1983; Luebke,
1989). Women are often relegated to the lifestyle section, a more "feminine"
part of the newspaper (Luebke, 1989).
This underrepresentation of women was true for news coverage of the women's
liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s, especially during the early part of
this revival. New York Times coverage of women accounted for an average of
0.211 percent of its total news space between 1964 and 1970; in 1977 it stood at
0.471 (Cancian & Ross, 1981). National news magazine and television coverage
was similar (Funkhouser, 1973; Cancian & Ross, 1981).
A 1970 "press blitz" (Robinson, 1978) about the women's movement was largely
due to movement efforts targeted at the media (Davis, 1991). Tuchman (1978)
attributes increased coverage to increased "legitimation" of the movement
resulting from better organization and others (Freeman, 1975; Hole & Levine,
1971) point to the movement's growing popularity and increased government
involvement in women's rights.
While this heightened coverage was welcome, it did not solve the problem. "On
the whole...despite coverage of women forcibly induced by the legitimation of
the women's movement, newspapers continue[d] to view women in the news as
occasional oddities that must be tolerated," says Tuchman (1978).
Even when women are present in the news "it is from a man's perspective of what
is interesting" (Molotch, 1978), or it is because they have been conferred with
"satellite status" due to their relationships with newsmaking males (Lang,
1978). When women do make the news pages due to their own accomplishments they
still do not receive equal treatment (Kahn & Goldenberg, 1991; Women, Men and
Media, 1993). Many are relegated to a special "women's section," segregated
from the hard news even when they are involved in situations with far-reaching
social or political ramifications such as the women's movement (Epstein, 1978).
In many cases the media rely on stereotypes. Women are typically portrayed as
either wives or mothers of men, sex objects selling products to men, or
consumers of goods to make themselves more attractive to men (Hole & Levine,
1971, p. 249). McCracken's (1993) study of almost 50 women's magazines reveals
how even these texts often define the ideal feminine role in relation to men.
The Pingree, et al, (1976) consciousness scale identifies five roles, or
levels, into which women are placed, ranging from the "two-dimensional,
nonthinking decoration" Level I to Level V, where women and men are viewed "as
individuals" with no consideration of sex. Eighty-eight percent of
advertisements in Playboy, Time and Ms. featured women from the lowest two
levels while only 12 percent depicted women working in the "man's world"
(Pingree, et al., 1976). Even 56 percent of Ms. advertisements portrayed women
in stereotypical Level I and Level II roles (Pingree, et al., 1976).
Although the original "bra-burning" incident at the 1968 Miss America pageant
never happened, the event quickly came to symbolize the entire women's movement
(Davis, 1991). The incident gave the male-dominated media institutions the
perfect story: it had conflict, a controversial event, and could easily be
characterized as extreme. Feminists were often described in extreme or
"unfeminine" terms (Rhode, 1995).
Even when the focus was not on the extremes, the movement did not fare much
better. The physical appearance of feminists was often described; they were
typically identified in relation to men; and their maintenance of a "feminine"
appearance was often mentioned (Robinson, 1978; Davis, 1991). Men were rarely
described in comparable terms.
By focusing on the extremes and trivializing the movement overall, the media
framed it as deviant and a threat to hegemony. As a result, issues for which
the movement fought could be largely dismissed (Molotch, 1978; Robinson, 1978).
Title IX posed a particular challenge to dominant gender roles because perhaps
nowhere else in society is the division between masculine and feminine more
rigidly defined than in sports.
Although women have found media coverage of their concerns lacking across the
board, their most difficult challenge may be in athletics. The sports world is
"one of the 'last bastions' of traditional male ideas of success, of male power
and superiority over - and separation from - the perceived 'feminization' of
society" (Messner, 1989). It may be the one area where men's authority is still
assumed and accepted by most of society -- or at least it would appear that way
based on media coverage.
The concept of women as outsiders or trespassers in the world of sports is not
new. In the seventh century B.C. women were not allowed to even watch the
Olympics much less participate in them (Calhoun, 1987) and women have continued
to be dominated by men throughout their history (Pederson & Kono, 1990; Bryson,
1987; King & Chi, 1979). Sports generally involve traits traditionally
associated with males and masculinity such as aggressiveness, bravery,
independence, competitiveness, force and strength (Bryson, 1987; King & Chi,
1979; Boutlier & SanGiovanni, 1983). Women have been traditionally allowed
entrance into the sports world primarily by playing a "feminine supporting role
for male jocks" (Calhoun, 1987). Those who choose to stray beyond that role
often face questions regarding their womanhood (Germone & Furst, 1991; King &
Chi, 1979; Eitzen & Sage, 1978; Kingsley, Brown & Seibert, 1976; Hart, 1971).
This conflict arises from society's view of individuals as either "masculine"
or "feminine." These sex-typed roles are learned early in life and are
reinforced culturally (Bem, 1981; Germone & Furst, 1991). Male roles emphasize
"prov[ing] oneself publicly in athletics, as in other fields of endeavor" in
order to "attest to one's importance as a force in both the social and physical
world" while the role expected of women is the opposite (King & Chi, 1979).
This division is particularly strong within sports. Sports have traditionally
been depicted as a way for boys to become men; no corresponding axiom is applied
to girls (Edwards, 1972). Sports are an expected part of a boy's life while
girls must actively seek them out.
Consistent with these different socialization experiences is Harry's (1995)
finding that men appear to commonly associate sports with expressions of gender
while women for the most part do not make such a connection.
Women are increasingly becoming involved in sports despite socialization
processes that steer them away from athletics. By 1991 there were 158,000
female athletes participating at the intercollegiate level, a 147 percent
increase over 1976 (Carpenter & Acosta, 1991). The number of women spectators
has also grown steadily (Anderson & Stone, 1981; Gantz & Wenner, 1991).
Despite these changes in women's sports participation and spectatorship, the
media continue to underrepresent and trivialize women's sports and rely on
stereotypes of female athletes. These portrayals likely influenced the media's
Title IX frame or are a result of that frame.
Typically women receive about 7 to 15 percent of newspaper sports coverage
(Huggins, 1996; Rintala & Birrell, 1984). These figures remain low when the
content of magazines is examined, especially that of Sports Illustrated, the
most widely read U.S. sports magazine (Lumpkin & Williams, 1991). Nine percent
of feature articles in Sports Illustrated were devoted to women athletes between
1954 and 1987 (Lumpkin & Williams, 1991). Women were also disproportionately
represented in coverage of recent Olympic games where they were well represented
among participating athletes; they accounted for about one-fourth of the
combined Olympic coverage of seven British newspapers in the summer of 1992
(Alexander, 1994). Even in tennis, where women's participation is more socially
acceptable than in other sports and female professionals are relatively visible,
coverage largely favors males (Hilliard, 1984).
Rintala and Birrell (1984) point out that since the number of males and females
participating in sports is not equal, fairness does not necessarily mean equal
space in the media. They found in their study of Young Athlete, however, that
not only did boys outnumber girls in the number of photographs and articles,
they also appeared in a disproportionate amount of coverage about
female-dominated sports (Rintala & Birrell, 1984).
As with the rest of news coverage, the problem with media coverage of female
athletes goes beyond mere statistics. Women who are depicted in sports sections
or magazines are often trivialized or portrayed in stereotypical ways.
Much attention is paid to their hair, clothing and makeup, and those women
generally considered physically attractive are featured more often and more
positively than those who do not measure up to traditional beauty standards
(Duncan, 1990; Hilliard, 1984). The women pictured are more likely than men to
be portrayed as passive or sexy, and the differences between male and female
bodies are often emphasized (Duncan, 1990). Hilliard (1984) found that female
tennis players are often shown suffering from anxiety or depression attributed
to the incompatibility of their roles as women and athletes. The cover of
Sports Illustrated Women/Sports magazine's premier issue featured basketball
player Sheryl Swoopes' pregnancy and teases for articles concentrating more on
sexual rather than athletic aspects of female involvement in sports (Spring
Such media portrayals of female athletes perpetuate gender divisions within
sports. "Focusing primarily on her gender role rather than her athletic ability
and accomplishments, the media will not let the reader/viewer forget old
stereotypes and stigmas," says Kane (1989).
Media stereotypes are not limited to women, however; the media also help define
ideal "masculinity." Trujillo (1991) examined how the media promote the
hegemonic masculinity of the American sports culture, hegemonic masculinity
involving "the connecting of masculinity to toughness and competitiveness" plus
"the subordination of women" and "the marginalization of gay men" (Connell,
1990). Exemplified by their coverage of legendary baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan,
the media present masculinity as expressions of physical power and fortitude,
occupational success, patriarchal control over family, frontiersmanship, and
muscle-bound heterosexuality (Trujillo, 1991). Given the media's hegemonic
powers, consistent presentation and promotion of these features result in their
acceptance as features of the ideal male athlete. They come to define "what it
means to be a man" (Hanke, 1990). Even when a male athlete does not meet the
standards set by Ryan, but acts vulgar or boorish, the media still portray him
as displaying traditional masculinity and apologize for any of his flaws
Many studies have compared media coverage of women athletes before and after
the passage of Title IX. What is missing is an examination of media coverage of
the Title IX debate itself to determine what happened between the introduction
of the legislation and implementation of the regulation to define Title IX and
influence subsequent coverage of it and women athletes. This study seeks to
supply the answer by asking: what frame did the media use between March 1971 and
September 1975 to cover Title IX? This question will be investigated through a
historical analysis detailed in the next section.
This study examines media framing of Title IX. Before this analysis could be
performed, it was necessary to look at the arguments put forth by the main
actors in the debate. Then, using Gitlin's (1980) definition of media frames, a
textual analysis of the Title IX debate was performed to determine what the
media did with this information, that is, the frames they employed.
This study is limited to the period between March 2, 1971, and July 21, 1975,
the period during which legislators were most heavily and directly involved in
shaping Title IX. March 2, 1971, was the date Green opened hearings in the
House Special Subcommittee on Education that resulted in the 1972 Education
Amendments, and on July 21, 1975, the regulations implementing Title IX went
into effect. The controversy over athletics did not begin until November 1973,
therefore, the bulk of this study focuses on this latter stage. This paper is
also restricted to the debate over interscholastic and intercollegiate
athletics, referred to as athletics.
The battle over Title IX was fought mainly between men's collegiate athletic
organizations and women's activist groups. The most prominent collegiate
athletic organization in the early 1970s and the leader of the opposition to the
Title IX regulations was the NCAA. It worked closely with several other
organizations, most prominently the American Football Coaches Association
(AFCA). Leadership on the other side of the debate was more diffuse. Several
women's groups worked to gain approval of the regulations. Because NOW was the
leading women's group of the day, it was selected for in-depth study; however,
the congressional testimony of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for
Women (AIAW) and the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) were also considered.
In order to determine how the media interpreted each side's position, how they
presented those positions, and which parts of those positions they selected,
emphasized and excluded, it was first necessary to ascertain what those
positions were. This was accomplished through archival searches and a review of
testimony given before congressional committees.
The NCAA archive at NCAA headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, and NOW's
archive in Radcliffe College's Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
were searched for any information pertaining to each organization's stand on
Title IX. From a variety of papers were culled major positions taken and
arguments made by the NCAA and NOW.
After identifying the positions and information put forth by each side, the
media frame or frames used to cover Title IX were identified through a textual
analysis of two major daily newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington
Post. These elite publications were the most heavily read newspapers in a
1971-71 survey of 58 congressional leaders; 82 percent reported reading the Post
regularly and 67 percent the Times (Weiss, 1974).
The Times and Post were searched for articles published between January 31,
1971, and August 20, 1975 pertaining to passage of the 1972 Education
Amendments and passage and implementation of the bill's sex discrimination
provision (Title IX) in general or as it related specifically to athletics.
The Washington Post Index was searched for articles indexed under headings
related to athletics, education, discrimination and the major individuals and
groups involved in the debate. These articles were then examined to make
sure they focused on Title IX. Criteria used to determine this included whether
Title IX was a focus of the headline or lead or discussed in a substantial
percentage of paragraphs. The Nexis database does not include Post articles
published during the time period studied.
Both The New York Times Index and the Nexis database were used to
locate pertinent articles in the Times in the same categories as listed above.
These articles were then reviewed to make sure they met the criteria discussed
The practice of content analysis involves more than simply counting how many
times certain words or phrases appear in a text. According to Gerbner, et al.,
(1969, p. x), "The purpose of any analysis is to illuminate or to make possible
inferences about something that is not otherwise apparent." The growing
interest in qualitative analysis of media content has expanded upon this
process, providing a more holistic approach to examining news texts (Entman &
Rojecki, 1993; Barkin & Gurevitch, 1987; Dahlgren, 1982). While the traditional
quantitative approach focuses much attention on how different parts of a text
function individually, such studies "reflect...an increased awareness of the
need to employ methods that remain sensitive to the role of language in the
construction of meaning within news stories (Carragee, 1991). Viewing the text
as a whole rather than a collection of many separate parts clarifies the meaning
and significance it holds for readers. Barkin and Gurevitch (1987) write,
"Thematic analysis of media texts...is specifically concerned with narrative
patterns, the broad outlines that establish a context for determining the
significance of the elements."
Immersing oneself in a subject over an extended period of time enables the
researcher to recognize these patterns and understand the subject's many facets
and innerworkings. This in-depth study together with a solid theoretical
foundation validates the qualitative method of interpretation.
Framing analysis employs this approach by looking at how the media create
meaning out of an issue or event, define it for the public and direct discussion
about it. In determining the frame used, it is not of primary concern whether
one side or position is favored over another or whether certain positive or
negative terms are used and how often they are used. Rather, it is the
definition of the issue or event that is most important, a definition determined
by the media based on their interpretation of the situation. A qualitative
analysis steps back from the news text and looks not only at, for example, which
sources are quoted or paraphrased and how many times, but also at why those
sources were chosen or emphasized, why others were excluded or trivialized, and
what this means for the direction of the debate. This approach considers
alternative ways of looking at an issue or event and asks why the media chose
the definition they did. It explores the reasoning behind these decisions and
the effect they had on the debate. This text analysis, therefore, examines the
underlying reasons for why the media covered Title IX the way they did.
With this in mind, the articles were searched for patterns in: the focus of
headlines, leads and closings; selection of sources and placement of source
quotes; emphasis or exclusion of major arguments or information presented by the
issue's supporters and opponents; physical placement of articles within the
publications; and the selection and presentation of accompanying photographs.
It is these patterns and the themes they represent that taken together construct
the media frame. A total of 44 articles were analyzed: 19 in the Times and 25
in the Post. The first of the Times articles appeared on Feb. 9, 1974, and the
last on July 9, 1975. The Post articles spanned the period May 12, 1974, to
July 29, 1975. Details about the NCAA and NOW's positions on Title IX and the
frames employed in media coverage are discussed in the next chapter.
Some slight differences were found between the Times and the Post Title IX
coverage, but the basic findings were very similar and, therefore, they will be
The first step in identifying the media's framing of Title IX was to ask how
Title IX proponents and opponents portrayed the matter. As discussed earlier,
archival research and a review of testimony delivered before Congress supplied
The NCAA and men's collegiate athletics on Title IX
The NCAA put forth its frame of Title IX using several different arguments to
dispute HEW's interpretation of the law. These arguments can be placed into
four broad categories: financial implications, the applicability of Title IX to
athletic programs, the regulations themselves, and a history of support of
women's athletic opportunities. It was joined in these arguments by several
other male-dominated collegiate athletic groups, most prominently the AFCA.
The first category, financial implications, was the NCAA's main reason for
criticizing the Title IX regulations. The regulations would have an
"undesirable if not fatal impact upon existing college athletic programs,"
according to Executive Director Walter Byers in a June 12, 1975, memorandum to
representatives of NCAA member institutions (Walter Byers Papers). The
organization argued that revenue-producing sports, i.e., football and
basketball, are in a class by themselves and should be treated differently than
other sports (men's and women's) since they produce both money and publicity for
colleges and universities. Further, the NCAA maintained that because women's
programs did not generate revenue, they should not have to be supported to the
same degree as men's revenue-producing programs and should not expect to receive
The NCAA's second major argument was over the applicability of Title IX to
athletic programs. The organization continually asserted that athletic programs
do not receive funding directly from the federal government and, therefore, the
law clearly did not apply to them. The NCAA further argued that by applying
Title IX to athletic programs, HEW had exceeded its authority and congressional
Third, the NCAA felt that the HEW regulations themselves were too broad,
ambiguous and vague. It feared that athletic administrators at its member
institutions would not be clear as to what was and was not required regarding
the allocation of resources, financial and otherwise, for coaches, recruiting,
scholarships, facilities, etc. The NCAA feared "equal opportunities" for women
would be interpreted to mean equal expenditures, but that the regulations were
not clear on this matter.
Finally, the NCAA pointed out its support of athletic opportunities for women
in the past and the present. The organization argued that while it and its
member institutions were supportive of increasing opportunities when and where
there was interest on the part of women, women's programs should not be expected
to have handed to them in one fell swoop the rewards it took men's programs
decades of hard work to earn.
These four arguments were consistently put forth publicly and privately by the
NCAA in internal memoranda and letters, news releases, and testimony before
congressional committees. They represent Title IX as framed by the NCAA.
The Title IX position of NOW and other women's groups
NOW also approached its framing of Title IX from several different angles.
Five major ones emerged: civil rights, the value of sports and their place in
society, the applicability of Title IX to athletic programs, financial
implications, and the regulations themselves. These angles were consistent with
those used by WEAL and AIAW.
NOW saw Title IX first and foremost as a civil rights issue and looked to
interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education to
support its arguments that Title IX applied to athletic programs and that HEW
was acting appropriately in its efforts to correct patterns of discrimination
against women. "Title IX was MEANT to institute change," testified NOW
legislative director Casey Hughes on June 24, 1975. "There is no way to change
without changing" (NOW Papers).
Second, NOW stressed the value of sports to people in general, regardless of
sex, and the place sports should occupy in society. It contended that organized
sports had become too commercialized and that the basic values of athletic
activity had been forgotten. NOW also asserted that if sports were meant to be
a part of the educational experience they should be equally available to both
sexes and more students in general, and if they were not educational they did
not belong in schools.
NOW's third argument, that Title IX applied to athletic programs, was prompted
by NCAA claims to the contrary. The organization argued that federal funds
assist these programs even if only indirectly.
A fourth approach used by NOW dealt with the financial effects of Title IX and
was also a response to claims made by the NCAA and college football coaches.
NOW argued that football and basketball were actually a financial drain on other
sports and most education institutions in general. It pointed out that when
revenue was produced by sport programs it was not used to support the women's
teams that already existed. Further, the organization maintained that it should
not automatically be assumed that women's sports would not increase overall
Finally, NOW voiced concerns over the regulations themselves, claiming they
were vague and did not go far enough in guaranteeing equal athletic
opportunities for women. Still, the organization urged approval of the final
regulations, charging that sex discrimination was continuing in the absence of
regulations and HEW's consequent non-enforcement of the law.
NOW consistently took these five approaches in its campaign to implement the
athletic aspects of Title IX. They were revealed through public and private
communication via internal memoranda and letters, task force reports, news
letters, news releases, and testimony before congressional committees.
How the media framed Title IX
To analyze the media's use of these organizational frames, two mainstream
newspapers' coverage of Title IX was examined. Using the method detailed in the
previous chapter, articles printed in The New York Times and The Washington Post
dealing mainly or exclusively with the law's athletic impact were selected for
study. A majority of all Title IX articles focused on this aspect: 54 percent
of the articles in the Times and 50 percent of those in the Post. The athletic
controversy ignited media coverage of sex discrimination in education.
It was expected that the mainstream media would report the Title IX debate in a
way that favored the NCAA and its allies over women's groups. It was surprising
then that the Times and Post showed no clear favoritism to the NCAA side and, in
fact, appeared to openly support increased funding and opportunities for women
in school- and college-based athletics. It is the frame in which issues are
placed, however, rather than the actual information included in the individual
news stories that is most important in creating overall impressions of those
issues. Looking at Title IX coverage from this angle confirms the media's
support of the NCAA position. Definite themes emerge from both Times and Post
coverage that reflect the themes put forth by the NCAA. While NOW's opinion was
not totally ignored, it was essentially located within the perspective of the
The most striking impression made by stories discussing the application of
Title IX to athletics was that the regulations constituted a major challenge to
the male domination of intercollegiate athletics. Other approaches were used to
report on Title IX, but they were definitely secondary to the notion that the
regulations meant changes for male athletic programs. There were two facets to
this concept of challenge or change: 1) more women than ever before were
expected to enter into this traditional male stronghold and 2) sports such as
football might be forced to share their revenues. It was conveyed through
either simple statements that Title IX would revolutionize college sports or
cause big problems for colleges, or through discussion of the possibility or
need for an exemption for revenue-producing sports.
NOW and other women's groups attempted to portray Title IX as a means of
securing women's civil rights in the field of sports and called for a return to
the basic values of sports. The former argument came through in media coverage,
but only faintly, and the latter was virtually ignored. Another angle covered
by the media was the confusion and uncertainty felt by both sides over
administration of the regulations and the general dissatisfaction of each side
with HEW's interpretation of the law. While these areas were discussed, it was
clear the neither the Times nor the Post felt they told the real story of Title
Times and Post coverage generally announced that Title IX was a sports issue
and not a civil rights matter. The revolution expected in intercollegiate
athletics due to Title IX was the focus rather than past discriminatory
practices that led women to fight for Title IX. Because sports at colleges and
universities were dominated by men, it was obvious that men would be doing most
of the changing. In other words, for women to gain men would have to sacrifice.
The need for Title IX -- what women had faced in the past and their right to
equal treatment -- was secondary.
While some articles did focus on the concerns and arguments put forth by
women's groups and some articles were balanced or at least not blatant in their
use of this dominant frame, a pattern emerged from the examination of headlines,
leads, bodies of articles, physical placement and photographs indicating a frame
supportive of the NCAA's position. While the headlines were quite balanced and
diverse, story leads generally directed readers' attention to the NCAA's
concerns about change or harm to intercollegiate athletics as a result of Title
IX. Because the articles were written in inverted pyramid style, these leads
helped establish this frame as the dominant theme around which articles were
organized. Most sources were used to comment on this frame and articles
emphasizing it were prominently placed. Accompanying photographs often drew
attention to this frame also.
While headlines, leads and article themes framing Title IX as a threat to the
existing system or a problem for colleges and universities were typically
straightforward and strongly worded, those emphasizing discrimination or women's
rights were often ambiguous. Quotes by NCAA representatives (or football
coaches or athletic directors) usually referred to the need to exempt
revenue-producing sports or how the regulations would "destroy" intercollegiate
athletics. Criticism put forth by women's groups in the articles, on the other
hand, was usually less specific, e.g., the regulations were "too weak."
Criticism of the regulations themselves by both sides was a minor frame. Even
this frame, however, subtly supported the NCAA's arguments. By focusing on
criticism of the regulations in general, the Times and Post also drew more
attention to the controversy surrounding Title IX and away from the need for it.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
In searching for an explanation for these findings, there is no simple answer.
Several different interests intersected in Title IX.
In regard to the media's frame selection, it helps to consider the different
factors at play in Title IX. First, it involved sports, which occupy a unique
position in American society and have historically been the sole purview of men,
and it especially threatened football, perhaps the most "macho" of American
sports. Second, it pitted women against men at a time when the relationship
between the sexes was already tense and rapidly changing. Third, the debate
involved economic arguments on one side and less "scientific" arguments on the
Few parts of American culture remain unaffected by sports. There is a
connection between sports and education, religion, politics, the economy, social
class, race, gender and mass media (Eitzen & Sage, 1982; Sage, 1984). This
sports culture is communicated to the American people largely through the mass
media, a major source of information about cultural norms. The sports section
is the most popular section of newspapers and in some cases half of a paper is
devoted to sports (Eitzen & Sage, 1982). Many people "experience" sports solely
through media coverage of them, enabling the media to determine what they mean
for readers (Oriard, 1993).
The dominance of males is perhaps more pronounced in this sports culture than
anywhere else in society (Messner, 1989; Edwards, 1979). There is more to this
dominance than the fact that more men than women play and watch them. It is
ingrained in sports; it is a part of athletic tradition. The characteristics
associated with sports are traditionally those considered masculine, and female
athletes are still held up to male standards. The media help perpetuate sports'
masculine tradition by making gender comparisons and continuing to emphasize
male athletes and men's sports. This is still true today despite the huge gains
women have made thanks to Title IX. It was much more pronounced in the early
1970s when Title IX was coming into being.
Football rules this masculine world of sports. Football was regarded as
special even by Title IX supporters. Senator Bayh, a vocal proponent of the
regulations, said, during floor debate over his sex discrimination amendment,
"What we are trying to do is provide equal access for women and men
students...where there is not a unique facet such as football involved"
(Congressional Record, August 6, 1971, p. 30407).
College football is a big business, a large source of entertainment for
millions of Americans. This fact was pointed out proudly by the NCAA and
football coaches as proof of its special position in athletics and American
culture, and decried by women's groups as gross commercialization and a
departure from the basic values of sports. The mass media, especially
television, have been largely responsible for the transformation in
intercollegiate sports over the years and Oriard (1993) claims this is
especially true for football. "The late nineteenth-century daily newspaper
"created" college football to an even greater degree [than television created
professional football in the 1950s and 1960s], transforming an extracurricular
activity into a national spectacle," he said (Oriard, 1993, p. 57-58).
Football is often used as a metaphor for American masculinity. "The game is a
male preserve that manifests and symbolizes both the physical and cultural
values of masculinity," according to Arens (1975). Messner (1989) asserts that
football's popularity "is largely the result of the contorting clarity it
provides between the polarities of traditional male power, strength, and
violence and the contemporary fears of social feminization."
The Title IX debate must also be placed in historical context. Women's groups
had been fighting for equal rights on many fronts in the decade proceeding Title
IX and running into opposition on all of them. The fact that this particular
battle involved sports just heightened the controversy. Like the men
encountered on those other fronts, the NCAA had more power in terms of money and
established relationships with media organizations than did NOW and other
The media had "symbolically annihilated" (Tuchman, 1978) the women's movement
in general and did not alter its practices when it came to Title IX. They
largely neglected the efforts of women's groups to portray Title IX as a civil
rights issue and ignored their attempts to question the propriety of
commercialized sports in a school setting. Few articles focused on their
concerns and those that did were found on back pages with few photographs used
to draw attention to them. Such handling branded their arguments insignificant
and not newsworthy. In contrast, concerns voiced by the NCAA and football
coaches were emphasized. Most coverage focused on their concerns and this
coverage was placed where readers would likely see it, announcing that their
positron was what the Title IX debate was about.
Traditional ideas about what makes something newsworthy should also be
considered. Conflict is widely accepted as a "news value" (McManus, 1994;
Patterson, 1993). Such news values are so widely accepted that even when
disagreements over them occur within the news community they do not stray past
"the hegemonic boundary" (Gitlin, 1980, p. 263). This boundary is drawn through
an agreement about news values, that is, "that news involves the novel event,
not the underlying, enduring condition; the person, not the group; the visible
conflict, not the deep consensus; the fact that 'advances the story,' not the
one that explains or enlarges it (Gitlin, 1980, p. 263). This seems
particularly true of the Title IX debate. Discrimination against women in
sports had always existed. It was tacitly accepted, considered natural, and not
deemed newsworthy. An attempt to alter college football, however, drew instant
attention; it was a "novel event," going against deeply ingrained tradition.
This change in football was portrayed largely as an economic one and, in a
capitalistic society such as America, would naturally attract much attention.
Although the NCAA and NOW disputed how much money football programs actually
made, both sides acknowledged that money to increase women's athletic
opportunities might come from football. It was easy to see the conflict in this
situation and the conflict could be quantified. The numbers spoke for
The right of women to have an equal share in school-based athletics and the
idea of redefining sports, on the other hand, required more subjective reporting
and posed more problems for the media. The belief that sports belonged to men
rarely had been questioned before and until Title IX there was no widespread
call for equality on the part of girls or women.
Title IX threatened the dominant ideology of the media and society at large
regarding the meaning and place of sports in society, the relationship between
the sexes, and the definition of sports. Sports had always been a male domain,
perhaps the last "refuge" from feminine influences. Implementation of Title XI
could change this. Discrimination was not a novel event but rather a constant
state and to focus on it would go against traditional news practices. These
challenges to the dominant ideology were rebuffed in order to preserve the
status quo and the position of dominant groups -- hegemony at work. As with
coverage of female athletes, coverage of Title IX focused more on gender issues
than on athletic issues. The debate was portrayed as a conflict between men and
women rather than an attempt to increase athletic opportunities for students
regardless of gender. Men's claims to the sports world were supported without
question while women's claims were open to debate.
Significance of media frame
While the media may have criticized the imbalance of resources between men's
and women's sports, they still focused on those aspects of Title IX which most
concerned the NCAA. Discussions of women's concerns was lacking. Because
readers are left mainly with impressions rather than actual information, this
idea of Title IX as an economic issue survived. By framing the issue in a way
that focused on the NCAA's concerns and the way men's sports would be affected,
the media helped confirm the role of women in sports as that of trespasser
rather than rightful participant.
Although recently Title IX has been associated with the advent of two women's
professional basketball leagues, it is still largely thought of as the reason
many schools have dropped men's baseball and wrestling programs. For example,
the second article in a recent Post series on "Title IX at 25" was titled
"Equity Leaves Its Mark on Male Athletes" (July 7, 1997), and led with the
elimination of the men's wrestling and gymnastics programs at Syracuse
The power of the media to create a lasting frame is critical. This ability to
define an issue may have wide-ranging society effects given the importance of
mass media in disseminating cultural norms.
In addition, by framing the Title IX debate as essentially a referendum on the
future of college football, the media not only directed attention to the NCAA's
concerns, they avoided the overriding problem of discrimination on the basis of
sex in education. The media bypassed women's main concerns about the education
system and its athletic component in favor of what the male establishment saw as
most interesting. While the original goals of Title IX sponsors were achieved
by the legislation and regulations, media coverage focused on the sports aspect.
Thus, Title IX became known primarily as a sports issue and women's other
concerns regarding education were secondary.
This study provides further evidence of the power of the media to define an
issue. Employing a patriarchal frame, the New York Times and Washington Post in
the mid-1970s defined Title IX as a sports issue posing a threat to the existing
male-controlled intercollegiate athletic system. Sports permeate American
culture and reflect traditional sex roles. Women's forays into athletics
deviated from this norm. Arguments that widespread sex discrimination existed
and women's civil rights were being violated by denying them the opportunity to
participate in this system were made to appear trivial in comparison.
Inadequate coverage was afforded these matters and the coverage that did appear
was relegated to back pages. Traditional social norms of masculinity were thus
reinforced and challenges to them in the name of civil rights effectively
silenced. Masculine hegemony was maintained within the sports world and the
Would more women journalists, especially sports journalists, have made a
difference? Tuchman (1979) has argued that even if women were better
represented within the journalism profession the dominant ideology would
continue unchanged. Female editors of women's pages, for example, were found to
approach the content of women's pages much the same as their male colleagues
(Merritt & Gross, 1978). Kanter's (1977) study of men and women in corporations
found that women who achieve leadership positions often adopt traditional male
behavior. Most Post coverage studied here was written by a woman reporter and
yet it trivialized the concerns of women's groups. Her support of women's
groups should not be assumed, but it is interesting to note.
Regardless of how individual reporters covered Title IX, a frame was
established more than 20 years ago that still dominates. Once an issue is
defined, it is difficult to redefine it. Today Title IX is known as a sports
issue. The fact that it forced changes in discriminatory school admissions
policies and treatment of faculty is virtually unknown. Within athletics, Title
IX is still seen as the reason for changes made in men's intercollegiate
athletics, although it is also acknowledged as the impetus for the increasing
numbers of girls and women participating in sports. Debate over Title IX
continues today with a focus on how many wrestling and baseball teams have been
eliminated or reduced to make room for women's teams. Discrimination against
women in sports is still largely dismissed. Men still have first claim.
Following a 1997 Supreme Court decision to not hear Brown University's appeal of
a ruling requiring strict interpretation of Title IX in regard to athletics, the
headline at the top of the Post's front page read: "Court Won't Review Sports
Equity Ruling: College Women May Gain at Men's Expense" (April 22, 1997).
It would be interesting to learn whether this article is typical of current
coverage or if changes have occurred in the media's handling of Title IX. This
study is a historical examination, limited to media coverage of the creation of
Title IX in the early 1970s. A comparable study of current Title IX frames in
the media would be valuable to determine if and how coverage has changed in
subsequent years as Title IX has been incorporated into education institutions.
Given the power of the media to define and reinforce cultural norms, without a
change in their approach to women athletes, women will probably never achieve
true equality in the sports world. The impact of this dismissal and
trivialization reaches far beyond sports. As Edwards 91972) said, "No matter
how vociferous women become in their quest for human rights, until they have
succeeded in overthrowing the male domination of sports, they might as well be
running on a treadmill.
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 This period extends from 30 days before Green opened hearings through 30
days following the regulations effective date to allow for any lag in the
publication of articles and any preview or follow-up articles.
 This included athletic associations, colleges and universities,
discrimination, education, sexism, sports, sports - collegiate, women, women's
rights movement, Birch Bayh, Edith Green, John O'Hara, John Tower, Congress,
House of Representatives, House - Education and Labor Committee, Senate, Senate-
Labor and Public Welfare Committee, and Department of Health, Education, and
 Searched for articles in which the following words appeared: Title IX,
intercollegiate athletics and women, higher education and amendments, higher
education and bill, discrimination and education and sex, sex and bias and
education, Congress and education, Congress and athletics, Edith Green, John
Tower, NCAA and women, NOW and education and women, Weinberger and women, James
O'Hara, and Birch Bay and education.
 Articles appearing under the following headings were noted: education and
schools - U.S., education and schools - enrollment, education and schools -
equal education opportunities, colleges and universities - finances, colleges
and universities - discrimination, athletics - U.S., athletics - college,
athletics - interscholastic, and women.