Women have come long way

In our little country school we had basketball goals on a dirt lot, and girls and boys played together, choosing up teams. In fact, I don’t remember any discussions at all about boys and girls competing together in sports. We all learned not to dribble the basketball in the goatheads and other sticker weeds if we wanted it to hold air. We also learned not to worry if the ball landed on a rock and flew out of bounds.

This was in the 1950s, the time the “education gurus” decided to consolidate the small rural school districts into mega schools, and bus the students however far to the so-called central schools. Supposedly, it was to provide more opportunities to the students, but the real reason, in my opinion, was to save money.

The unintended consequences were the deaths of many rural communities. The schools had been their lifeblood.

The consolidated high schools’ sports separated boys and girls. Boys had teams that played other towns, but girls could play basketball only in intramural games, and under girls’ rules: no crossing the center court line, no dribbling more than three steps and I forget what else, the idea being (I assume) girls shouldn’t run too much. I hated it.

Our consolidated high school’s vocational agriculture teacher absolutely didn’t allow girls in his agriculture classes. My brother and I both loved everything involving animal agriculture, but he could take those classes and I couldn’t. I hated that, too.

Girls were allowed to be FFA Sweethearts (one special girl each school year) but membership in FFA was not permitted. Although a few states granted membership to girls in the early 1960s, the national organization’s rules were not amended to allow girls membership and officer rights until 1969.

Today, the National FFA Organization has more than 450,000 members. Women make up 35 percent of the membership and 47 percent of the leadership.

Beyond FFA girls in those days were forced to live under other arcane rules as well. My grandchildren stare at me in disbelief when I tell them my high school days included girls never wearing pants to school. We had to wear dresses. You can guess my opinion of that rule.

Long after my high school days came Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in education.

I admit I tended toward the “women’s lib” point of view in those days, but as I consider all that from my “older” vantage point I realize that particular movement had unintended consequences as well.

Some say women’s liberation actually turned out to be men’s liberation. A guy can live with a woman, they can have children together. He has a live-in laundress/housekeeper, but there’s nothing to keep him from simply leaving one day. She has all the duties of a wife, but none of the protections.

I’m thankful the REAL cowboys I know never bought into that “let the woman do it herself” mentality. They view man/woman relations as partnerships. After all, that’s the way life is on the farm or ranch.