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home : readerswrite : onyourmind May 29, 2016

'Grappling Girls'
"Isn't that a mark of success ... when no one considers it remarkable?"

by Lisa Blackstone

I am very fortunate to have come of age in a post-Title IX era. For all of my growing up years, Title IX meant little to me, probably like most kids. We played kickball and other playground games. I don't remember doing anything athletic in junior high. My school must have offered teams but I definitely don't recall them.

When I got to high school, my mom insisted that I HAD to take a sport of some kind. I am not a joiner by nature so the idea of joining a team was not even close to enticing. I settled on running cross country and, surprise, surprise, I actually liked it. It never occurred to me that less than a decade before the girls at my school might not have been able to participate in competitive sports. By 1979 it was no big deal. Isn't that a mark of success ... when no one considers it remarkable? When what once generated many column inches both pro and con is the new normal?

Imagine my surprise then when 25 years later I found myself in a world where Title IX was still talked about in strained and occasionally strident voices. This is today's world of girls' and women's competitive wrestling. You know, high-school wrestling. College wrestling. Olympic wrestling. Not the Jello or WWE Diva kind.

I fell into this world after seeing a photo several years ago in the Minnesota Women's Press of two girls on the mat wrestling each other with fierce determination. My curiosity was piqued. I decided to make a documentary about the women and the sport. And in the process I've become acquainted with Title IX.


Title IX has made it possible for girls and women to wrestle in school. Unfortunately, Title IX, and by extension girls' and women's wrestling, is often blamed for diminishing some boys' and men's sports. The reality is that the big dollar sports of football and basketball are what impact other men's sports.

Women's and girls' wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports. Some in the wrestling world even think that women in wrestling will be an overall boon for the sport. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Nevertheless, most girls who wrestle don't really think about Title IX. All they want to do is get on the mat and fight like the warriors they are. And isn't that the way it should be?

Lisa Blackstone's short film, "Grappling Girls," has screened across the country in the LUNAFEST film festival. She is currently working on the long version film. She lives in Minneapolis.


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