It's been 50 years since the passage of Title IX , which prohibits gender discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding, and the new short Mink! is a reminder of how circumstances easily could have limited the scope of its impact on sports.
Mink! tells the story of the first woman of color elected to Congress, Patsy Mink , who was a key driver of of the legislation. Directed by Oscar-winner Ben Proudfoot , the Breakwater Studios short was screened earlier this week on Capitol Hill, with guests including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), as well as Naomi Osaka , who serves as one of the project's executive producers, and Mink's daughter Wendy, who is interviewed extensively for the film.
"I loved her so much. She was so eloquent and she just knew how to get the job done with a smile," Pelosi said of Mink, who represented a Hawaii congressional district. She died in 2002.
Proudfoot's Academy Award-winning documentary short The Queen of Basketball , was about Lusia Harris, a groundbreaker in women's basketball in the 1970s and the first female drafted into the NBA. When she died earlier this year, Sports Illustrated called her a "Title IX pioneer."
Title IX is credited with greatly expanding women's participation in athletics, as prohibited discrimination or denial of benefits of educational programs on the basis of sex. Much of Mink! focuses on what happened three years later, in 1975, when college athletics directors sought to exclude sports from its requirements. In July of that year, a vote came to the floor to essentially restrict enforcement of Title IX when it came to physical education. It passed by one vote. Mink missed the roll call. She had been called to the floor unexpectedly when she received word that her daughter had been involved in a serious car accident.
"That my mother was even in the hospital with me, given the stakes of what was happening in Washington, D.C., seems sort of insane to me," Wendy Mink said in the documentary.
Given what happened, then-Speaker of the House Carl Albert decided on a revote. By then, support for Title IX and athletics had grown, and the vote was 215-178.
Proudfoot said that "it was actually in a speech that Speaker Pelosi made about Patsy and her legacy after she had passed away where I had read this incredible story about this extremely dramatic collision of the personal and the political." He also said that in researching Title IX, he found a lot of evidence of the work that Mink did in spearheading the legislation and her later defense of it.
He said, "That the defining moment of one of the defense of one of her landmark pieces of legislation would coincide with probably one of the most urgent and dramatic moments she would face as a mother, and she would be …forced to choose between making what turned out to be the deciding single vote and being at her daughter's bedside, and that she would choose her daughter's bedside and then this triumphant revote. I was reading this and I just thought, 'This is a movie. No one would believe this if I told them this was true."
Production started back in April, with Wendy Mink sitting for an extended interview about her experiences. The New York Times debuted the short on June 23 , the 50th anniversary of the signing of Title IX.
"She fought the fight, even if victory was not clear, or if it seemed impossible, she still fought it," Proudfoot said. "She fought regardless of the likely outcome."
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