It’s no secret that women’s sports are a big deal at Santa Clara University. From basketball to volleyball, crew to cross country, softball to soccer, Santa Clara women have made their reputation regionally, nationally, and internationally.
But imagine, if you will, a country where only one in 27 school-age girls plays sports, where women are discouraged from exploring their mental and physical capabilities through athletics, a country where muscle and sweat are ofen deemed (ahem) unladylike. That country would be the United States, circa 1972, when Congress passed Title IX, a law that effectively mandated equal opportunity for females in schools.
One of the law’s most radical effects was opening up the playing field to everyone. A generation of women has come of age under this law, and old stereotypes about women in sports have fallen away. So this fall, the de Saisset Museum is hosting the exhibit “Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?”—a collection of photographs and personal stories that documents the tremendous impact that sports has on the lives of millions of girls and women. With contemporary photojournalists, as well as Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe behind the camera, the exhibit captures the images and stories of top athletes and Little League players alike.
The exhibit opens with a special reception on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m., with Santa Clara soccer star and special guest Brandi Chastain, and runs through Dec. 9. “This exhibit identifies the important role women and girls have made in sports, with the lens focused on the physical and emotional aspects,” says Rebecca Schapp, director of the de Saisset. “Game Face” premiered at the Smithsonian Institution, and the de Saisset is the only venue in Northern California where you can see it.