Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major

Literacy and Schooling

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


In 1976, four years after the Title IX act was passed by the Federal Government, a group of female rowers at Yale University attempted to reveal the university's discriminatory practices toward their team. On March 3, 1976, team captain, Chris Ernst, secured an appointment with the assistant athletic director Joni Barnett. Members of the Yale Women's Crew filed silently into the athletic director's office wearing sweats that said "Yale Women's Crew," then stripped to the waist, revealing the words "Title IX" written on their bare chests and backs. Chris Ernst read a 300-word statement (New York Times, 3/4/76) while a New York Times reporter took notes. Using archival data and the 1999 film, A Hero For Daisy , by Mary Mazzio which documents the Title IX protest at Yale University, I explore the rhetorical moves these women used when the conventional modes of address failed them. I identify and analyze the rhetorical tactics they used in order to contest the dominant ideologies about female athletes and to make a claim about the ways the university was discriminating against them by "exploiting their bodies" (Ernst in Mazzio, 1999). Through this study, I draw on feminist studies, philosophy, composition studies and curriculum theory to pursue a set of concerns related to my work as an educator. What lessons does an exploration of the rhetorical tactics used by the women in this event offer educators committed to educational equity? How can we return subjectivity to curriculum studies, to research in education and to history? In particular, I am concerned with situations where issues of injustice go unrecognized and unaddressed because of the way that oppression is embedded into the available language and forms. I explore the ways historical and present power structures maintain narratives that "preclude a genuine public discussion that might advance the cause of justice" (Kastely, 1997). This dissertation is not an argument in the rational empiricist tradition; the trajectory of the work may not be clearly linear, nor clearly located in a disciplinary or theoretical territory. Like the rower, this research takes a path that is defined, but not definite.