Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lessons From Another Title IX Article That's All About Male Athletes

While it is true that there are issues with the way Title IX is administered, an unfortunate trend among those who insist that women and girls are inherently not cut out for sports like how men are, is to write articles lamenting all of the losses that Title IX has caused male athletes while ignoring all of the gains it has meant for women.

In an article that recycles the arguments Phyllis Schlafly has been making for decades, Jessica Custer writes:

"Title IX consistently ignores gender differences between men and woman by blindly advocating for equality that actually limits opportunities for student athletes in the long run. Male wrestling teams and male gymnastics have been nearly eliminated to 'equal' the playing field for women’s sports teams. In 1969, there were 230 collegiate male gymnastics programs; today there are 20. North Carolina does not offer a single collegiate male gymnastics program."

From this paragraph, we learn patriarchy's first lesson about Title IX. Men are so entitled to athletic opportunity that all of the gains that women have made in sports since Title IX count for nothing in light of the "harm" done to male athletes and their sports programs. In fact, all of these gains with respect to Lady Athletes need not even be mentioned. All that matters is that men have "lost" something.

This lesson is a nice segue into the second lesson.

For, Custer then talks about how the University of North Carolina-Charlotte is contemplating adding a football program and she further concernedly mentions that "no one" seems to be talking about the Title IX compliance costs that will be associated with this new sports program. After itemizing the projected cost of a $45 million football stadium, an increased activity fee for students, and the $6 million dollar annual fee that this new football program would entail, Custer finds a peculiar cost with which to take issue:

"Federal Title IX regulations require gender equity for men and women in every education program or activity that receives federal funding, including athletics. Thus, UNCC adding 63 male scholarships could require an additional 63 female athletic scholarships."

Note, she doesn't question the soundness or appropriateness of building the boys a multi-million dollar football stadium, of burdening even non-sporty students with an increased activity fee, or of funding a small army of football coaches/staff. Nope. No sir. She takes issue with the school having to help additional Lady Athletes pay for college in the same numbers that it helps Real Athletes (ie- men) pay for college.

And that gives us Lesson 2: Because of "innate gender differences," male athletes are entitled to a Whole Bunch, whilst female athletes are not even entitled to equality.

Other than the sickening entitlement and disturbing male-centrism that Custer's "criticism" of Title IX display, the other glaring problem is that it is based entirely on the unsubstantiated assumption that women and girls are less interested in sports than are men and boys, and that this alleged relative lack of interest is biologically determined and not culturally learned.

So, on many levels, this article is sad. Although the reinforcement of being a Lady Who Isn't a Bitch Like The Feminists must be nice, I strongly doubt that patriarchal pats on the head are worth completely discounting the experiences of every female athlete, coach, and fan who has in some way benefited from Title IX as though these experiences do not at all matter in light of the merest suggestion that a football (or wrestling, or gymnastics) program might be in some way compromised.

The historical picture in my head is of an archaic father, hoarding all of a family's food- appetizers, sumptuous dinners, delicious desserts- and divvying it out only amongst the boys. He reasons that the crumbs that trickle off the boys' table are good enough for the girls, who aren't that hungry anyway. When the constable comes and notes that boys are getting rather chubby and the girls are skin and bones, she orders the father to share the food more equally. With a grumble, he does so, but not without mentioning, every chance he gets, how sad and unfair it is that the boys no longer get to have all of the dessert for themselves.

While there is something "sad" about that, perhaps, as the boys themselves did nothing wrong and were culturally trained to be entitled to more, I am ultimately less sympathetic about their plight than I am about that of the girls, who grew up believing the lie that they deserved less than boys, and that this was just a law of nature.

Equality doesn't mean that some people get to be "more equal" than others until those who are "more equal" decide to share with everyone else.

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