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Gender Inequality in Sports



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Title IX:
Gender Equity - Champion or Foe?

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is a perfect example of well-intended legislation looking beyond the mark. There is no denying the pervasive impact that Title IX has had on gender equity in the United States. I believe that this impact has been extremely positive in regards to academics. However, I do not believe that this impact has been equally positive in regards to collegiate athletics. Although both men and women can be found in virtually all academic circles, such is not the case with athletics, particularly such sports as football and wrestling. Thus, it is unfeasible to support the notion that the principles embodied by Title IX can be equally applied to both arenas.
According to a website entitled "Gender Equity in Sports," the base principle behind Title IX states:
"No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."
My first encounter with this phenomenon came through a highschool friend. This particular friend had played soccer in high school and wanted to continue his participation in the sport in college. Upon admittance to the University of Utah, he was disappointed to discover that the men's soccer program had been discontinued and existed as a simple club team. The university had disbanded its men's soccer program in order to comply with Title IX stipulations. My friend explained to me that in order for a college to comply with Title IX, it must offer the same number of athletic scholarships to both men and women.
I do not understand how getting rid of a popular and productive collegiate program can support the cause of gender equity. I am in complete agreeance that gender equity in regards to issues such as college admissions or employment is all well and good, but I fail to see how such equity can equally apply to the realm of collegiate sports. After all, women do not generally participate in all sports at the college level, particularly sports such as football and wrestling. These two sports alone can account for well over 50 athletic scholarships offered by any particular university or college. In the case of my friend, the University of Utah decided to disband their men's soccer team in order to help balance the number of athletic scholarships they had to offer to both genders. Now the university has a women's soccer team, but no men's team. Could not this be regarded as being equally discriminatory?
The most apparent factor of controversies regarding Title IX is the selective nature of the evidence that both sides of the debate present in their arguments. In a project conducted by a student at Stanford University, this point is illustrated quite effectively. It states the following:
". . .one of the things that makes the Title IX controversies so interesting is that they so clearly reveal the assumption it has become virtual orthodoxy on the left that disparities = discrimination, that fairness requires perfectly proportional representation."

In a press release on June 18, 2002, the NWLC (National Women's Law Center) asserted that 30 years after the inception of Title IX, "young women are still being short changed." The release cited an investigation that allegedly uncovered a $6.5 million athletic scholarship gap for women at 30 colleges and universities across the country.
One of these disparities was cited at the University of Wisconsin. By spring of 2000, the gender ratio in the athletic department at the university was 429 males to 425 female athletes. While this ratio may appear to have reached an equity of proportions, the university was still censored by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights because women were the majority on their campus, and thus, the number of female athletes did not proportionally represent the number of female students enrolled at the university.
The University of Wisconsin example is a perfect portrayal of why Title IX cannot be equitably applied to athletics. The proponents and enforcers of the amendment, in this case the OCR, were quick to point out that the university was not technically in full compliance with the regulations. However, the Rosenbergs (Discrimination Project - Stanford University, see footnote 3) turn the tables in pointing out that one very important factor in this example is ignored. The majority of students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin were women. Thus, the site asks the question, "Why is the under representation' of men, the male student gap, at Wisconsin and elsewhere not an even more egregious violation?" I found this to be an excellent question.
To sum up its argument, the Rosenberg project poses the question, "Wouldn't it make more sense to return to an understanding of discrimination that requires at least a modicum of intent and thus to abandon the assumption that disparities = discrimination? (Answer: yes)."
Having analyzed positions from both parties relating to this issue, I agree with this inquiry. Upon investigation, disparities will always arise, because fewer women participate in collegiate sports. Although I agree with the principles of Title IX in its intent to foster gender equity in academics, I do not believe that it can be equitably applied to the realm of collegiate athletics, and I would even go so far as to say that it serves to legally enforce the very bias that it was intended to eradicate.



Annotated Bibliography:

Curtis, Dr. Mary C., and Grant, Dr. Christine H.B. "Gender Equity in Sports." Website: http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/ge/. Ongoing project of the Women's Athletic Department, University of Iowa.
This is an ongoing project that is maintained for use by the general public by the Women's Athletic Department of the University of Iowa. It is a good resource in that it provides general information about Title IX and also links to updates and information regarding many different aspects of Title IX as it applies to Gender Equity in Sports. It also provides information about past decisions and implementation of Title IX in various settings.

Rosenberg, John, and Jessie Rosenberg. "More on Title IX: We." Discriminations June 23, 2002. Website: http://www.discriminations.us/storage/001331.html.
This is a project put together by a graduate student, John Rosenberg, from Stanford University and Jessie Rosenberg, presumably his daughter. This source provides an objective perspective on Title IX and discrimination in general. It is useful for its analyses of various proponents and opponents of Title IX.

National Women's Law Center. "Just Days Before the 30th Anniversary of Title IX," June 18, 2002 - National Women's Law Center Press Release. Website: http://www.nwlc.org/details.cfm?id=1143§ion=newsroom.
This is a press release article that outlined the discovery of a $6.5 million athletic scholarship gap for women at 30 colleges and universities across the country. It is a source that serves to summarize the pro-Title IX position. The NWLC is dedicated to expanding the possibilities and opportunities for women by working to ensure the enforcement of Title IX regulations.

More about this author: Matt Mortensen

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