Last week, a Bush administration athletic commission voted to ask the U.S. Department of Education to use methods other than quotas to prevent sex discrimination on college and university campuses with regard to women’s athletic programs. As expected, feminists recoiled, vehemently decrying the decision as devastating to women and girls and setting back women’s rights.
The section of a federal law that mandates equal academic opportunities, including athletics, for women Title IX has proved not only to be a source of contention for women and men since it first took effect in 1972, but it has also sparked a lawsuit.
Title IX is typically enforced using proportionality, or a quota system meaning women’s access to sports must be equal to their enrollment numbers. So if a school’s enrollment is 50 percent women, then 50 percent of its athletes must also be women.
Indeed, women have definitely benefited from Title IX. One need only think back to 1996, when the USA Olympic women’s teams swept gold medals in gymnastics, synchronized swimming, basketball, softball and soccer. Coaches and athletes alike praised Title IX for giving them access to compete.
And it wasn’t just female Olympians on the rise. In 1972, approximately 32,000 women participated in college sports. Today, estimates by the Government Accountability Office indicate that number has climbed to some 163,000 women participating in college sports.
Yet for all the ambitious strides made in women’s athletics, many contend that men’s sports programs have been the whipping boy.
To achieve proportionality not to mention budget restrictions and staffing requirements colleges have been forced to shut down hundreds of men’s athletic programs, including 90 men’s track programs and 434 college wrestling programs. (A few programs shut down were not a result of Title IX.) Even Marquette University’s successful wrestling program, funded solely by private donations, was forced to shut down. Men’s swim teams have disbanded, as well as men’s golf and gymnastics teams. Today, only 20 men’s college gymnastics teams remain in the country.
These are the very casualties that have prompted the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics to ask the Department of Education to use something other than quotas for Title IX.
Feminists are livid.
“In the best Orwellian tradition, the Bush Administration is trying to convince us that left is right, up is down, war is peace and that [it]cares about women’s equal participation in sports,” said Terry O’Neill on the National Organization for Women’s website. “George W. Bush has mounted a double-barreled assault on Title IX”
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal called the commission’s recommendations a “stealth attack” on Title IX.
And Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center took an equally repugnant tone, stating on their website that the commission’s decision “is not only outrageous, but insulting to women and girls and their fathers and brothers across the country.”
Men’s groups do not view Title IX as a battle of the sexes. Rather, they see it as a useful strategy tremendously in need of reform before it causes the wholesale elimination of men’s collegiate teams.
“We don’t dispute that women were discriminated against 30 years ago,” said Mike Moyer, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). But “a lot has changed. We want to seek a more fair interpretation that protects women without harming men.”
The NWCA filed a lawsuit against the Education Department last year to challenge the notion that undergraduate enrollment is an appropriate measure of interest for participation in college sports. Moyer points to intramural sports, driven solely by interest, as a key example. There is no recruiting, advertising or money involved. Yet 78 percent of male students sign up to participate compared to only 22 percent of female students.
Instead of quotas, Moyer suggests using high school participation rates, conducting interest surveys in conjunction with the SAT exam, and looking at demographics on college campuses.
“Anything the [Education] Department does would be better than what’s in place now,” said Moyer. “It can’t be any worse.”
Feminist groups like NOW and the National Women’s Law Center are not satisfied. They see Title IX as a civil rights issue. Rather than acknowledge the need for reform, they’ve chosen to dig in their heels, whip out their war talk and demand the quota system remain.
They lambast the evils of “sex discrimination” and hold fast to “equal opportunity,” yet they fail to admit that men have not only suffered, but also have been emasculated by Title IX.
It’s almost as if the feminists would want it that way.
Indeed, their ad hominem outcry is really just the Marxist argument of class struggle, where man is the oppressor and woman is the oppressed, shielded in lipstick and talk of “equal opportunity.”
Feminists do not really believe that equality exists for men’s and women’s sports, only that someone must be on top. And for feminists, that someone must always be a woman.
NOW was contacted for this article but had no comment.