A draft of the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics’ report on Title IX, published in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ignores the continuing lack of participation opportunities and funding that women’s and girls’ athletics face in favor of recommendations that will increase males’ participation in athletics. Title IX is the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education, including athletic programs. The Chronicle also reports that “the report also uses language to describe how gender-equity guidelines have evolved that is very similar to language contained in a lawsuit filed against the Education Department by associations of coaches of men’s sports like wrestling and swimming.”
The Commission suggested several sweeping changes to Title IX enforcement that will effectively eviscerate the gains women and girls have made in athletics. One recommendation, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, will result in the loss of thousands of participation opportunities for women in college and hundreds of thousands of opportunities for young women in high school. The Commission supported forcing women and girls to show that they are interested in sports before they are given the opportunity to play. The history of Title IX, however, clearly shows that it is lack of opportunity that limits the participation of women and girls in sports, not lack of interest. If given the chance, women and girls will play. Since Title IX, the number of young women participating in college sports has increased 400 percent and the number of young women participating in high school sports has increased 800 percent. Despite 30 years of struggle, women and girls are still not equal. Women and girls still have fewer athletic participation opportunities then men, receive less funding, receive less recruitment money, and are given inferior facilities.
Moreover, the Commission’s decision to endorse men’s sports over women’s rests on the stereotypical belief that men are more naturally interested in sports and thus deserve more opportunities and resources. The same lack of interest and talent arguments were used to keep women out of higher education, math classes, and science classes. If its recommendations are accepted, the Commission’s government-sanctioned discrimination could spread throughout education.
The Commission’s report will be officially presented to the Department of Education on Wednesday.
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