The Commission for Opportunity in Athletics, appointed by the Bush Administration to examine Title IX, will meet in Washington, DC, on January 29 and 30. At the meeting, originally scheduled for January 8, the Commission will vote on sweeping and debilitating changes to Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 as it applies to athletics. The Commission has scheduled the release of its report for February 28.
Title IX, which prohibits education institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender, has dramatically increased opportunities in athletics for women and girls. In 1972, fewer than 300,000 girls played high school sports. Now, 2.7 million girls participate in such teams, according to the Department of Education. Feminist groups across the country are calling for the Commission, largely composed of Title IX opponents, to leave Title IX untouched. “Make no mistake: Title IX is a civil rights issue, and while women’s participation in athletics is critical for its own sake, the [Bush] Administration’s actions in this context will have repercussions for fundamental civil rights principles as a whole,” said Jacqueline Woods, president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in a press statement.
“Title IX must be kept intact and enforcement must be stepped up,” agreed Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Title IX is the reason women and girls have made dramatic advances in athletics, but we are not at equality yet. President Bush must not turn back the clock on women’s rights by weakening Title IX.”
Members of the Commission appear to believe that women are inherently less interested in sports than men and that women deserve fewer resources than men. The history of Title IX, however, shows that the more opportunities women get, the more they will play. “It is lack of opportunity, not interest that keeps the number of women athletes down,” Smeal said.
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