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Title IX: Why can’t we all just get along?

August 7, 2011 – 6:15 PM

By Laura Pappano

Back in April, a NYTimes/CBS News poll found that – surprise! – men and women place nearly identical value on sports opportunities for girls in high school.

Asked how important sports were for girls, 68% of men and 74% of women answered “very.” Asked about relative opportunities for girls and boys, 47% of both sexes felt girls and boys had the “same” opportunity and slightly more women — 49% vs. 45% of men – believed girls had “less” opportunity.

Both sexes, in other words, see pretty much eye to eye. They value girls’ access and recognize that it may be short of where it needs to be. If this is so, why does Title IX remain such a battlefield?


  1. It’s hard to legislate cultural change. Title IX was meant to combat sexism that kept females from access to equal educational opportunities, from science classes to sports teams. The regulations, however, created a complicated web of compliance rules that require experts to interpret, keeping the average citizen from engaging around the issue of gender equity in sports. Combating unfairness has become the work of lawyers, with compliance being more about paperwork manipulation than ensuring fair play. It allows for institutional obfuscation and game-playing.
  2. Title IX has become code for “Feminist Aggression.” Title IX has been portrayed as an extremist feminist weapon, a tool for taking away boy’s sports teams (rather than blaming huge football budgets), and forcing an “unnatural” level of support for female athletes. Lawsuits – by the National Women’s Law Center in November and recently by the American Sports Council – have become a form of gamesmanship (the American Sports Council claims it has a novel new legal claim never before used to battle the proportionality rule!). Instead of seeking fairness, we’re seeking wins.
  3. The Persistent Myth that Women Don’t Really Like Sports as Much as Men (and they aren’t as good anyhow, so why provide the same support?) At every level, from recreational to professional, there’s belief that women are less interested and less deserving. The pervasive negative messages feed girls’ self-doubt at young ages, spurring self-censorship, and the inclination to take themselves out of contention or participation in a sport before they can face imagined rejection. It is not enough to “allow” girls to play – whether it’s Little League Baseball or soccer at recess – they must be encouraged. The result of this perceptual imbalance? The sense that “interested” boys are being denied by “uninterested” girls. This feeds a false narrative that fairness is being “forced” where it doesn’t belong.

Unfortunately, Title IX is a rough tool for the task of changing hearts, minds, and attitudes. The Women’s World Cup made a potent dent in the perception of women’s athletics as “less than.” Many males sports fans were stunned to find themselves interested and entertained by a women’s sporting event (gasp!!).

The law– and labyrinthine regulations – guarantee a protracted battle. If only common sense and fairness could actually rule. But that would require seeing female and male athletes as equals.


  1. 5 Responses to “Title IX: Why can’t we all just get along?”

  2. leave football out of it and we’re even.

    football is far too exclusive a sport to be included in any conversation of equality. even most boys can’t play it.

    By mcjack on Aug 8, 2011

  3. A couple of points:

    @mcjack: Football isn’t the problem. The use of quotas to enforce Title IX isn’t the problem. Why should male athletes be punished because they like to play football? And as for your contention that most boys can’t play football, how can you explain why it’s the most popular sport for boys in American high schools in terms of raw participatns? Don’t believe me, check out the the data from the NFHS:


    As for the opinion data on Title IX, I suggest the author takes a look at a more recent Rasmussen poll. That survey found that while a slim majority of respondents support Title IX (50%) — and the ASC supports the law as written — a far larger majority oppose the use of proportionality to enforce the law:


    After almost 40 years on the books, Title IX has been turned completely on its head. Instead of promoting equal opportunity, Title IX enforcement has devolved into a discrimination machine that treats male athletes as second class citizens and makes a mockery of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

    By American Sports Council on Aug 9, 2011

  4. the problem is that Title IX was intended to bring fairness to high school and collegiate sports but is sometimes used for for reverse discrimination by some with an agenda when there are not enough women to have enough sports teams in a school.

    That has caused a few schools to lose income from sporting events and students to lose scholarships when their teams were put out of business for reasons of ‘equality’.

    in a perfect world there would be men and women on the same team but the world is not pefect and the WNBA for example still can’t survive without subsidies from the NBA.

    Womens sports are as much fun to watch and more interesting, but for some reason they have not caught the fancy of the public as of yet

    By Jim on Aug 10, 2011

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