On its anniversary, a Title IX debate

It started this morning when Wendy Parker of Blue Star Basketball stated that we should all be beyond Title IX:

But there’s another side to its legacy that threatens to tarnish the positive effects and cloud the challenges facing a more globalized women’s athletics landscape. Ever since the mid-1990s, when Title IX activists began pushing for proportionality — something they deny, of course — the women’s sports movement has veered away from the noble intent of the law, and away from embracing any reasonable definition of fairness for young athletes of both genders.

I’m not alone in this assertion, and those of us who are critical of what has happened do not oppose Title IX, but rather the claims, tactics and objectives of its most dogmatic defenders. In my mind, these activists have badly damaged the embrace of women’s sports as much as any rank misogynist.

The Title IX blog struck back with “mythbusters”:

Myth: Title IX’s proportionality requirement causes schools to cut men’s sports.

Fact: Title IX gives schools three ways to demonstrate requirement with the law’s requirement for equity in the distribution of athletic opportunities, one of which is proportionality. Basically, the three prongs work to protect women’s sports from being cut when women are the underrepresented sex. Under Title IX, it’s not necessarily unlawful for one sex (almost always men) to have more opportunities than another sex. All Title IX says with regard to cutting opportunities is that schools can’t cut from the sex that had fewer opportunities to begin with. If there was a proportional distribution of opportunities, then Title IX would have no effect on a school’s decision on which teams to cut. It could cut women’s swimming and spare men’s wrestling. What puts schools in the position of only being able to cut men’s teams is the act of favored men with athletic opportunities all along.

Helen of the womenshoopsblog also disagreed with Parker, as did Q McCall of swishappeal.

I agree with Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, who says it’s the same conversation 38 years later:

Yet, despite the many doors that this remarkable law has opened, we are still having many of the same conversations that we did almost 40 years ago, especially in the realm of athletics.

Anyone who has tried to teach physical education in schools or coach athletics knows that the boys still rule. There’s no way in hell we’re ready to get rid of Title IX – we may never be able to do that. “Glory Road” was based on an extremely racist situation in 1966, and racism still exists today. The same is true of sexism.

Wendy Parker makes some great points in her piece. There will always be people who try to manipulate circumstances to their benefit. But Title IX is still very necessary.

Happy anniversary.


  1. Sue, I've never suggested to get rid of Title IX — far from it. The law as passed by Congress in 1972 is fine and has been a raging success for women in education. The sports policy implemented by HEW in 1979 reflected a very different environment for females in scholastic sports than exists now.

    It's time to overhaul those regulations to reflect the new reality, and better spend time, money and emotional energy on enhancing sports for girls and women in areas where Title IX doesn't apply. It is in those venues where activism and mobilization is needed the most.

  2. I have to say, I'm far from feminist and generally not one to get behind "legislating fairness." I was however, the fortunate beneficiary of Title IX (though oblivious to it at the time)and it changed my life. Having played ball in the late 70's/early 80's, the increased attention, top notch coaching and additional funding for uniforms, equipment and practice time in the "boys gym" (ehem… "Big Gym"), made my generation of young women who participated confident, goal oriented, focused and capable.

    Our Ladycat program at Brea-Olinda HS became what it is because of the opportunities provided by Title IX and the administrators who embraced it's spirit instead of fighting it. I still see my teammates and coach Mark Trakh now, 25 years after graduating. And, though few of us went on to play in college, every one of us benefits to this day from the life lessons that competitive athletics teaches.

    As a parent of a competitive athlete (a daughter/a diver) I wonder where she'd be had I not been encouraged to play ball, and been infused with the lessons that boys had been learning all along about tenacity, giving all you've got, competing fiercely for the honor of your team (I could go on). I'd be a different parent, wife and businessperson for sure.

  3. I've been meaning to get on here all weekend and say to Wendy Parker: if that's the way you feel about it, the title of your piece – "Beyond Title IX" didn't serve you. "Beyond" implies that you think we should be past needing Title IX anymore, and that's the impression I took from it. If indeed you want to just change Title IX and not abolish it, I would have got another headline.

    Marcy Musselman, that's a great testimony. I'm also extremely grateful day after day – when the girls and boys teams coordinate use of the big gym, for example – that I wasn't born in the generation that didn't get to access Title IX. I would have gone insane.