Posted by: Ethan | July 6, 2010

A Cause, Or a Civil Right?

I will begin by simply stating that I am not a believer in women’s, let alone any sports, as a “cause”.

Many, many instances of sports as inspiration can be found, with minimal effort, such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory by post-apartheid South Africa. I am all for it. Hell, that’s my fuel. I have long been a fool for inspiring stories wherever they might be found, and sport seems to be a treasure trove of such moments. But, I am aware that sport does not hold a monopoly on inspiration. Nor should it.

I mention this in the wake of taking some time this evening to pore over the virtual argument concerning Wendy Parker’s article titled “Why it’s time to get beyond Title IX“. One reponse came by way of the After Atalanta blog, which had this in part to say about the article:

Seriously, though. the day we get to move beyond Title IX is the day after we’ve gotten beyond patriarchy.

So in the vein of Ms.* Parker’s piece I bring you some reasons about why it might be a good idea to move beyond patriarchy–in a sporting context.

I could of course go on and on about patriarchy and things like wars, oil spills, environmental degradation, domestic and sexual violence. But there are plenty of other blogs out there for that.

That’s the sound of the wheels leaving the wagon.

To be clear, I don’t disagree that there is a such thing as sexism. I don’t disagree with the statement, “there’s no such thing as the Glass Ceiling, just a thick layer of men.” And I don’t disagree that there are people who put a high value on superficial criteria at the expense of all others.

But boiling the world’s problems down to “the Patriarchy”, while brief to type, is incorrect and insulting.

Let’s approach this from another direction. You’re un- or under-employed. You are living paycheck to paycheck. Your credit cards are maxed out and the phone has rung off the hook today with creditor calls. This clearly can only be the cause of one thing: The Illuminati!

In my view, it is as patently absurd to blame the “Illuminati” for the world’s problems as it is to blame the “Patriarchy”.

Further, it does not aid or abet the advancement of women in any capacity, sport or otherwise, to spout off a laundry list of unrelated issues (such as the treatment of “gay and queer” athletes) and trace their origin to “the Patriarchy”.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a relative newcomer to the realm of women’s athletics. I haven’t been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. I don’t have all (very few, actually) of the answers about how best to aid ailing teams, or provide more opportunities for female athletes, and by extension, females. I want to learn. I want to hear about the issues and learn about how they are being addressed, if at all. It may not be readily apparent from the tone of this article but I did review this round of blog pong objectively and without siding with anyone. As an aside, After Atalanta and Wendy Parker are the latest additions to my “information overload” link collection. We don’t make progress by closing what I have historically called the “firewall of ideas”.

What seems to be the philosophical fork in the road is the idea that women’s athletics are a cause (After Atalanta’s view, perhaps), versus a civil right (my view, among others). In short, civil rights do not guarantee that anyone will exercise them, but it is significant that they can. Example: After the Civil Rights act [blacks] gained the right to vote, however not all will in any given election.

So too with women’s athletics. I am interested in how Title IX is enforced, and to that end I think Wendy Parker is being a but narrow in her focus on the “proportionality” prong as other methods exist to comply with Title IX and are chosen at the discretion of the school. If only a single method were valid, then surely Title IX would have to be amended by court order to reflect this reality. Example: Portions of a law struck down as being unconstitutional.

On the other hand, I disagree with the assertion that Title IX is something that we have by default “gotten beyond”. Many, many schools are not Title IX compliant and have not made an effort to come into compliance. the US is a big country and Title IX isn’t something that can be magically and omnisciently enforced if say, a school in Omaha, NE (purely a made-up example) fields only male sports teams and has little or no interest in providing athletic opportunities for females. As Quentin McCall said in a comment directed to Wendy Parker,

Regarding this being a business, some would identify that as a problem given that the NCAA claims to stand behind a “principle of amateurism”. If that is the premise from which they act upon, then the goal would presumably be to support the physical, mental and social benefits of athletics irrespective of business interests. Men and women alike are entitled to those benefits as students. That’s not “activist ideology” – it’s the principle the NCAA stands for. It’s not radical to assert that as institutions of higher *education*, their goals must extend beyond “the cold realities of the business world”. The fact that we’ve now drifted into an alternate universe of skewed priorities does not mean we should suddenly abdicate them of their primary mission to educate. At the same time, the fact the we’ve drifted into an alternate universe of skewed priorities is also why we should revisit Title IX to make sure it’s properly upholding the spirit of NCAA athletics.

Being childless by choice, I have little recourse but to empathise and imagine what sort of world I would prefer to raise a child – male or female – into and what sorts of challenges I and they might face. I have concluded that the issue for me boils down to basic civil rights: If my daughter wants to play a sport, I would hope that the opportunity exists. I certainly would not appreciate a scenario where that opportunity was denied to her purely based on gender.

There is a third prong on our philosophical fork: Business, or financial. I agree here with Wendy Parker when she says that playing in a league like the WNBA or WPS is not a guarantee or a right. This is true in any sport, male or female, to my knowledge.

I disagree with the idea that in the realm of education, a sport must generate revenue to justify its existence. This is an ill-formed argument and does not withstand historical scrutiny.

I do, however, assert that whatever benefits sports are said to impart upon its participants must be universal. If we are to say that sport builds character, or encourages teamwork, or even improves critical thinking then those are the benefits, revenue be damned. And it is through that lens that I assert that everyone – male and female – ought to have access to opportunities to derive those benefits. And they are not confined solely to sport.

To blame “the Patriarchy” for the lack of these opportunities is akin to blaming “the Matriarchy” for the existence and enforcement of Title IX.

We’re all people here.


Responses

  1. I’ve spent way too much time dealing with Title IX to be told. If you look, very few people these days will argue that women deserve less of a chance at sports or substandard treatment – most argue that men don’t.

    The problem is the Feminists push that Title IX become punishment of the innocent. Instead of helping the women that were harmed, they look to exact revenge on young boys. The fact that proportionality is even on the table is a sign something has gone horribly wrong with a once great law.

    Let’s assume that proportionality is a valid test for equality – do you realize that if were applied to undergrad education that nearly 1/3 of females would be forced from schools for the simple mistake of being female? The same thing is done to males in sports

    Oh, but it’s not applied the same way in areas in which females are over represented. Think about choir. It’s completely legal to have an all female choir but not for the boys. That means in sports, the girls are allowed to play on their own teams AND the coed teams because they are underrepresented. In choir, they’re allowed to have their own teams AND coed teams because they’re over represented. Even worse, that’s for an educational class for which boys aren’t allowed an opportunity.

    Women at WSF and other places are no better than the men of the 50’s. Sexism is wrong, no matter who is the victim

    btw, as for pro sports, my kids loved the St. Louis Athletica soccer team. We went often, but they were one of the few women’s teams we’ll support. Too many cater exclusively to girls so my son decided he had no interest in watching other women’s teams in places we lived if they had no interest in him as a fan. You don’t see male pro teams banning girls from events. It’s a shame that the Athletica folded. THEY did a good job being positive female role models for both boys and girls.

  2. Oh, but it’s not applied the same way in areas in which females are over represented. Think about choir. It’s completely legal to have an all female choir but not for the boys. That means in sports, the girls are allowed to play on their own teams AND the coed teams because they are underrepresented. In choir, they’re allowed to have their own teams AND coed teams because they’re over represented. Even worse, that’s for an educational class for which boys aren’t allowed an opportunity.
    +1


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