Monday, June 25, 2012

Enough about Title IX

I'm going to play grumpy old man this morning. Here is is. If I hear another creepy paen to Title IX, I may never watch the WNBA again.

This would, of course, be a symbolic boycott because I have never watched it to begin with, but you get the point.

It's not that I am "against" women in athletics. When my niece's soccer team at Homestead High School won the state championship a few years back (she scored the winning goal in the semis!), it was about the neatest thing ever. One of our greatest national athletic accomplishments was the victory of the American women in the World Cup. We rightly remember Kerri Strug's courageous performance to put the Magnicent Seven over the top at the 1996 Olympics as one of those moments that represents what is ennobling about sports. (Hint: This is why I am only offering to boycott a women's sport that I have never watched.)

I may even concede that a law like Title IX was necessary. I remember 1972. It was a difference place.

But does anyone think that today's colleges and universities - those hotbeds of diversity mongering and celebration of the "other" (at least as defined by Progressive Orthodoxy) - would not provide equal opportunity to women? Does anyone believe that the parents who turn the logistics of girls soccer and softball into something resembling a weekly invasion of Normandy would sit by while their daughters are forced to the sideline? We see things differently in 2012.

Maybe Title IX contributed to this shift in attitudes, but I wouldn't assume it. In my opinion, evolving social attitudes create legal obligations and not the other way around.

Today, Title IX seems both unnecessary and potentially harmful. harmful. As a case in point, take UWM Athletic Director Andy Geiger. He says he's a great fan of Title IX but here's the thing. He doesn't need the federal government to force him to provide equal opportunity to women athletes. He can do it on his own and I suspect, if left to his own devices, he would do just that with the full support of the university.

And it is Geiger himself who illustrates why Title IX can be harmful. Federal enforcement of the law (as opposed to the language of the law itself) has insisted that women participate in the same proportion as their representation in the student body. Why anyone believes this would "naturally" be the case is beyond me. There is a a difference between recognizing that individual men and women ought to be free to make their own choices and the assumption that men and women, in the aggregate, will actually make the same choices. In the real world, this is often not the case.

But getting the numbers right is pretty much the only way to stay out of legal trouble.

This is why, according to Geiger, college football is off the table at UWM. I suspect that folks over at Marquette would say the same thing.

Whether or not UWM should have a football program is unclear. On the positive side, a football program is attractive to applicants and might arguably contribute to  a stronger "collegiate" atmosphere than is currently present there. It would raise the profile of an institution that has traditionally not had much of a profile. On the other hand, there would be a number of challenges  that might be beyond the capacity of the university to overcome. There is no place to play and UWM students do not have a tradition of strong loyalty towards or affection for the institution. In fact, it is the absence of such affiniity that a football program would be designed to overcome.

But the one thing that ought not to bear upon the decision to start such a program is whether or not there will be some formal equality between the number of male and female athletes. Devoting additional resources to a football program is unlikely to decrease opportunities for women who would otherwise participate in intercollegiate athletics.

We all believe that women should have the opportunity to participate in interscholastic sports. But, at least in 2012, Title IX no longer has much to do with providing that opportunity and the mechanistic way in which it is enforced does more harm than good.

So please. ESPN. Go back to showing the games and shouting "booyah" when someone makes a great play. Editorial is not your strength.

Cross posted at Shark and Shepherd home page.


Mark said...

Title IX seems to be about creating equality by reducing the opportunities for males. Marquette has faced that fact years ago when the wrestling team was disbanded. In doing so, it equalized the numbers of men vs. women in athletics, but did nothing to create more opportunities for the women.

Anonymous said...

"So please. ESPN. Go back to showing the games and shouting "booyah" when someone makes a great play. Editorial is not your strength."

Outside The Lines, ESPN360...obviously the Professor has no idea about the editorial prowess of this cable giant.

"Maybe Title IX contributed to this shift in attitudes, but I wouldn't assume it. In my opinion, evolving social attitudes create legal obligations and not the other way around."

I was around also in 1972. Colleges and universities had been dragging their feet when it came to provide equal opportunities for females. Title IX helped to facilitate that change in attitude. Minimize all you want its impact, but its affect was monumental.