Tuesday, January 23, 2007


A columnist in The Daily Evergreen, the college paper at Washington State, recently (and seemingly apropos of nothing in particular) went off on Title IX as the cause of ruin for men's sports. To this end, he wrote:
It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that men are more inclined to play sports than women are, and simply offering more sports for women to participate is not going to solve the problem of inequality.
Since the author in question is a college student and not a professional journalist, I will resist the temptation to be snide. But we here at Title IX Blog are always interested in analyzing and correcting media misrepresentations about Title IX as well as basic principles of law, justice, and culture that are implicated in the Title IX debate. It's actually not true that men are naturally more inclined to play sports than women. There is no sports gene on the Y chromosome. Men's interest in sport, and women's increasing, but still (at least at WSU, apparently) comparatively lower interest is a response to social forces. We live in a society that conveys to its members as soon as they are born that sports are for boys. (Anyone who has shopped for children lately knows this, and if you haven't, you can read all about it in Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mickel Brown's new book, Packaging Girlhood). We presume boys will participate in youth sports and we encourage them to improve their athletic skills. While a father tossing a football with his daughter is not unheard of, compare the number of times you have seen that to the number of times you have seen the same activity performed by fathers and sons. Sports are clearly normalized for boys in a way that it is not for girls. To the extent that girls' interest in sports is relatively lower than boys, it could be because girls receive fewer opportunities, less support, and, and generally no presumption of interest and skill.

To further cast doubt on the theory that girls are less interested, consider what happens to girls' interest and participation when they actually are given the opportunity to play. Women's participation at the college level has increased from mere 30,000 in 1972 to well over 150,000 today -- because the statute required schools to offer the opportunity to play. Based on this trend, the better theory to explain women's comparatively lower participation in college sports is that opportunities are still not made available to women in numbers equal to men (compare the 150,000 female college athletes to the 210,000 male). If "offering more sports to women" has already made great progress to "solve the problem of inequality," shouldn't the "genius" deduce that universities should offer more, not fewer?

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