Monday, November 26, 2007

Chronicle Reviews Title IX Trilogy

The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription req'd) recently reviewed a trio of new books about gender equality in sport. One book, Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change by Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Andrew Zimbalist, was reviewed by us here. Another, The Encyclopedia of Title IX and Sports, by Nicole Mitchell and Lisa Ennis, was described by the reviewer as "a pithy desk reference for Title IX, with brief entries on the people, organizations, and court cases that have figured prominently in the law's 35-year history."

The third book, Playing With the Boys: Why Separate Is Not Equal in Sports, by Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano, criticizes the sex-segregated structure of athletics and argues, according to the reviewer, "that sports teams at all levels should be integrated by gender, with sex segregation serving as the final, rather than the first, resort."

I'll definitely be getting my hands on a copy of Playing With the Boys. I agree that we over-rely on sex as a proxy for athletic ability and end up segregating sports unnecessarily in many contexts. I also agree with the authors that the presumption that girls shouldn't or can't play with boys is demeaning and ensures the second-class status of women's sports (and women, in general). So I'm interested in how far the authors take this view, and also how they address some of the mores persuasive counterarguments to an integrated model of sport. Even in this post-Title IX era, boys still get better access and more encouragement to participate in sport, and thus have an advantage over girls when it comes to developing athletic skill. As a result, there is a very real concern that selective coed sport would disproportionately exclude girls if not exclude them altogether. Relatedly, if selective sports were coed, would women be disadvantaged, at least in certain sports, because they tend to be outsized by men? If so, is the downside of lost opportunities outweighed by benefit women might collectively experience when individual women do compete on equal terms as men? I'm interested in whether and how the book addresses these questions.