Saturday, November 03, 2007

Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change

Professors Nancy Hogshead-Makar (Florida Coastal) and Andrew Zimbalist (Smith) have edited a new anthology called Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. Equal Play compiles a wide variety of sources including legislative and regulatory material, judicial opinions, scholarly commentary, political commentary, and sports writing. Its presentation of this material conveys the mutually-constitutive relationship between law and culture in the area of gender equality and sport.

Part I contextualizes Title IX with excerpt from scholars like Susan Cahn and Welch Suggs and sports writers for SI and that convey the challenges and obstacles for female athletes prior to Title IX's inception. Part II provides a snapshot of the legal and political efforts to secure Title IX and its application to athletics. In addition to the statute, the implementing regulations, and the policy interpretation, the editors also include evidence of failed efforts to weaken or neutralize Title IX, like Senator Bayh's statement in opposition to the Tower Amendment, which had it passed would have exempted revenue-producing sports from the Title IX, and a district court opinion rejecting the NCAA's efforts to undermine Title IX's application to athletics.

Part III focuses on Title IX in in the 1980s and is appropriately titled "The Initial Backlash." The editors excerpt from the Court's Grove City College decision, which limited Title IX's applicability to programs receiving federal funds, until Congress reversed the ruling in 1987 (the legislation is also included). They also describe the NCAA's change in strategy from opposing Title IX to taking over women's sports and its governing body, the AIAW. By including an excerpt from Professor Gary Roberts's address to the Knight Commission, the authors convey that the NCAA's absorption of the AIAW expanded concern about commercialization to now include women's sport.

In Part IV the theme changes from backlash to progress as the focus shifts to the 1990s. Excerpts include the First Circuit's decision in Cohen v. Brown University, which favorably construed the three-prong test, and Mariah Burton Nelson's examination of the benefits of athletic participation for women and girls. But in Part V, the current decade, the backlash theme returns. On offense we see the National Wrestling Coach's Association, Jessica Gavora, the Department of Ed, and the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics all challenging Title IX's legality, principle, and application. On defense we see Donna de Varona and Julie Foudy, Don Sabo and Christine Grant, and the editors themselves all attempting to neutralizing the offensive strike with reason, evidence, and statistics.

By dividing up the book this way, the editors shine the spotlight on the persistent struggle to sustain and protect Title IX, an important project that countermands the popular mythology of Title IX as a thirty-five year feel-good story for girls and women in sport. The reader can't help but parallel the backlash of today and that of the 1980s and internalize the fragility of the law, which faced/faces serious legal and cultural opposition. At the same time, the progress chapters show exactly why it is so important to continue the struggle to overcome resistance backlash and fully realize the equality promise of Title IX.

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