Monday, March 31, 2008
The article includes quotes from Title IX expert Professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar and attorney Robert Clayton of Littler Mendelson (FGCU's counsel). Both point out that its easier in the context of athletics for comments that are normal and appropriate ("you really look like you're developing those leg muscles") to devolve into comments that contribute to a hostile environment ("you have great legs"). They advise athletic departments to avoid legal trouble by developing, implementing, and enforcing policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment from occurring and responding effectively and efficiently when harassment occurs.
Friday, March 28, 2008
This Sunday, March 30, it will air on ESPN2 at 1PM EST.
Recently, however, the County changed its mind, and will formally withdraw those plans at an upcoming meeting. According to the AP, the County faced "a groundswell of opposition from parents who were outraged that they weren't consulted ahead of time." This leaves open the possibility that the County might reinstate its plan, or some other version of the plan, after it receives input from parents and teachers.
Of course, the parents might really be outraged, not that they weren't consulted, but that the County is trying to pigeonhole their sons' and daughters' attitudes and behaviors based on gender stereotypes. In that case, their buy-in might be hard to come by.
UPDATE 4/1: The link to the AP story above is no longer working, but other news outlets reported on Greene County's change of heart, see here and here.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”We've noted in the past that Title IX is often limited in its capacity to address peer-on-peer violence, both because it is difficult to establish a school's deliberate indifference to ongoing bullying and because some courts don't construe sex discrimination statutes like Title IX to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Judging by the description of the anti-Billy Facebook page, Billy may be a target because his peers perceive him as gay or otherwise not masculine.
The article notes that Billy's parents have sued the bullies themselves, though that's not a likely to be a lucrative suit. They may also sue the school district, which would give a court the opportunity to construe the applicability of Title IX to this case. Meanwhile, however, stories like this one underscore the need for strengthening anti-bully legislation at the federal and state level.
I haven't read the book yet myself but the review in the current edition of Bitch (the link is to the magazine's website but the review is not available there) is quite favorable--and it references Title IX, though it's not clear that the book itself invokes the statute.
Feminist Review also has a brief but positive review.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Pat Griffin wrote about the episode on her blog about LGBT Sport. She praised ESPN's efforts to bring attention to this subtle form of discrimination in women's sport that marginalized gay athletes and contributes to the underrepresentation of women among head coaches. But she also criticized the segment for "miss[ing] an important opportunity to make the point that initiatives against negative recruiting are gaining some ground." She notes that the NCAA has shown interest in taking on this issue, teaming up with NCLR to provide resources and encouragement to member institutions to adopt policies and practices that reduce instances of negative recruiting.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The 24-minute film contains many interviews with members of the Cheetahs, their parents, boys they played against, and I believe one mother of a boy who lost to the Cheetahs. Many of the interviewees recounted stories of parents yelling at their sons "You're losing to girls!"but none of those parents seemed to want to be interviewed.
It was a very positive film. The girls knew exactly what was going on regarding the gender stereotypes they were breaking and most of the boys in the film got it too. There was no explicit message which actually became part of the problem I had with the film.
It did not seem to want to say outright that mixed gender competition is the direction we should be headed in. But by not making some statement about either (or both) the positives and negatives of mixed gender competition the message left open for viewers to take was that these girls are unique. That most girls do not desire the level of competition these girls sought and that most girls are not competitive and not as skilled. Though the movie did a good job debunking the stereotypes that have been placed on these girls--that they can't kick, for example--it fails to address how desire for competition and level of aggression or even the desire to play a sport like soccer are all affected by social norms placed on both girls and boys.
In the end it's a great story about a soccer team that changed some minds about the abilities of (some) girls. It's perfect for showing in classes because it's short, compelling and can inspire some good discussions about youth sports, mixed gender competition, and the ability of sport to alter gender stereotypes.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"College cheerleaders are extreme athletes who fly thirty feet in the air, build pyramids in which a single slip can send ten people crashing to the ground, and compete in National Championships that are won by hundredths of a point. Cheer! is a year-long odyssey into their universe, following three squads from tryouts to Nationals."(via Feministing)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Proponents of such programs explain that some students are as comfortable, if not more so, living with members of the opposite sex, so making them choose same-sex apartment-mates seems like an "artificial barrier." Coed housing options also makes good business sense for colleges that compete with an off-campus housing market, where coed living among students is common. Last, the coed alternative is a compassionate accommodation for transgendered students, for whom living in a dorm or apartment designated for one sex or the other could be an uncomfortable (or controversial) experience.
Yet while many colleges and universities prohibit coed living, some actually require it -- for married students, that is. Last week a gay couple sued the University of Hawaii after their application to live in married student housing was denied. It's clear that many universities still order their students living arrangements around the outmoded assumptions that men and women living separately before marriage and in opposite-sex couples after marriage. The coed housing movement is helping to change this rigid, heteronormative paradigm.
Monday, March 17, 2008
At Womenstake.org, Neena Chaudhry of the National Women's Law Coalition reflects on the three-year anniversary of the Department of Education's 2005 Clarification, which allows schools with grossly inequitable particpation opportunities to satisfy Title IX using the results of a web-based survey of female students' interests and abilities.
There was an interesting development a few weeks ago, though, regarding the brand new golf coach. FGCU hired former LPGA pro Terry-Jo Myers to head both the women's and men's golf teams. Less than two weeks after she accepted the position which was to begin July 1, she opted to resign saying that "demands of the position" would not allow her to keep her other commitments.
It's somewhat curious and we wonder if Myers was informed or became aware of some of the issues about the environment at the school and especially in the athletic department between the time of her hiring and her resignation.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
In 2002, the University converted its softball field into a football field and moved softball to a city-owned park. In 2006, a player named Stephanie Kuhn filed a complaint with OCR, which resulted in the school's October 2006 agreement to fund upgrades to the park. Kuhn says the field was supposed to be ready for spring of 2008, and when she saw that no construction had begun, she filed another complaint.
University officials say the delay is being caused by unforeseen engineering problems, the difficulty of doing construction on land one doesn't own, and seasonal concern for mud.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Both high school and college cheer were in the news this week, inspiring me to offer some reflections on this new sport. First, there was this article in the Baltimore Sun, which profiled the competitive cheer squad at the University of Maryland. Maryland is the first, and currently only, college to offer competitive cheer as a sport. Oregon will be joining them next year. However, the article points to some evidence that this isn't necessarily the beginning of a trend. OCR ensures that schools aren't passing off their existing sideline cheerleaders as athletes under Title IX, which means schools actually have to spend money on competitive cheer, like any other sport -- a big deterrent. Additionally, one source suggested that while cheerleading squads might enjoy the occasional competition, they are reluctant to give up their sideline role, as going competitive would require.
I got a difference sense on the viability of competitive cheer by reading this column in the St. Petersburg Times. Author John Cotey reported on the inaugural Florida state championship in competitive cheer, which involved 175 schools and nearly 4,000 (all female) athletes. He made it clear while he personally doesn't fully embrace the sport -- pointing out that "bright red lipstick was apparently required," that "athletes were in curlers...[and] ribbons were part of the uniform" -- he ultimately comes out in favor competitive cheer, emphasizing that despite the spectacle (DJs, airbrushed souvenir t-shirts, roses and corsages for sale) the competition was serious. His account suggests that high school competitive cheer is, at least in Florida, a viable, sport that is catching on, and producing potential future college participants.
If competitive cheer is really catching on, the question women's sports proponents will have to ask is whether a sport that incorporates "lipstick, ribbons, and curlers" can coexist with those women's sports that challenge gender stereotypes and broaden the scope of what society considers appropriately feminine appearance, behavior, and activity. Some might say there is already pressure on female athletes to emphasize traditionally feminine appearance without embracing a sport that seems to require it. At the same time, those of us who are questioning the validity of competitive cheer should be careful not to let our paradigm of sport be limited by its traditional definitions, which were, historically speaking, created by men. Competitive cheer might represent an opportunity to expand the definition of sport, however slightly, from its patriarchal origins. I don't have a final answer, but I'm open to the possibility of competitive cheer as a feminist project.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I don't suspect that she will give up her Florida commitments--like her position at Florida Coastal School of Law though the news brief was not very clear about the nature or duration of the position. Regardless, it seems she will be making some visits to Colorado as she embarks on this new job.
We here at the Title IX Blog send her many congratulations, best wishes (and maybe a pair of mittens)!
UPDATE: According to the Denver Post, Hogshead-Makar will continue to live in Florida but travel to CU to do her evaluation (which is only focused on sexual harassment; it is not a comprehensive Title IX review). Also, I should have added to her current list of projects the similar work she is doing at University of North Carolina.
The Daily Camera, CU's student newspaper, reports that it is a five-year position and that she will be taking a sabbatical next year.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Last October, Milutinovich settled her gender discrimination lawsuit against Fresno State for $3.5 million. She retired from Fresno State after 27 year of service as a coach and administrator, but continues her advocacy for Title IX, attending all of the hearings for Senator Florez's Select Committee on Gender Discrimination.
Congrats Diane! Your honor is well-deserved.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
This paper uses Title IX as a vehicle for exploring the potential benefits of pragmatism for feminist legal theory. Title IX is unusual in antidiscrimination law for its eclectic approach to theory, drawing from liberal feminism, substantive equality, antisubordination and different voice models of equality at various points in the law's approach to gender equality in sports. This paper argues that Title IX, as a pragmatic approach to theory, provides a promising example of how feminist legal theory can draw from pragmatism to navigate the double-bind and the backlash.Citation: Deborah Brake, Title IX: A Pragmatic Feminism, 55 Cleveland State Law Review 513 (2008).
Following an introduction in Part I, Part II of this Article examines legal pragmatism and its relationship to feminist legal theory, arguing that both schools of thought have the potential to enrich one another. Part III provides an account of the multiple forms of gender oppression in sports, following pragmatism's insight that any sound theoretical approach to a problem must be grounded in the particularities of the context surrounding that problem.
Part III argues that given the slipperiness of subordination and its shifting practices and ideologies, we should not expect a unitary, consistent theory of discrimination to address it. Finally, Part IV examines the plural approach to theory reflected in Title IX, arguing that Title IX's eclectic approach to theory explains why this law has been unusually successful in navigating the double-bind and shaping cultural norms to fend off a backlash. The Article concludes that, though far from perfect, Title IX provides a promising example of how pragmatic approaches can shape successful feminist legal strategies.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Readers may wonder whether Title IX creates an equivalent right for boys to try out for girls' softball now that they are not regarded as equivalent sports. According to the Title IX regulation (34 CFR 106.41(b)) governing cross-over participation, if a school offers only one team in a particular sport, it must let members of the opposite sex try out if athletic opportunities for that athlete's sex have "previously been limited" (and the sport involved is not a contact sport, but this limitation most likely does not include softball). There is some debate over whether this standard requires the cross-over participant to show athletic opportunities overall were previously limited (a standard boys would not be able to meet) or whether they only need to show that previous limitations in opportunities to participate in sport in question (a standard boys might be able to satisfy with respect to high school softball). There is certainly judicial support for the former interpretation, which is presumably the position that the NSAA is taking.
Friday, March 07, 2008
This is a preliminary decision. The judge is waiting for more information to issue a final judgment. (My guess is that it will hinge on whether the school has to pay for the damage to the equipment--especially the spring floor--that occurred during the moving process.)
The gymnasts and their parents are happy, of course, and probably pretty glad they did not accept a last-minute pre-trial offer by Wilson High School that would have paid for the use of a private off-campus facility and transportation to and from that gym. This part of the story has been somewhat buried but it important, I feel, because it shows the parents' and gymnasts' commitment to equity. The off-campus facility is, from the way it has been described, a superior facility with more amenities. But the gymnasts wanted their rightful place on campus. They wanted to remain a visible part of the school's athletic community. And they seemed to be able to see the injustice in having the only dedicated facility for women on campus taken away and given to the boys. The private facility may be bigger and better equipped but they saw beyond the perks to the larger issue of fairness.
Apparently the decision has caused some controversy on the Harvard campus, where some students support the effort to accommodate the various religious needs of students, while others say that the campus environment should be about increasing access of space to everyone, not shutting men out of the gym for certain hours in the week. Harvard plans to evaluate its trial policy on gym hours at the end of the semester.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
The same boost to academic success was not seen in boys who were part of the study. Susan Carlson, a CDC epidemiologist and the lead author of the study, says that there is no evidence as to why that academic boost affected only girls, but speculated that "a higher level of physical activity might be needed to yield the same result because boys are commonly more active than girls." Except for the last part, which seems to based on Carlson's conjecture more than anything else, this is very interesting news, especially for educators looking for ways to defend gym class in the face of pressure to focus on more "academic" learning.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
First, Keen argues that the EADA is failing in its purpose of helping prospective student-athletes decide on a college, since student-athletes are not aware of the information it makes available and don't factor it into their decisionmaking. Personally, I have never heard that helping prospective student-athletes was the purpose of the EADA and the only support for this idea is a buried statement on the Department of Ed's website. The real value of disclosing gender equity data is much broader -- it is to help the public ensure that federal dollars are not funding discrimination. The EADA makes private enforcement of Title IX possible by exposing schools with gender equity problems and by giving individuals with grievances the information they need to decide whether a violation has occurred. When similar reporting requirements don't apply, violations are more easily concealed because compliance information is so difficult to acquire. This is why legislation is pending to expand these reporting requirements to high schools, which are not subject to the EADA.
Keen's more persuasive critique of the EADA is that the data schools submit is inaccurate and/or fails to conform to a uniform standard that allows for meaningful comparison. Because the statute does not require schools to employ standard accounting practices, schools have some flexibility to generate a more favorable fiscal picture. For example, they may distinguish, and thus exclude, capital expenditures, which makes capital-intensive sports (like football) appear more profitable. Even when schools aren't deliberately manipulating financial data, by innocently assigning a particular expenditure to a different budget category than other schools, they make it difficult to make comparisons and spot trends. (Compare, for example, a school that accounts for utilities as a department expense and a school that apportions the bill to its men's and women's athletics programs based on their relative use.) Moreover, there is also no audit process or other mechanism for the Department of Education to catch and correct even obvious, plain errors, such as a $34 million data entry mistake in a report filed by the University of Texas. And, though Keen looked at the reporting of financial information, not the reporting of number athletic opportunities, we've had opportunity to note, there are even reporting discrepancies there as well.
But while I agree with Keen that the EADA is flawed in this regard, I don't agree with her conclusion that the statute should be scrapped. I think that the transparency the statute provides is enormously valuable, not necessarily to prospective students (though this is probably somewhat and increasingly so), but to the public at large. Information is the foundation for private enforcement, which has been demonstrably more effective than agency enforcement at bringing about real improvements in gender equity. To that end, it is crucial for reported data to be accurate and standardized. Rather than calling for its repeal, we could seek to improve the EADA along these lines, by requiring standard accounting practices, imposing an audit system or one of peer review, by clarifying schools' obligations to include and apportion particular expenses. The NCAA, Keen points out, has already implemented a more stringent, meaningful, and accurate reporting obligation for its members (this is not a substitute for the EADA, though, since NCAA does not make its reports public). This could provide a model for the Department of Education to follow -- not to mention a retort to schools who might otherwise object that enhanced reporting requirements increase the the workload of their number-crunchers.
Citation: Kathryn Keen, The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act: Does it Really Improve the Gender Equity Landscape?, 34 J. of College & Univ. L. 227 (2007).
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
Times like these I miss living in Iowa. Perhaps some of our Iowa friends will tape it for us??
I would be interested to see the issues it addresses in comparison to Max McElwain's book The Only Dance in Iowa.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Countering these arguments are numerous criticisms: that the Bush administration's encouragement of single-sex education undermines one of the primary goals of Title IX, which is to eliminate sex-based stereotypes in education; that any sex-based differences in brain development is minimal compared to individual learning preferences, and should not be interpreted in essentialist terms which would designate all boys as one type of learner, and all girls as a different type of learner; and that both boys and girls would be better served in co-educational settings by getting the individualized support necessary to be confident and to succeed academically.
I will admit to feeling conflicted about the utility of single-sex education: on the one hand, I understand the appeal of trying different techniques to encourage different types of learners, and the argument that in certain limited circumstances, a single-sex learning environment which the students (and their parents) opt into, may provide more support for certain students, and may help the students feel freed from gender stereotypes that would affect them in a co-educational setting. (This may be particularly true in the case of African-American boys, who, frankly, have been failed by public education in a number of ways).
On the other hand, the biological essentialist argument is extremely disturbing to me. One of the single-sex education proponents cited in the article, Leonard Sax, argues that human development is gendered to its core and, therefore, that boys and girls do better when separated into different classrooms. Jay Giedd, a critic of Sax's argument, points out that the biological differences between boys and girls are there, but that Sax blows their significance out of proportion. Giedd uses a good analogy: boys are, after a certain age, more likely to be taller than girls of the same age. If you decided to divide students by height, assigning the tallest 50% to use the boys' locker room, and and the shortest 50% to use the girls' locker room, "you'd end up with a better than random sort, [but] the results would be abysmal, with unacceptably large percentages of students in the wrong place."
A second problem with single-sex education is the perpetuation of gender stereotypes in how lessons are given (not the breaking down of gender stereotypes that Title IX mandates): the article discusses how in one school in Foley, Alabama which offers opt-in single-sex classrooms, an all-girls' fourth-grade class sings a song together called "Always Sisters" and then does a "tidy" experiment in measuring the relative density of oil and water, and then "confirm[s] their results with the firsthand knowledge that when you’re doing the dishes after your mother makes fried chicken, the oil always settles on top of the water in the sink." Meanwhile, their counterparts in the all-boys' classroom are discussing a story about a boy who survives a plane crash and needs to survive near a lake. Where to start with these choices on lesson plans? Why not teach the story of the plane crash AND the oil density/washing the dishes experiment to ALL of the students? Instead, the division seems to encourage boys and girls to think that they are fundamentally different, that they should care about different things in life and that they should focus on different aspects of their life outside of school as potentially helpful in the educational environment.
The story about the Foley, Ala. schools highlights the difficulty with establishing even an opt-in program: that some school districts and parents will feel entirely comfortable in perpetuating gender stereotypes in education. How to distinguish this kind of classroom from that of a different model of single-sex classroom that is able to assist in breaking down gender stereotypes is, in my view, one of the greatest challenges to establishing a potentially useful single-sex educational environment.
Under the pre-2006 Department of Education regulations, with more safeguards in place to protect against the promulgation of gender stereotypes, the Foley, Ala. curriculum might have been easier to challenge under Title IX. Under the current regulations and the attitude of the Bush administration, that's simply not the case.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
This situation will hopefully begin to illustrate to everyone that softball and baseball are different sports. They have always been different. Softball was created to be a lesser version of baseball and though many of us do not view it as such, the nearly unquestioned absence and exclusion of girls (of a certain age) and women from baseball illustrates how "natural" this segregation has been.
* Sharon McKee of HASP was lead counsel on this case. McKee, who we had the pleasure of meeting last year at the Title IX conference in Cleveland, also worked with NCLR on the Jennifer Harris case.