Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Banning Boy from Field Hockey Underscores Discrimination and Stereotypes Against Girls

A Waynesboro, PA high school principal's decision to prohibit a male student from trying out for field hockey is being decried by some as "reverse discrimination." Reverse discrimination? Invoking Title IX, the principal told Mat Levine that (1) his presence would make the sport unsafe for the girls, (2) that parents would be jealous of his playing time, and (3) that it would take away opportunities for girls in violation of Title IX. These reasons are are all evidence of the stereotypes and discrimination that girls still must face. People still assume that girls -- even high school field hockey players -- are so weak and feeble to be threatened by one 10th grade boy. He has never played the sport before, and the article makes it sound like he is new to sports in general. Give the girls some credit -- if he makes the team as a rookie, those girls can surely hold their own. Some may suggest that by virtue of his sex, Mat has size and strength advantage. But no such advantage is suggested in the article. Odds are if Mat was a big, strong guy, he'd have already have a fall sport. Just because boys on average are bigger than girls does not automatically make Mat the biggest and strongest person on the team. Besides, if the concerns really are about size, why aren't there similar restrictions and safety concerns targeting the biggest and strongest girls on the team?

Parents jealous and overprotective of their daughters? Sounds like another manifestation of the same stereotypes discussed above.

The only valid reason to exclude Mat from playing field hockey is number three: to protect athletic opportunities for girls, who have fewer opportunities. Fine. But the solution to this problem, really, is to provide equal opportunities for girls to begin with. The principal should own up to the fact, if it is indeed the case, that the school already discriminates against girls in violation of Title IX, and that is the reason Mat can't play -- not the law. Mat is a victim of sex discrimination in this case. But he is collateral damage in the longstanding and ongoing discrimination against girls.