Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Is Girls' Weightlifting the Solution to Title IX Compliance Problems?

Yes, says Jackie Metcalf, who coaches female high school weightlifters in Florida. In a recent article in the New York Times, Metcalf expressed surprise that her state is the only one to sanction girls' weightlifting as an official sport, “because it’s a great way to get girls involved for gender equity. You don’t have to be a skilled athlete to do this.”

In addition to being inclusive of those less coordinated, weightlifting offers athletic opportunity to girls of different sizes and body types, and unlike the country club sports popular in wealthier areas of the state, weightlifting is accessible to participants of various economic means. And, girls' weightlifting flies in the face of stereotypes about girls and strength. The athletes interviewed in this story report they now they feel at home in the weight room and wear T-shirts with slogans like "Silly Boys, Weights are for Girls."

Girls' weightlifting is still not as readily accepted elsewhere as it apparently is in Florida. Recall this story about a girl temporarily banned from weightlifting class because the principal feared for her safety in the weight room with other boys. We suggested that this rationale was sadly ironic; denying her the opportunity to participate in weightlifting only ensured that she would continue to be physically vulnerable to the very thing the principal feared -- the sexual aggression of boys.

In this context, the idea that Title IX might motivate schools to open the weight room door to girls is very appealing to me. What could be better than busting up stereotypes, achieving equity in the distribution of athletic opportunities, and giving girls of all types and backgrounds access to physical strength and power, all in one?

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