Thursday, June 10, 2010

Title IX, World Cup, human rights, and the quote of the day

The College Sports Council, which advocates for Title IX "reform," has used the start of the men's World Cup to issue a report on the alleged lack of growth of men's soccer at the collegiate level in the United States. This is not a new argument as I have noted previously.
But CSC claims that Title IX has stymied the growth of men's intercollegiate soccer while women's soccer has been allowed to flourish.
One of our favorite Title IX and women's sports advocates, Professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar, expertly dismantles CSC's study and findings (in the above link), so I won't bother to do it here.
Obviously as one of the Title IX bloggers, I care about Title IX, but to tie the law to this event ignores a lot of other gender issues around the men's World Cup so I thought I would take the opportunity to go slightly beyond the usual purview of this blog. . First, the extreme nationalism is problematic and gendered. I know this is a battle of countries, but the extremism is frightening and it is certainly more intense around the men's World Cup than the women's. On a micro level and tying into CSC's concerns, for example, when the US Women's National Team loses there is not a whole lot of talk about trying to add teams and improve the quality and conditions of women's intercollegiate soccer.
Second, let's look at this event in the global context and think about some human rights issues. For example, the labor involved in the making of sports apparel. The issues around sweat shops (which employ, for the most part, women as laborers) making athletic clothing are fairly well-known. But the labor around the making of the actual soccer balls is also of concern. Soccer ball stitching and the conditions for children and adults who do this work has been the focus of international labor and human rights campaigns. The soccer balls in this tournament are not stitched. Stitching of soccer balls does still occur, however. This You Tube video shows the production of the current men's World Cup balls. It seems benign but it is also apparent that most of the workers--though you never see their faces--are women. It all looks clean and modern, but I think given the history of the sports apparel and equipment industry, it's important to remain vigilant on this front.
Another issue of (in)visibility when it comes to women and the men's World Cup is around sex work and the sex trade. There is concern that the large influx of people into South Africa will increase sex trafficking. Steps are, thankfully, being taken by national and international entities to monitor the situation. So not as invisible as the issue has been in the past; but certainly not something you're going to see as a special feature about South African culture.
So please keep these things in mind as the tournament starts. The above link on soccer ball stitching also has a list of actions you can take in response to unfair labor practices in this industry.
But I going to end with something that made me smile this morning: this great response to CSC's claims by NCAA director of gender initiatives, Karen Morrison.
"The CSC continues to bend the data like an errant soccer kick when describing trends in intercollegiate athletics and in particular college soccer. Soccer continues to grow in popularity around the world and on our campuses. It is one of the four fastest-growing men's sports in the NCAA. There is no evidence that the relatively minor differences overall in soccer participation are related to Title IX."