In True Backlash Fashion: The “Reverse Sexism” of Title IX
Editor’s Note: Leading up to the 40th Anniversary of Title IX on June 23, 2012, SWSG is engaging the voices of women of all ages who have been impacted by this groundbreaking legislation. So far, Diana Cutaia, Linda Driscoll, Founder of Dream Big!, and Susan Golbe have contributed. This month, SWSG’s Director of Process Improvement and Knowledge, Meghan Trombly, reflects on Title IX:
By my freshman year in college, hailing from a small Vermont town where I played soccer with the boys and was treated as an individual, my feminist consciousness had yet to fully develop. Still, sitting there, the hard cold seats pressing into the backs of my tired legs, I have vivid memories of college administration announcing to all athletes they were cutting several male teams. The cuts were credited to Title IX compliance issues. I distinctly remember the uneasy feeling that overwhelmed my senses as other female athletes passionately asserted they did not want the money that was being “reallocated” to them as a result of the cuts.
I don’t remember the exact grounds, perhaps it was due to my bruised ego having been handed a solid defeat by UCONN or Syracuse, perhaps it was my general competitive spirit, that spurred me to so eagerly look forward to additional funding for our team (who, at the time, coincidentally had few scholarships). Yet, enough of the other women were so adamantly against the cuts, that I felt a sense of shame for wanting that money for our sport.
Now, with more experience behind me and with an awakened feminist consciousness, I more fully understand the experience. The cuts were made in 1998, a full twenty-six years after Title IX was implemented. That means that administrators had ample time to seek out an alternative solution. Under Title IX, schools are not required to cut male sports to be in compliance. In fact, there are three different approaches an institution can take to become compliant:
- Provide athletic participation opportunities that are substantially proportionate to the student enrollment. This prong of the test is satisfied when participation opportunities for men and women are “substantially proportionate” to their respective undergraduate enrollment.
- Demonstrate a continual expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex. This prong of the test is satisfied when an institution has a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (typically female).
- Accommodate the interest and ability of underrepresented sex. This prong of the test is satisfied when an institution is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students even where there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.
As such, Title IX has and is consistently used as a scape goat for poor planning and quick fixes to complicated issues, including budgetary. Title IX has created many opportunities for girls to engage in athletics. However, there are obvious challenges associated with the ways in which institutions are implementing Title IX. In true backlash fashion, men often play the victims of Title IX. What has been your experience with Title IX? Have you witnessed the backlash against Title IX?
Further, Title IX’s impact for girls and women goes beyond sports. It is often easy to forget that Title IX supports women’s advancement not just in athletics, but also in academics. In my next post, I’ll explore the legislation’s academic impact. How have you experienced the impact of Title IX in academics?