Recently, we were assigned to read “Privacy, Publicity, and Power: A Feminist Rethinking of the Public-Private Distinction”, by Martha A. Acklesberg and Mary Lyndon Shanley, an excerpt from the book Revisioning the Political by Nancy J. Hirschmann. In the selection, the authors discuss gender equality — among other notable issues — and cite two prestigious political theorists in their attempt to examine gender relationships within households.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first theorist the authors mention, maintains that there shouldn’t be education equity between males and females. He suggests that each gender shouldn’t be learning the exact same information because each gender has a different social and family role, and to be able to carry out these roles to the best of their abilities, males and females need to learn the necessities and nothing else.
After displaying Rousseau’s beliefs, Acklesberg and Shanley immediately exhibit John Stuart Mill’s ideas about equal education between the two sexes. Mill argues that in order to have a stable and politically active society, you must teach males and females in the same way.
The back and forth about gender equality is still a contested issue in today’s society and reminds me a lot about the contention of “Title IX”.
This past week, I saw a flier that mentioned that on Monday, October 24th, the University of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins will be speaking at the Hatcher Graduate Library on the topic of Title IX and its effect on collegiate sports — and it got me thinking about the subject.
For those of you who are not familiar with Title IX, here’s a very brief synopsis of the bill. Enacted in 1972, the law states that,
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”
Its original intent was to end sex discrimination in academic life and in school activities and clubs. Although the law makes no explicit mention of sports, Title IX is best known for impacting athletics at the high school and collegiate level. It has forced institutions to create more opportunities for females to compete in sports at these levels.
At institutions such as the University of Michigan, the Athletic Department in compliance with Title IX must provide comparable athletic financial assistance, (the amount of athletic scholarships given needs to be somewhat in line with the ratio of men to women in the student body), similar accommodation of athletic interests and abilities, and equal benefits in other areas (for example, equipment and supplies, per diem allowances, competitive facilities, amount of games and practice time, etc.) for both sexes.
But even though Title IX is widely considered to have a positive impact on the female and athletic communities, it has also created a fair amount of controversy. While the statute has given more opportunities to women, it has also restricted opportunities for men.
One of the most relevant examples is here at the University of Michigan. One of the best athletic programs that the University boasts is men’s crew. They are an elite squad and are annually competing against the best rosters in the country. Unfortunately, because of Title IX, the athletic department has not granted them “varsity team” status, relegating them to a “club varsity” team.
It’s a shame that one of the best crews in the country can’t compete in the year-end regatta because it’s school can’t grant it “varsity” status. It’s also unfortunate that the athletic department can’t give the team any monetary support, forcing each rower to pay up to a couple thousand dollars a year to compete. With a women’s rowing team competing in full force — a roster filled with way too many rowers — the men’s team has been reduced to paying their own way.
The Michigan Lacrosse team had the same problem up until this past spring. One of the best teams in the country (the best club lacrosse team in the nation by far) was competing against club teams because Title IX didn’t allow the athletic department to grant it varsity status. For many years, the lacrosse team lobbied to get varsity status until finally the athletic granted it varsity status after giving the women’s lacrosse team that status as well.
Michigan isn’t the lone example. Across the country, there are countless male athletic teams that can’t compete at the highest level due to Title IX. Even though most people agree that Title IX has made an amazing impact in women’s athletics, the statute still stirs up controversy because it can limit men’s athletics in some situations and because it hurts many schools financially. Should Title IX be left alone as a finished bill? Or should it be amended to limit the restrictions it puts on men’s athletic teams? Does Title IX still play an important role in women’s athletics currently?