Title IX, is it Time for a Change?

October 20, 2011

Political Theory



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…”

President Richard Nixon enacted Title IX in 1972

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.

Michigan men's rowing has won the last four club rowing championships

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?

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6 Comments on “Title IX, is it Time for a Change?”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    Title IX is a vital part of our society that has helped women’s sports in countless ways. The advancement of women’s collegiate sports over the past 2 decades is one of the biggest transformations in the world of sports period. However, all mens collegiate sports are also changing and becoming increasingly more powerful as well as making the schools more money in the process. Money changes everything and in mens sports, money has become the main reason and motivation for advancing everything. Women’s sports, unfortunately, have not been able to generate the same revenue as mens collegiate sports; because of this, some mens sports, such as football, should be accounted for separately and excluded from Title IX. These select mens sports, the ones that make the most money, should be free to operate individually for all schools.

    Title IX still plays a very important role in women’s sports today. It protects their right and privilege to have the same sports alongside with men. All sports should be available to women under Title IX but as stated above, some mens sports should be separate and act individually. Jean-Jacques Rousseau states that there shouldn’t be education equity between males and females but times have changed drastically since he was alive. Education equality between males and females has been in existence for quiet some time and athletic equality should be no different. Just because “he suggests that each gender shouldn’t be learning the exact same information because each gender has a different social and family role” does not mean he would say the same thing today living in our society where men and women often share the same roles in all aspects of society.

  2. leannaprairie Says:

    This is a really interesting topic, and something that I think people tend to forget about in the all the excitement of college sports. I knew a guy on the crew team (he graduated last year), and I’ve never met someone more dedicated to the sport, and more hard-working. I definitely agree that Title IX has done excellent things for women’s sports opportunities, but I don’t think that it should be placing restrictions on men’s teams.

    I’m starting to think that athletic departments should be able make more decisions based on interest. For example; if the men’s crew team is capable of competing at the varsity level, and has demonstrated the hard work and dedication required of a varsity team, they should be allowed to compete at the varsity level. And (although this is apparently not the case at Michigan) if there is no interest in a women’s crew team (meaning there aren’t enough, if any at all, women interested in rowing), then that shouldn’t affect the men’s team.

    I believe that the purpose of Title IX needs to be to help both men’s and women’s, but not to hinder either one in either way.

  3. madisonkraus Says:

    I think that at the time of its establishment, Title IX was an important movement towards gender equality. It helped to level the playing field for women in the classroom and in athletics. Title IX gave opportunities to women and ensured that they would always be granted the same opportunities as men. However, now that gender equality has been established (at least legally if not completely socially), title IX has come under a great deal of criticism. I think the flaw lies in the way people interpret title 9. The idea is that both women and men have equal opportunities, and that women will get comparable resources in order to pursue their endeavors. It was established in a time when men’s sports got all the funding and resources they desired, while women were shafted to secondhand facilities and equipment. Title IX did an excellent job of forcing institutions to give attention and resources to women’s athletics, which allowed them to be recognized as true athletes with equal talents to those of male athletes. However, in our time title IX is interpreted as women’s sports and men’s sports must be exactly identical. By this logic, if a women’s sport isn’t varsity, a man’s sport can’t be varsity either because it means the conditions are no longer identical. I don’t think any female athlete would want a men’s sport team to be put at disadvantage in order to keep things exactly the same. As long as the women’s team is still getting the resources they need, they are not being oppressed just because the men’s team may have more players or a better record.
    It’s clear that something needs to be fixed in order to end the reverse inequality that is resulting out of the good intentions of title IX. I do not personally know how this problem can be remedied. We should not remove title IX, but there should be some way to make sure that women and men get equal opportunities, but one gender is not being pulled down by the other because of factors unrelated to gender inequality.

  4. mzselig Says:

    When it comes to Title IX, there will always be a relatively heated discussion concerning its relevance in today’s society. As stated in the post, the bill was aimed at warding off discrimination based on gender. The intentions of this bill were more than good when it was enacted and continue to be good but in some cases they begin to work against its own goal. The example of the Men’s Rowing Team, of which I am a member, hit home for me. This team has been exemplary in their performance on the water to the point where they were kicked out of competing with Division 1 teams because we, the Michigan team, continually beat them. This is not to say that the Women’s team does not deserve or has not earned the support of the University and its Varsity status as a sport, but it seems to me that the Title IX bill is working against the Men’s team in this case. Is it right to force a very good Men’s team to continue to pay their own was in order to keep competing simply because there is no other women’s team that is ready to become a Varsity sport? The realms of public and private also some into play in this case. Title IX is a bill that was passed and is now enacted over public and private realms. In the case of the University of Michigan, a public university, this bill is forcing athletes on the Men’s team, who are part of the private realm, to pay for the continued existence of a public team, the Rowing Team, under the auspices of a public entity, the university itself. This obscuring of realms poses a problem; is it right to have a bill forcible blur the line between the private and public realms? My opinion, no, simply because I would love to see my team move up to the varsity level where myself and others know it can hold its own, but according to Title IX and the government, that is not possible as of now.

  5. blogger32 Says:

    As an avid sports fan, I think this post makes many interesting points about gender equality. First of all, I think that title IX is a piece of legislation that has helped to bring equality to women, not just in athletics but education as a whole, however I think there are many flaws with the bill. For example, title IX specifies that there must be an equal number of academic scholarships made available to men and women; but sports such as football which have 115 players make it very difficult to keep small men’s teams (Ex. rowing) at the varsity level. I think that it needs to be taken into account that certain sports simply need to have larger rosters, and that using so many scholarships to fill those rosters is not an attempt to discriminate.

    When examining the beliefs of Jean Jacque-Rousseau and John Stuart Mill, it is important to note when these philosophers were living. Rousseau’s life spanned for most of the 1700s, a time in which women were as discriminated against as ever. During that time, they were viewed as the ultimate housewife, who’s duties were to have children, raise them and keep a clean home. However, Mill lived during 1800s, a time when women’s rights were on the uprise. Mill lived through events such as the Seneca Falls Convention, which was a cry by women from around the world to stop being confined to their homes. This may explain why he was pro equal education for women and Rousseau was not.

    Before I end this comment, I want to mention one thing about title IX. Although I agree that women should have every opportunity men do, especially in college athletics, one of the reasons title IX has come under so much fire is because it costs schools money. Currently, only 12% of universities in the country make annual profit off their athletic programs (Michigan is one of them) and the reason why that number is so low is TITLE IX. By allocating money into women’s sports such as rowing, swimming and even basketball, schools are losing money that before title IX would not have been spent. Let’s be real here…how many of you flip through TV channels and stop to watch a grueling women’s basketball game on ESPN2…I haven’t. As I said, I am all for title IX and the equality it creates, but I do understand why so many universities wish it did not exist.

  6. albosco Says:

    Title IX is a very controversial subject and always brings out multiple different views. I agree with most of what the comments before mine have said. Title IX has done a very good job of allowing women’s sports to become more supported by their schools and has helped to get rid of the major deficiencies. I think that if this legislation hadn’t occurred, women’s sports may have struggled to remain a big part of most colleges and high schools. However, at the same time, I also believe that this legislation was written far too long ago to apply to modern day concerns. It would be beneficial for many reasons to rewrite Title IX to be more fitting for current equality in sports programs.
    Realizing that much of sports teams remain a part of a college because of their revenue, I think that it would be important to add some sort of clause to Title IX involving more specific financial information. Requiring every school to offer the same amount of scholarships to men and women is frequently hurting mens’ sports more then it is helping women’s. At Michigan we have seen this happen to the Men’s rowing team and lacrosse team until recently, but at smaller schools, with less funding, Title IX is often negatively effecting more then two men’s sports. Luckily, Michigan has very supportive alumni that donate every year, and a stable financial program geared towards sports. But what about the smaller schools? Division III schools don’t get the same support and revenue as schools similar to Michigan and their sports are not as supported.
    Title IX has been very beneficial in the past, but the recent negative consequences of it should definitely be looked at and revised. Title IX is not achieving its goal if it is punishing mens’ sports while trying to make women’s equal.

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