MALE ATHLETES DESERVE A FAIR GO UNDER TITLE IX

Feminists Are Poor Sports on Issue of Fairness to Male Athletes

If you want to understand why nontraditional, independent women like me who were raised as beneficiaries of the women’s movement are today eschewing the F word — “feminism” — you need look no further than Title IX and the fracas now surrounding it.

Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, has been a source of friction in academic communities, specifically as it has been applied to college athletic programs. Schools have had to meet what is known as the proportionality standard, whereby the percentage of women and men participating in sports must match the percentage of women and men students. So if 52% of the student body is female, then 52% of those participating in the school’s athletic program must also be female.

Because, generally speaking, more men than women are interested in athletics, many schools have been forced to cut back significantly on men’s programs to keep the “right” proportions. This has led to an understandable outcry among male athletes, coaches and alumni and a growing movement to reform Title IX.

Enter the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, created by Education Secretary Rod Paige to consider more equitable ways to ensure compliance with Title IX. Women’s groups have responded with predictable shrillness. “The Bush administration is now trying to reverse Title IX’s major progress for women and girls in athletics and education,” said Terry O’Neill, vice president of the National Organization for Women. “They’re basically trying to undo everything we’ve accomplished in 30 years,” said Women’s Sports Foundation Executive Director Donna Lopiano.

Of course, nothing of the kind has any chance of happening. Everyone involved in reconsidering Title IX has praised the law as indispensable. No one has ever even remotely suggested repealing or contravening it. The commission’s sole concern is finding a way to fulfill the law’s original intent to protect women, but without penalizing men.

The issue is fairness. A law passed to ensure equal treatment for the sexes has become the means by which one sex is being discriminated against. In the name of equal protection, this creeping injustice must not go un-remedied.

Yet in a lamentable triumph of tribalism over conscience, women’s groups are doing everything they can to ensure that it will not. The feminist approach is characterized by entitlement grubbing and selfish disregard for all but the opportunistic demands of its own constituency. It is deeply illiberal and sadly indicative of the corruption that has infiltrated what’s left of a movement that started as a laudable civil rights initiative.

The balkanizing of the public interest into advocacy coalitions has turned women’s groups — like caucuses for minorities, gays, the elderly and the disabled — into intimidating special-interest lobbies that seem to care nothing for the greater good. The sole criterion for action seems not to be, “Is it fair?” but rather, “Is it better for us?”

That is not an acceptable standard. Nor is it a particularly viable one in the long run, for by that measure only the strongest, most entrenched forces prevail. Lest we forget, such were the odious conditions under which the “weaker sex” found itself disenfranchised in the first place.


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