“We are all familiar with the stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband, go on to graduate because they want a more interesting husband, and finally marry, have children, and never work again. The desire of many schools not to waste a ‘man’s place’ on a woman stems from such stereotyped notions. But the facts absolutely contradict these myths about the ‘weaker sex’ and it is time to change our operating assumptions.” – Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN)
In 1972 gas was fifty-five cents a gallon. Five men were arrested for breaking into the Watergate hotel. MASH was the most popular show on television. And on June 23rd of that year, President Richard Nixon signed a bill into law that introduced the United States to Title IX. Women everywhere celebrated its passage.
Title IX, just a small portion of a larger bill, wasn’t limited to sports participation. Sexual harassment, discrimination against pregnant women, and equality in higher education were just a few of the issues it tackled. In the intervening years, it’s been used to increase both the number of female athletes and available sports programs in high schools and colleges across the country. According to a recent article by Nicole M. LaVoi, “Record numbers of females are playing sports at all levels. In 1972, the year Title IX was passed, 1 in 27 girls played sports; in 2012 that number is approximately 1 in 2.5.”
There is no doubt Title IX had a huge impact on women, especially in sports. I wonder, though, will another kind of impact be felt if the Minnesota State High School League gets their way on December 4th. It is on that day the Board of Directors will vote on a policy change regarding “gender identity” and sports participation. The draft policy reads,
The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) allows participation for all students regardless of their gender-related identity or expression. This policy is designed to guide member school personnel as they create an environment free from discrimination and provide an equal opportunity for participation in athletics in accordance with applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.
Essentially, if you “feel like” a girl, you can play on the girls’ basketball team. How ironic that, under the guise of being inclusive, the new policy could potentially award spots on girls teams to boys. Doesn’t that undermine current federal law?
Granted, a student would have to prove they identify with another gender. It requires the parents’ to validate the student’s claim. I wonder, is that enough? Some parents will do anything to get a student-athlete into the spotlight. Moving to school districts with more opportunity to play, forging birth certificates, and even holding a child back so that they’re a little bigger are all ploys that have been used. What could feed a hungry media more these days then some sweet 16 year old boy with a killer jump shot that also happens to like wearing dresses and lipstick?
In 1972, a larger percentage of Republicans (79% vs 62%) weren’t afraid to help women out of the kitchen and toward the pursuit of higher education. Pregnancy wasn’t an employment disqualifier any longer. It wasn’t offensive to remind people that, while men and women deserve equal opportunities, men and women are biologically different. Women deserved to have their own sports and the teams to play them. Of course, back then, most rational people also believed having a penis made you a boy. (Paging Corporal Klinger)!
No one wants to be discriminated against. But that’s the very thing that could happen if this policy is enacted. How would you feel if your daughter lost her place on the tennis team to a boy? A boy that could have played on his own team. Not to mention the idea that young, hormonal men will have the opportunity to share a locker room with girls the same age as my daughters. It’s a horrifying thought. How does any of this advance the spirit of Title IX?
So much has changed since 1972. I wonder if then Senator Bayh would have ever expected the “pretty things” he once referenced would someday have a five o’clock shadow.
**To learn more about the proposed policy or to leave feedback, please visit the Minnesota State High School League’s page here.