Thursday, April 28, 2011

Like and Equal are not the same thing at all!


Let's say that Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Duane Allman, Eddie Hazel or BB King,after picking up a guitar and passing through an arduous 10,000 hours or more of constant practice, repetition and study which put them on the verge of greatness, had then been told that they needed to forget about their music dreams and go drive a truck because there weren't enough women that were interested in playing the guitar. Assume this was backed up by law.
That sounds ridiculous yes?
That is the state of college athletics today.  It is one thing to do outreach to people, remove barriers and confront stereotypes, or from time to time give a nod to someone who is equally qualified but underrepresented in a given field. I support that. I support affirmative action and expanding the field of applicants.

But to rule as a matter of law that everyone must be doing the same thing in the same proportion is something I don't support. In fact I think it's insanely misguided. This is current policy thanks to Title IX.

The recent NYT article on Title IX implementation made it clear that many colleges are having to cook the books to meet the requirements.
Ever since Congress passed the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, universities have opened their gyms and athletic fields to millions of women who previously did not have chances to play. But as women have surged into a majority on campus in recent years, many institutions have resorted to subterfuge to make it look as if they are offering more spots to women.

At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.

At Marshall University, the women’s tennis coach recently invited three freshmen onto the team even though he knew they were not good enough to practice against his scholarship athletes, let alone compete. They could come to practice whenever they liked, he told them, and would not have to travel with the team.
At Cornell, only when the 34 fencers on the women’s team take off their protective masks at practice does it become clear that 15 of them are men. Texas A&M and Duke are among the elite women’s basketball teams that also take advantage of a federal loophole that allows them to report male practice players as female participants.


This law and its proportionality based interpretation and enforcement are based on both faulty assumptions about men and women and increasingly just good old fashioned bigotry.
If a female athlete can show that she or other young women suffer from unequal training facilities or discrimination in making a team or staying on a team then she may have a case that she should pursue to the fullest extent of the law. I would completely support her in doing so.

But what Title IX means in practice is that because only X number of women is interested in collegiate sports, then only X number of men can be interested in sports. This is unfair. Men and women (on average) have different interests. We can argue for decades about the extent to which this is biological or environmental but trying to pretend that it doesn't exist is downright silly. In order to pretend that young men and women have the same interest in sports we are preventing young men from playing sports and then congratulating ourselves on our ability to be sober and fairminded.

The flip side of this is that the supporters of Title IX virtually never seem to be interested in "fixing" those areas of endeavor where women outnumber men. The news that women now outnumber men in colleges and earn more degrees invites cheers from this crowd, not reflection. Hmmm..
 
No one is seriously arguing that college English, Art History, Women's' Studies or Sociology Departments must turn away qualified interested young women students in favor of attracting less qualified barely interested young men. Imagine if a qualified female nurse were told "I'm sorry you can't study/work here because the male/female nurse ratio is not where the government thinks it should be".

Now many colleges need federal funding. No one wants to get sued. So colleges have gamely tried to square the circle. But if female athletes are so few and far between compared to the number of males that colleges are double counting women or mislabelling men , one would hope folks would realize things have gone DRASTICALLY wrong with this law.

Again, men and women are not identical. They do not necessarily share (on average) proportionate interest in the same hobbies or professions.  And that's okay!!! This is so egregious in college athletics because you are literally stopping people with a strong interest from unpaid participation in their chosen activity while trying to shanghai people with less interest to participate. How is that logical, fair or efficient?

The time is long past due for a fair, intelligent common sense approach. Just because more males than females are interested in a given activity doesn't automatically indicate discrimination or mean that the state needs to intervene.
I grew up playing fantasy role playing games and collecting a vast number of fantasy/sci-fi books. Most (not all) of the people I knew who were doing the same thing were also males. I guess to make things "equal" someone should have prevented us from enjoying our hobbies.

On this issue feminists are like King Canute trying to hold back the tide. Like him they will fail.
The big problem with Title IX is that having tasted "success" in the field of college sports, some of its partisans see no reason not to extend it onwards to college and high school academics  Not surprisingly they are interested in any field where young men dominate (engineering, computer sci, physics, economics ) the usual suspects. It's the camel's nose in the tent or as Peter Clemenza said in The Godfather, "You gotta stop them at the beginning".

Eventually this will lead EXACTLY to what Kurt Vonnegut described over 40 years ago. Of course Vonnegut was a noted liberal and radical. Today Vonnegut's story of Harrison Bergeron reads like hyperconservative fear mongering. Go figure. I read this story back in eighth grade but never thought I'd see us slouching along that path.

QUESTIONS:
Why is this law (Title IX) constitutional?
What does "gender equity in sports" mean to you?
Is it really fair or prudent to create a zero-sum game between male and female college athletes?
Does equal mean equal opportunity or equal results?
Do you think Title IX should also apply to academics?
Do you recognize the book that this post's title is drawn from?
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