Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gender Equity in Sports: Still a Goal, Not Yet Reality

First, let's celebrate one of our sports foremothers: Billie Jean King. On the heels of the rousing success of their documentary on the US Women's Soccer team, "Dare to Dream", HBO just released a film on the story of Billie Jean King,

The Woman Who Transformed Tennis (WaPo)
As an athlete, she set a Wimbledon record by winning 20 titles (since tied by Navratilova) and held the No. 1 ranking five times. She was also relentless -- and remains so -- in her efforts to gain equal rights for women in her sport. Just last week, King, 62, pushed anew for equal prize money for men and women at Wimbledon.That's just one of many battles she's fought. In the 1970s, King was a catalyst for the formation of a women's professional tour (sponsored by Virginia Slims) and led the drive to organize her fellow players into what would become the Women's Tennis Association. She testified before Congress in support of Title IX, legislation that provided equal athletic opportunities for young women and girls at school. She stood next to Gloria Steinem at rallies for women's rights. And, after a past lover filed a palimony suit against her in 1981, essentially outing her as a lesbian, she eventually became a public advocate for gay rights.

No one can forget how King created worldwide headlines when she won the "Battle of the Sexes" singles match, beating self-declared male chauvinist Bobby Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in 1973. Greenburg and Bernstein do an excellent job of capturing both the event's circuslike atmosphere and its cultural significance.

Did King change the world? According to "Portrait of a Pioneer," yes. As Deford puts it: "She and Jackie Robinson are the two figures in sports who stand out in the culture. She should be honored for what she did."

Amusing to see the quote from Frank DeFord, an old sportwriter who was virulently against women in sports until he had the radicalizing experience of fathering a daughter. Now he's a convert.

See, also, Alessandra Stanley in the Times: The Legacy of Billie Jean King, an Athlete Who Demanded Equal Play

The thrill of seeing Billie Jean's story on HBO is tempered by today's news that Wimbledon will continue to discriminate against women tennis players in pay:

WaPo: Wimbledon Will Still Pay the Men More

WIMBLEDON, England, April 25 -- Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam tournament that pays the men's champion more than the women's winner.

The All England club announced Tuesday that the men's winner this year will receive $1.170 million and the women's champion $1.117 million, a difference of $53,000. It's a 4 percent increase in British currency.


"In the 21st century, it is morally indefensible that women competitors in a Grand Slam tournament should be receiving considerably less prize money than their male counterparts," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said in a statement.

He accused Wimbledon of taking a "Victorian-era view" on pay.

And Title IX is still under attack from within, from the Bush Administration. Although their attempt to dismantle Title IX by commission in 2002 failed (thank you thank you thank you, Julie Foudy!!!), their latest attempt to attack the law is by letting schools continue to offer less scholarships and participation opportunities to girls, by giving a survey to female undergrads. If the girls don't respond to the survey, they're assumed to have no interest in sports. Like you've never deleted a survey from your email, or hung up on a survey company. The Bushies rule would actually allow the schools to count girls who didn't respond as not interested. (Obviously, there's no category for 'busy'). Besides, that's not really the group you should be surveying anyway. Why not survey high school varsity athletes? They're the ones most likely to play sports in college. Why not them? Because the purpose is to gut the law, not to maintain its goal of equal opportunity for women athletes.

Personally, I would just abolish the Office of Civil Rights regulations at this point. They were passed 30 years ago just to give schools some time to get into compliance with Title IX. It gave them ways to be in compliance while they worked toward the goal of equity. It's time for equity. 30 years is enough. No more half measures. No surveys, no analysis, no bullshit. You have 56% female undergrads (that's the national average)? Then you spend 56% of your money and offer 56% of the athletic opportunities to women. That's it. No more half measures. If you don't give out money in your sports program equally, you lose your federal funds.

Do you know that the Office of Civil Rights has never actually stripped any educational institution of federal funds? How can you enforce a law when you never enact the penalty? You can't, and they haven't. Instead, as of 2003 when 55% of female undergraduates were female, only 42% of college athletes were women. That means that the 45% of male undergraduates got 58% of the participation opportunities. That's after 34 years of Title IX "enforcement."

My kind of change to Title IX law and enforcement will require the election of a Democrat, and probably a woman. Run, Julie Foudy, run!

Southern Maryland Online: Mikulski Calls for Title IX Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has joined a group of her Senate colleagues in calling on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.) to hold a hearing on the Department of Education's enforcement of Title IX under the "Additional Clarification of Intercollegiate Athletics Policy."


For over thirty years, Title IX has opened doors by giving women and girls an equal opportunity to participate in student sports, we're concerned that the Department's proposal could unfairly reduce their opportunities for participation in the future. Under the Department's new guidance, colleges that provide fewer sports opportunities to women can be considered to have accommodated female students and complied with Title IX, based solely on the results of a student survey. If female students do not reply to a survey emailed to them, the Department will assume that they are not interested in additional sports activities. But a survey alone cannot reliably measure students' interest in sports. Many students may not respond to, or even open, email surveys. In fact, in a report to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Department highlighted the low response rates of surveys and the importance of monitoring by the Office of Civil Rights.

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