Not Just One of the Boys: A Post-Feminist Critique of Title IX’s Vision for Gender Equity in Sports
56 Pages Posted: 23 May 2012
Date Written: December 1, 2010
Title IX as applied to athletics is a high-profile, controversial public policy effort that has opened up the world of athletics to millions of girls and women. Yet as it is both celebrated for the opportunities it has created for women, and decried as going too far at the expense of men, a reality persists that women do not pursue or remain committed to sport in numbers comparable to men. This Article seeks to explore this phenomenon by moving the discourse beyond the debate over whether women are inherently as “interested” in sport as men to examine the conception of equality incorporated into Title IX and how this might affect women’s interest in participating in sport. In doing so, this Article asserts that it is not at all clear that greater Title IX enforcement alone can serve to stimulate interest in the population of girls and women who do not currently participate in sport. This is because Title IX’s anti-discrimination mandate only serves to secure opportunities for females to assimilate into a model for sport — emphasizing elite ability and commercial appeal — which was constructed by and for males. This model, incorporated into Title IX through the requirement that schools must only provide opportunities to female athletes who are “interested” and have the “ability” to play varsity-level sport, can in many cases create what this Article describes as an “interest paradox,” extinguishing the interest of those girls and women who would engage in sport, but are not willing to assimilate into the current model. While this Article supports the position that greater Title IX enforcement is a worthy goal, it argues that the time has come for a new sport policy that can incorporate fully women’s voices in education-based athletics and redefine norms for sport participation so that the benefits of such participation may be enjoyed by a greater population of females.
Keywords: public policy, sports, girls, women, Title IX, equality, sports participation, discrimination, commercial appeal, schools, female athletes, public policy, education, athletics
JEL Classification: K19, K39, K49, J71, J79, L83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation