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September 29 2008

Position Paper No. 610: Title IX and Athletics: A Primer

Allison Kasic and Kimberly Schuld

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Introduction

Title IX long ago ceased to be an effort to guarantee equal opportunities for all, and has instead become a crusade to impose quotas and gender preferences in schools.

At issue is not the Title IX statute itself, which simply outlaws discrimination in educational institutions on the basis of gender.  The problem is the way in which Title IX has been applied.  Feminists have used Title IX as their all-purpose vehicle to advance a radical agenda in our schools, and have imposed this agenda on a willing bureaucracy and the federal courts.  As a result, current Title IX enforcement has demeaned the legitimate athletic and academic accomplishments of women and institutionalized discrimination against boys and men in schools.

Specifically regarding athletics, the Department of Education's policy of compliance through proportional participation rates is the crux of the problem.  The government claims that if the percentage of female athletes is close to the percentage of all female students, a school has proved non-discrimination.  If those numbers are not "proportional," schools may be out of compliance with Title IX.  In simpler terms, under this view of Title IX, men can play sports only to the extent that women are interested in playing sports.

By demanding that women participate in athletics at the same rate as men, Title IX policy ignores not only legitimate differences between men and women but legitimate differences among women.  We are not all athletes, and we are not all scholars.  We look to ourselves, not the government, to know the difference.

Title IX policy also undermines equal opportunity by forcing colleges and universities to eliminate men's sports opportunities in order to provide few or no new opportunities for women.  This is not fighting discrimination against women; this is enforcing quotas against men.

It is fashionable to attribute much of the progress that women have achieved in recent decades to the enactment of Title IX.  After all, women have made significant gains and crediting them to a federal law only boosts the case that further progress demands more federal laws.

Yet this diminishes the real contribution of individual women and ignores the costs these policies have had on men. Therefore, policymakers should seek to return Title IX enforcement policy to what the statute was designed to do-end discrimination based on sex-for both sexes, and in doing so, guarantee equal opportunity for all.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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